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4 Ways to Push Your Frugal Christmas Budget

It comes the same time every year, and I can’t believe it’s almost here again. Time flies when you’re having fun, or just trying to make it through a worldwide pandemic. Even with all of that going on, we still try to stick to a frugal Christmas budget every year. And that seems to be getting more and more difficult with supply chain issues. However, over the years I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks that have really helped us keep things frugal. And we all still have a really good holiday season with each other. Which is really what matters the most anyway.

FRUGAL CHRISTMAS PLANNING

I don’t know about you, but our kids want something new ALL the time! And they have a really difficult time with delayed gratification, like most children do. But, this means we have no shortage of ideas when it comes to Christmas gifts for our kids at least.

At this time of the year though, there isn’t much time left to get moving. Proper planning throughout the year has really gotten me out of some gift giving jams in the past.

The first tip is to take a picture of each kid with items they say they really want throughout the year. I try to get a price tag in the picture with the kid and the item so that I have a frame of reference throughout the year, whenever possible. And this gives me a jumping off point so that I know when I might be getting a good deal.

The second tip is to have the kids send an email with links to all of the items they are interested in, with sizes and colors. This way I have the links in my inbox and can purchase them when the time comes, or if they end up on sale.

I have a few extensions on my computer that help me save even more money by either telling me where a better deal can be found, automatically applying coupons, or giving me a rebate. My current favorite go-to money saving apps are:

  • Honey – which alerts me when any of the items on my saved list drops in price and automatically applies coupons
  • Rakuten – gives me a percentage of my purchase price back in rebates and automatically applies coupons
  • Acorns – puts a percentage of my purchase price into my investment account

SELL STUFF

One of my favorite ways to push our frugal Christmas budget is to sell old and/or broken things that we no longer want or need. Since we have 5 kids, they have a tendency to outgrow their things fairly regularly.

There are a few different ways I do this. Typically, I try to sell their things through Facebook Marketplace groups first. Sometimes this works out well, but it does require quite a bit of work since a lot of people just don’t seem to communicate well these days. When it’s this close to Christmas, it can sometimes be much easier to get people to respond though, since everyone is on a tight deadline. So, if you have some things you’re considering getting rid of, I would highly suggest trying now. You will probably be able to get more money for the items also. Bonus!

The other way I try to get the most money for our kids old things is by using the Amazon Trade-In site. They typically only take things of the electronic variety, but we don’t have any shortage of that around here. I don’t usually get a ton of money from this form of selling, but the money goes directly into my Amazon account so that I can use it to pay for this year’s Christmas presents. And every little bit counts towards keeping our frugal Christmas budget.

Christmas NAME DRAW

this is a trick I’ve been using for years. It took a little while for our whole family to get on board. But once our family grew to a certain size, gift giving for everyone just became daunting and expensive. Once that happened, the whole family jumped on board with the idea of drawing names instead of buying for everyone.

Even if you aren’t together right now, there are plenty of random name pickers you can use to draw names. Once you have drawn names, then your family will need to set a budget for each gift. In our family, we set the budget at $25 for kids and $20 for adults.

The next most important step is to get each family to send an email with links of what each person would like. I usually ask for 3 or 4 items for each person, that way I have a choice. And it’s more of a surprise when they open our presents also, which we like. While it sounds like this might be more work, we have found that it actually makes holiday gift giving much less stressful. And it also helps us stick well within our holiday budget too.

Homemade GIFTS

As a person who used to own a gluten free bakery and has a Chef for a spouse, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Most people we run across just can’t get enough of our food, so it stands to reason that we might as well put it to work for us this time of year.

I’ve been making my toffee for longer than I can remember now and it’s one of the fan favorites at the holidays. So, I decided to start handing some of it out as Christmas presents, and it goes over like gangbusters.

Not only is it delicious and really easy to make this, but it only costs about $1.43 per person. I can go to the Dollar Tree and buy a 10 pack of fancy candy bags with the twist ties for $1.00, which only increases the cost by $.10 per gift.

However, even if baking isn’t really your thing, there’s probably something else you’re great at that people absolutely love. So just think outside the box and get creative with some homemade Christmas gifts this year. For me, I appreciate these kinds of gifts more than the store bought kind.

Frugal CHRISTMAS BUDGET

When it comes to sticking to a frugal Christmas budget, it can be done. It may be a bit trickier so close to Christmas, but I know you can do it. Just get creative, sell some old things, make some things, draw some names and/or find some great deals. And above all, spend time with your loved ones.

Which frugal Christmas budget tips have you tried that have worked for you?

Some of My Favorite Shopping Apps This Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us once again. And with only a few shopping days left, we have to make the most of it. But, with holiday shopping can sometimes come holiday debt. That is the last thing any of us want. Therefore, I have found some great shopping apps that can help you save more money. Plus, they can be used all year long for any shopping possible to save even more. This is what I call a shopping win!

