Are you wanting to buy holiday gifts for your loved ones can be extremely stressful if you truly don’t have extra cash to spare. Trust me, I’ve been there! When my husband and I dropped down to one modest income after the birth of our son, this is the EXACT situation we found ourselves in.
Don’t let finances take the fun out of the holiday season for you. Learning how to get free perks, gift cards, learning shopping hacks and our favorite low income tips and tricks to pay for Christmas gifts on a budget will make this holiday season easier on you.
I’m in a different financial situation now than I was back then, but I still use these tips out of financial habit. I also strongly DISLIKE (I couldn’t quite bring myself to say hate 😉 large expenditures that aren’t in our regular monthly budget. Regardless of your financial situation, my 8 proven ways will help you plan for holiday shopping, birthdays, weddings or other special occasions.
Earn Gift Cards for FREE!
Did you know it’s super easy to earn gift cards for free to your favorite stores? Whether your preference is Amazon, Walmart, Target, Starbucks, or many other popular stores, you can earn free gift cards by completing simple online tasks like taking surveys, watching videos and playing games.
I actually recently found out my teenage son started doing this to earn extra Amazon gift cards and iTunes gift cards. He didn’t tell me before he did this, but that’s another story lol…It’s pretty cool that some of these let teens earn free gift cards too!
What I love about earning free gift cards online, is they are easy tasks to complete while you’re watching tv or just have 10-15 minutes extra to spare. How many of us do the mindless online and social media scrolling? Now you now to use that time to earn gift cards for free haha.
Whether you’re earning free gift cards to buy Christmas gifts or simply want to give the gift cards as gifts themselves, either option is amazing in my book.
Here’s our favorite ways to earn free gift cards, they’re all so easy!
Swagbucks – FREE $10 sign-up bonus! – Earn gift cards by surfing the internet, playing games, watching videos and doing simple surveys
Ebates– FREE $10 sign-up bonus! – While Ebates is our favorite shopping app, it’s also an awesome way to earn free gift cards too.
Ibotta- FREE $5 sign-up bonus!– Ibotta is my favorite grocery store coupon app, when you use the free Ibotta grocery coupon app, you can cash out once you’ve earned $20 via gift cards or with PayPal or Venmo. I earned $30 in my first month of using Ibotta, you can read more about my Ibotta experience here.
In addition to Swagbucks, there’s tons of other options for earning quick cash by taking online surveys.
Just a heads up, you aren’t going to qualify for every survey or even survey company you apply for. If you’re serious about making good money from surveys (even hundreds per month), you’ll need to sign up for many trustworthy companies so you’ll have a regular stream of surveys you’re qualified to complete.
My other tip if you want to start earning extra money with surveys, is to set up a separate free gmail email account so your regular email won’t get bombarded with survey options all day long.
Here’s our favorite survey companies to work with:
Harris Poll– By signing up with Harris Poll, you help shape policy for government agencies, large corporations and non-profits.
Pinecone Research– This is hands down our favorite survey company! They pay $3 for survey, each takes 15-20 mins and you can cash out after making $3 via PayPal. (They’re currently approving applicants that are in their early 20’s, males of all ages or people of Hispanic descent).
Have a Side Hustle
I’ve been a “side hustling” mom for the past 16 years and honestly think EVERYONE should have a second income source, even if it’s just occasional hobby income. A side hustle of some sort has always supplemented our budget to cover unexpected costs, help pay for gifts, or family extras like gymnastics lessons.
Here’s some of our favorite ways to make extra money that can help you earn extra money for things like Christmas gifts:
How I Made $1500 Last Month with My New Lifestyle Blog(a blog takes months before it turns profitable, this is fun not but instant holiday cash)
How I Made an Extra $1000/mo Selling Kids Stuff on eBay (hint hint, before Christmas is the BEST time to get started!)
Start Christmas Shopping Early
One of the tips I used from year to year, was just to simply get a jump-start on my shopping. My relatives thought it was hilarious when I’d ask for my nieces and nephews Christmas lists as soon as Labor Day passed.
But in all seriousness (and YES, I actually did that), spreading out holiday costs between September and December is so much easier than leaving it all until after Thanksgiving!
Save All Year Long for Gifts
If starting in September isn’t early enough for you, how about January?! January and the after-Christmas sales are honestly one of the BEST times to pick up gifts. This might not be the best tactic for children since they have ever-changing tastes, but I’ve definitely picked up gifts for people like my mom, little hostess gifts, or bought holiday decor at 75% off to give as a gift the following year.
