In Christmas 2021, shoppers are dealing with never-before-seen challenges. We have a supply line that is very broken, a deficit of products on the shelves, rising prices as demand outstrips supply, inflation is at a thirty year high, and shipping times and cost have both increased.
So, what’s a frugal family to do in light of these mammoth Goliath-sized obstacles standing in our path?
To hear my husband, Larry, and I discuss these economic challenges and give you a detailed explanation of our ten recommendations, watch our YouTube video below.
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Here are ten recommendations from our thrifty family to yours that will help you get perspective and peace as you plan ahead for gift-giving this year.
1. Set a Deadline
When you set a goal, give yourself a deadline, and track your progress, you are 70% more likely to reach that goal. That’s why it’s important that you decide a specific day on which you pledge to be completely finished with your Christmas shopping this year and write it down on paper.
There’s a well-known adage that states, “Work will expand to fill the time allotted.” Basically, that means when you know you only have a certain amount of time to complete a task, your brain will kick into high gear, allowing you to accomplish more in less time.
All of this points to the fact that when you create a goal of completing your holiday shopping by a specific date, you will be far more likely to follow through and get it done.
2. Set spending limits
Just as your time is unlimited, so is your budget. Decide ahead of time how much money you will spend and how many gifts you will buy per person.
If your goal is to spend “whatever you need to” on gifts this Christmas season, you will inevitably spend far more than you intend and most likely wind up paying for the holidays well into the next year as you send off monthly checks to your credit card company.
Avoid this by deciding ahead of time how my you have available for gifts and stick to that amount and don’t spend a penny more.
3. Make a Gift List
One of the most effective ways to stop overspending at Christmas is to write a list of each person who will receive a gift and determine a gift budget for each recipient.
Be sure that your list is prioritized so those who will receive more expensive gifts appear at the top of your list and those who may receive a loaf of homemade bread of a tray of cookies are grouped together toward the bottom of your list.
This makes it really easy to count how many cookie tins or trays you need to buy this year. You’ll also be able to estimate the amount of ingredients you need to have on hand for baking cookies, candy, or breads.
After you have completed your gift list, add a notation of the amount of money you plan to spend on each person. Be sure to total these amounts at the bottom of the page. If this seems really high to you, then it may be time to either cut back the list or reduce the amount you are spending.
Either way, it’s best to be honest with yourself now as to how much money you really have available to spend, rather than sliding a credit card and paying for Christmas 2021 until it’s nearly time to celebrate Christmas 2022.
Having a gift planning sheet which lists the favorite colors, hobbies, sizes, and gift ideas for Christmas will save you both time, money and frustration. Sizes are particularly important when you are planning to purchase clothing for your loved ones.
Here’s what my planning sheet looks like.
4. Create Amazon Wish Lists
Have your kids and other relatives create a wish list in Amazon and share it with you. They can call the wish list, “Christmas 2021”, make it public, and then get a specific sharable link to their list. When they email you the link, you can then click on it and go directly to their customized Christmas gift wish list (complete with links to each product on Amazon.)
Want to see OUR Amazon gift recommendations?
We have an Under the Median Amazon shopping page that has all of our favorite products. We tell you why we like each item and provide links for you to check out our recommendations.
5. Buy what you can, now.
Global supply chain is broken. Shipping containers are stuck in ports, unable to offload their goods. The cost of shipping containers has doubled this year. There is a shortage of truckers and truck parts
All these ominous signs combined means that supply will soon outstrip demand and prices will soon be on the rise.
Goods for holiday shoppers are shipped to businesses six months ahead of time. Once the current stock is depleted, it will be increasingly difficult for stores to restock their shelves.
So, shopping early for the holidays has never been more important.
6. Use Camel, Camel, Camel to Track Prices
Camel Camel Camel is a free, easy-to-use website dedicated to tracking price reductions and price drops on Amazon. Simply go to the Camel Camel Camel website and enter the name or description of the product you are looking for. You’ll see the current price and a graph of price fluctuations over time.
You can sign up for an Amazon price watch on that product. You’ll receive an email notification from Camel Camel Camel if the price drops on Amazon to your specified price.
Camel Camel Camel works with a multitude of Amazon country locations, including: Australia, Canada, France, Germany Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.
7. Use coupon browser extensions
In your quest to never pay full price for a product, Coupert and Honey are both your allies.
These free browser extensions run in the background while you shop on-line. When you get ready to check out, you’ll see a popup on your screen, asking if you’d like to check for matching coupon codes.
Coupert also offers cash back of up to 24% on participating websites. With Coupert, you can redeem your cash within 48 hours in either PayPal cash or a gift card.
Honey awards points for each purchase, which can be redeemed for gift cards at hundreds of major merchants. Honey does not offer cash back.
In about two minutes, either browser extension will test the best coupons across the internet to try to save you money. We’ve used both browsers and been eligible for discounts on our purchase. You can install both browsers and they do not interfere with your browsing, buying, or each other.
8. Consider buying used.
It’s amazing how many new-in-the-box items can be found when you buy second hand. Check thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or gently used stores in your area.
Here are some ideas for repurposing your gently used finds.
- Antiques and collectibles are very trendy (and appreciated.)
- Place small items in a cute basket lined with a cloth napkin and it’s a lovely and thoughtful gift.
- Create themed baskets by adding store bought items with around one or two thrifted finds.
This is the perfect way to begin a gift stash in your home. So that when that next special occasion rolls around you have a supply of gifts waiting and you can “shop” your closet before running out to spend money.
9. Give gifts that don’t cost much money (or any at all)
Giving the gift of time, food, or experiences doesn’t need to be expensive to be meaningful. A picnic in the park, Friday movie and popcorn night, a backyard bonfire to roast hotdogs and marshmallows, or an afternoon drive to a nearby natural attraction can all bring you closer to loved ones and, yet, cost very little money.
For instance, if you give your grandchildren a coupon for them to spend the afternoon learning to bake Great Grandmother’s award-winning cherry pie, you’ll not only be teaching them a life skill, you’ll also be creating a generational tradition.
Create a list of ideas for blessing those on your holiday list and then create a coupon booklet so they can redeem each “experience coupon” any day in the next twelve months.
10. Buy small items and stocking stuffers at discount stores
Places like Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Dollar General are all goldmines of really interesting stocking stuffers just waiting to be discovered. Larry and I always plan a date night sometime in November when we head out with $20 in our pocket and about two hours to shop for the best stocking stuffers, ever!
Even our grown children can’t wait to open their stockings on Christmas morning.
Pay Cash for Christmas This Year
For our best advice, exclusive tips and strategies, and color-coordinated forms, check out our Debt-Free Christmas Binder.
Click here to learn more about the Debt-Free Christmas Binder.