 IBOTTA

Ibotta has been one of my favorite shopping apps for quite awhile now. With Ibotta, you can either shop in person or online. If you choose to shop online, you have to shop directly within the Ibotta app in order to get the rebate. If you shop in person, you have to upload an image of your receipt in the app to get the rebate.

A lot of the rebates go across multiple stores, which makes shopping even easier. However, I usually look up the store I am planning to shop at first to see what Ibotta rebates are being currently offered first. Then, if I find items that I am thinking about buying, I will see which other stores they might be offered at within Ibotta. Once you find items you plan to purchase, then click the plus sign to add them to your list before you can earn the rebate.

Once you go through all of the steps, your rebate will show up in your Ibotta account fairly quickly. Sometimes I have seen mine as quickly as 5 minutes later. But more often than not, I see the rebate the next day. Some stores are now automatically connected to your shopping rewards number with that store. And in those cases, the rebates will be automatically added to your account within 24 hours. I like this even more because I don’t have to scan anything. Just remember to use your store shopping rewards information when you check out in store so that you can get the Ibotta rewards.

Cash Out Ibotta Rewards

But that’s not the only way to earn money with Ibotta. They have regular rewards categories and group participation bonuses to help you earn more faster. Click under the “Earn More” tab to find other ways to add more money to your account. Some of the ways to earn more include:

  • refer a friend
  • working with your team to hit the monthly bonus amount
  • purchasing a specific featured product
  • purchasing a specific group of products

Once your Ibotta account reaches $20, you can cash it out. PayPal is the primary way to redeem your Ibotta rewards, but they also offer some gift card options too. In fact, I just recently cashed out my Ibotta rewards balance for an Amazon gift card. And then I used that gift card to buy Christmas presents for the family. Now that’s a win!

RAKUTEN EBATES

Another one of my favorite apps/extensions is Rakuten. I have this on both my computer as an extension and on my phone as an app. If you put it on your computer, then it runs in the background anytime you are shopping on a website. It will pop up and tell you if there are any current rebate offers for that seller. Which, during the holiday season, are much higher than normal, so take advantage!

If there is a current rebate with Rakuten, then just click on the “Activate % Cash Back” button at the top right-hand side of your screen. Once you’ve completed that, you are on your way to getting cash back rebates.

If you choose to use the app on your phone, you have to launch your shopping trip directly from the app, just like Ibotta. Once you purchase something that qualifies for a rebate, you’ll get an email with the store and the amount you will receive. That amount will be deposited into your Rakuten account within a couple of days, usually.

Their cash out method is slightly different than Ibotta, though. They send a “Big Fat Check” every quarter for whatever you happen to have in your account. It can be sent as a physical check or you can connect your bank account for them to direct deposit it to. I prefer the latter method, personally.

Honey

Honey is another app/extension that I have been using for years now. This one is very similar to both Ibotta and Rakuten. Except that it helps to find coupon codes online and then apply them to your checkout order to save you money.

Any time you shop online, Honey will pop up on merchant pages that they work with to tell you how many coupon codes they have. When you are ready to check out, just click on the pop up and it will run through all of the coupon codes to see which one gets you the biggest discount, if any. Then it will automatically apply it. This can potentially save a lot of time scouring the internet for coupon codes. And I know it has helped me save a lot of money that I otherwise might not have.

On top of saving you money on your purchases, you could also qualify to earn Honey Gold. The gold points accumulate in your account until you reach a minimum of 1,000 coins and then you can cash them out for gift card rewards. It just doesn’t get any sweeter!

COUPONCABIN

CouponCabin is another hybrid app, like Honey. They not only have coupons for thousands of different websites, but they also offer rebates up to 10% off on some sites. Take, for example, right now they have a $100 bonus on any order over $100 purchased from Kohl’s. That can really help you ring in the savings this holiday season!

Plus, you get a $2 bonus cash back reward just for signing up. And if you add the app to your phone and shop within a certain amount of time, you get another $5 bonus. The payout methods are a little more diverse than some of the other options. With CouponCabin, you can cash out your balance to:

  • Amazon gift card (they give you an extra 10% back for using this method)
  • Check
  • Chase payments
  • Charitable donation
  • Direct deposit
  • PayPal

This gives you a lot more leeway with what you can do with your rewards.

BEST Holiday Shopping APPS SUMMARY

Ultimately, there isn’t much time left to get your holiday shopping done. But, by adding some, or all of these shopping apps to your arsenal, you are bound to save more money. Plus, you can even earn money for future purchases. Which is what I call a huge holiday win-win!

What are some of your favorite shopping apps?

Have You Considered Buying Family Gifts for Christmas?