Buy Second-Hand Gifts
Before you tell me you think it’s tacky to buy second-hand gifts, listen up and hear me out! Our very first Christmas after switching to one income, this is EXACTLY how we bought Madi’s main Christmas gift. I found a HUGE Barbie Dream House at the consignment shop for $39.99 that was FILLED with furniture and extras. This house was three stories, enormous and would’ve been at least $200+ at the time if purchased brand new. Do you think at age 6 Madi knew the difference? Of course not!
Young kids don’t notice if something is new or used
Young kids don’t care and you don’t need to tell them
Young kids are happy just opening up shiny packages and are less concerned about what’s inside–it’s the mystery of the gift that excites them
The best part–you can RESELL it (like I did 😉 when they outgrow it! I actually resold the furniture and accessories on eBay for a HIGHER price than what I originally spent and ALSO resold the house back at the consignment shop!
Shop at Deep Discount Stores
When I mean deep discount store I’m not meaning stores like Wal-Mart, K-mart or Target. I’m meaning the store THOSE stores send items to like too much stock of something, only a couple of items left and they need the shelf space for more profitable items, dented cans, food near expiration (a great way to also find organic boxed items for cheap or fill a gift basket!), or toys that are perfectly fine but have a slightly damaged box.
Do you honestly think kids care about the condition of the box? Heck no! It it’s really damaged, toss the box and make your own DIY gift tag from the box label.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of American Girl Dolls….Madi really wanted one for her 8th Christmas and we of course couldn’t afford it. But what we COULD afford were the American Girl doll look-a-likes from the deep discount store that looked IDENTICAL to the originals because it was made by the SAME manufacturer and sold under a different label. (And YES, I bought them ALL and resold them on eBay for $50-$60 each when I bought them at the discount store for $17.99 each–and YES, I fully disclosed on eBay these weren’t originals).
Make DIY Christmas Gifts
Making gifts works better for adults in my experience. I mean honestly, how much stuff do people really need? Giving gifts that are usable and don’t end up at Goodwill or the dump is a WAY better use of your money and maybe something your kids (or a gal pal) can help with! When the kids were young, I was really into scrap-booking, card making and knitting. Guess what everyone got as gifts? Homemade packs of cards or a scarf!
Think to your hobbies for inspiration– if you’re a gardener give dried lavender satchels, dried culinary herbs packets, or homemade pesto in mini canning jars. I’m also an avid cook and one year I triple a chicken pot pie recipe and gave 2 portions to relatives as a Christmas gift! All of these ideas are usable and provide meaning to the recipient.
Here’s a few ideas for great DIY gifts:
Use Credit Card Points
I’m one of those people who do NOT like to have debt and never buy stuff on credit. I DO put almost all of my purchases on credit cards, ONLY because I have it set to automatic payments to deduct the entire balance each month. You can get amazing benefits, free goods and perks if you have the discipline to pay off your balance every single month!
For many years I had a credit card I specifically opened for “college savings” that awarded 1% cash back . I didn’t check the balance for YEARS and was utterly shocked when the balance was over $3K! While my personal goal was to help with future college savings, you of course can set your own goals and use this method to pay for little extras your monthly income can’t afford like gifts, vacations or as an emergency fund.
With increased competition from credit card companies, you can even find cards nowadays that give 2% back! If you rent an apartment, make sure to ask your landlord if they accept credit card payments (for no extra fee!) Some tack on an extra 3% charge if you pay with a card; if that’s the case, it’s better to pay with a check and not earn the points.
By responsibly using credit card points, we got 2 free plane tickets to Europe this past year! Credit card points can REALLY add up.
Two more tips on handling holiday purchases:
Cut back on your gift giving list- It’s crazy to think how many relatives and friends we’d buy presents for during a time we could barely make ends meet! Since these people were also giving gifts to our kids, it got to a point where they were receiving too much stuff and it just wasn’t necessary. We currently just give gifts to our kids (and still don’t spend much), a small item for our parents and we do a gift drawing for the cousins so each kid gives a gift to one distant relative.
Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s- When I hear how much some families spend on their kids, it’s mind-blowing! It sets up unrealistic life expectations for kids and what’s even more sad is many families buy the gifts with a credit card. Someone I know recently mentioned she spends $2000 for EACH of her 4 kids! It was part of a conversation how she wishes she and her husband could travel more since her kids are older, and I of course had to tell her she isn’t travelling because she’s giving all of her extra money to her adult kids….
We only spend $200 tops, but you know what? If my kids want to purchase a big item like a video game console, they SAVE their money and buy it for themselves! It MEANS so much more to them than getting it handed o them! When we were just married and had just dropped down to one income we weren’t spending more than $100-$150, 16 years later with a huge family income increase, we really don’t spend much more! I’ll try not to go off topic too much here, but what life lesson are we teaching our kids if we spoil them?