With the holidays quickly approaching, it is time to start thinking about gifts. At least, that is what is on our children’s minds right now. From our perspective, trying to figure out the best way to approach Christmas gifts for the kids without killing our wallet is always a fun game. So, we are considering buying only a family gift this year instead of individual gifts. Here is our thought process and how we hope it might help us save some money on the holidays.

Costs

This may not be the most cost effective way for every family to approach Christmas gift giving. But for us, as a family of 7, the holidays can get pretty darn expensive. My spouse and I don’t usually get each other anything, which helps reduce our costs. But, if we did decide to swap gifts, that would just increase the overall cost of Christmas in our house.

The usual average that we spend per child is $40 – $50, which equates to approximately $200 – $250. This doesn’t include anything for us, but if we did, that would tack on another $80 – $100. This being said, what we spend is still a whole lot less than what the average American spends on Christmas gifts.

These studies show a few different figures for holiday gift giving. The majority of us plan to spend more than $1000 on gifts, or somewhere around $885 per person. That is insane!

For us, on the path to financial independence (FI), that is just not something we can justify. But, for those of you who do spend that much on Christmas gifts, then the family gift could really save you some serious cash.

Family Gift Options

In order to save some of our hard earned money, the option of just one family gift we can all enjoy sounds appealing. It also means less boxes, wrapping paper, tape and bows. After all, those cost money too!

A few of the options we are considering are:

ASTC Membership

This membership has a passport program that lets you use it at museums all over the United States, and in a very select few other countries. If you have a membership near you, then you can get into all of the other museums listed on the passport program for FREE. On top of that, once you buy the annual family membership, you get into that museum for free whenever you want too.

They also send out special events and discounts specifically for ASTC members that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

The membership can range in price depending upon where you live and which museum happens to be closest to you. For us, we have 3 in our immediate area to choose from. They range between $85 – $140 for the annual membership and cover all 7 of us. We purchased one last year to Marbles and go there quite often now. Since each visit to the museum would cost us $5 per person, no matter what, we make our money back in less than 4 visits. And this doesn’t include all of the other museums we have been able to use our membership at to get into for free. I really love this option!

Trusted Housesitters Mini-Vacation

We have used Trusted Housesitters for two trips now and it has saved us a ton of money. If we can find something close enough to us that might only be for a long weekend, then this may be the way to go. Since we get to stay for free when we travel through Trusted Housesitters, the only things we would have to pay for are the extras. We always pack food when we travel, so that cuts down on the costs. Ultimately, this option would still probably be the most expensive though. My best estimate on costs would be somewhere between $200 – $300.

Ping Pong Table

Getting a ping pong table for downstairs is something we have been considering for a while now. It is something fun that we could all end up partaking in, and can be done when the weather isn’t as nice.

I have been leaning towards one that converts into a pool table also, so that it would be multi-function. I have found quite a few used options that range from $75 – $200. Therefore, this might be one of the top runners also.

Family excitement

Ultimately, whatever we get the kids for Christmas, they almost immediately forget about. The toys end up on the floor, or broken. The video games get old and then they are bored. They just don’t have the staying power. And, it really divides our family since they are all off doing separate things.

We continually try to find ways to unite us and keep our communication at a high level for more family unity. So the idea of getting one big family gift instead of a bunch of smaller individual ones appeals to us on all levels.

Plus, if the gift is something we can all do together, or enjoy together, then it creates more overall family excitement. Since the holidays are supposed to be a time to celebrate family and those you love, this idea just makes more obvious sense to us.

takeaway

Overall, it appears that it will cost us less money to buy one family gift for us to enjoy versus individual gifts for everybody. Plus, the family gift will be something we can all enjoy together to create more unity in our family, as opposed to separate us. Since we are always searching for ways to save ourselves more money and create more family cohesion, this seems like a win-win to us.

Have you considered buying a family gift instead of individual Christmas gifts? If so, what was your thought process behind the decision?

Holiday Gifts

One Fantastic Way to Save a Bundle on Holiday Gifts!

I don’t know about you, but as our family keeps getting larger so does the cost of our holiday gifts. Due to this, we keep coming up with more and more creative ways to pile more presents under the tree for less. Sometimes, this can be tricky, since all of the kids want everything they see, plus we have family to buy for. And this doesn’t even include the food! But this year, we found yet another way to save money and keep below our budget.

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My Favorite Things: Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

Great Holiday Gift Ideas for Everyone
Great Holiday Gift Ideas for Everyone

As Christmas nears the corner and Hanukkah is in full swing, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite things for your holiday gift-giving list. Here at the Frugal Farmer household, we’re not much in favor of the “popular” gifts but prefer classics that will stay on your list of things to enjoy for a long time to come, so here they are. Check out the list and see if there’s anything below that might bring a smile to the recipients on your gift-giving list.  Read more