I'm already getting in the Christmas spirit. Thinking about my little four-year-old nephew opening his gift that I'm excited about just puts a smile on my face.
I think about the Christmas story, when the wise men presented their gifts to Baby Jesus. Giving those gifts was an act of worship and adoration. Just as God adored us enough to send His Son Jesus, the wise men traveled a long ways to bend their knees and present gifts to the Christ Child.
Today, it does seem like it would take a Wise Man's gold to buy Christmas presents for family and friends. It doesn't have to be this way, though. In my home, with my husband being paraplegic and our son starting back to college in the spring, and just life happening -- Christmas seems to sneak up on us.
Wasn't Easter just last week?
I'm getting pretty savvy when it comes to buying Christmas gifts frugally this year, but it just didn't start in November. I shop throughout the year. If I see something on sale, especially on clearance racks, that would make a good present for someone (and I always have someone in mind) or stocking stuffers, I buy it and put it in a solid-color bin (little eyes can see through clear plastic), with a sticky note on it for who it belongs to.
It makes it fun, this scavenger hunt for good deals. Here are some other ideas, tips and tricks for buying Christmas presents without breaking the bank.
Getting paid to shop
I just don't have the time or energy to fight the crowds in malls and storefronts this year, so I've been doing a good bit of online shopping. There are significant discounts and pay-backs to be had if you utilize smart websites that pay you to go through them to shop at your favorite stores.
Ebates is one of those. It features all the stores I shop at and a lot I don't, but when a box pops up saying I will get 10% of what I purchase back to me in the form of a check -- I pay attention. It's an easy registration, a user-friendly site, and you can make money if you refer friends to use them too.
Plus, in a few walk-in stores, if you link your credit or debit card on Ebates, you will get cash back in a few selected stores, like Old Navy or Bed Bath and Beyond -- places I shop anyway for clothes for my kids and stocking stuffers.
In full disclosure, this affiliate link pays me for referrals to Ebates, which helps provide Christmas for my family [and we do appreciate your support, especially this very tough year with my husband's tragic paraplegia]. What I have found though, is you don't have to own a website or blog to do this. We can all use a little extra cash, right?
Bloggers like myself scour the Internet's most powerful sales sites to bring you the best deals. Often, these deals are only available through blogger affiliate sales.
When Near Your Altar [this blog] runs these ads like to the right, you can rest assured that those are one-of-a-kind deals that will help you save money, because of the blog's relationship with those shops and companies. These are not deals that are found in stores. Utilize the links you find on this and other blogs to save yourself some cash and help provide for the families behind the sites.
One example is the Christian company Dayspring, which offers Christmas cards, gifts, home decor, and other inspirational products. They have an affiliate-only sale right now where the savings is passed on to you. You can take $20 off any $60 purchase plus get free shipping using this affiliate link.
We all seem to use Amazon at Christmas and throughout the year. Right now, Amazon is heavily promoting the sale of thousands of items using special ads like the ones on the right and under this post. They often run killer sales, too, like the highly popular Bobs shoes by Sketchers for women. Giving a shoe-aholic a popular shoe for under $20 is a really sweet deal.
If you have an account with this retail giant, be sure to sign up for their Amazon Smile program too, in which a charity of your choice receives a percentage of the proceeds of what you buy, at no extra cost to you. A charity I love to support is Least of These Carolinas (or on Amazon Smile, Least of These Gaston), which serves children in foster/kinship care in North Carolina. When I purchase Christmas presents from Amazon (like for my little nephew Rylan -- so excited to see his face when he opens it!!), a portion of Amazon's proceeds will go to help foster kids. You just can't beat that.
Don't forget to shop at consignment stores, especially for little kids. Toddlers won't know or care of the big tool set or dollhouse is from a consignment or thrift store. Sure, older kids would know, but little ones, not so much. Just give the toys a really good cleaning with disinfectant wipes and wrap them up, or leave them out for the shock value Christmas morning.
For teens who aren't picky but like name-brand clothing, there are teen-oriented consignment stores too, where you can buy the brands teens like without taking out a second mortgage to do so.
Now, handmade gets tricky. Handmade gifts need to be more than just sentimental value, in my opinion. They must be finished before Christmas Day. When my mother-in-love though takes the time to knit or quilt a scarf or throw for me for Christmas, that is something I will treasure the rest of my life and pass it down to my children and grandchildren. For co-workers, a cute mug from the dollar store with a couple homemade muffins inside with a $5 gift card to a coffee shop and the muffin recipe -- that's a gift that says you took the time to make muffins and create a unique, thoughtful, yummy and useful gift.
I have a teen step-daughter who can be difficult when it comes to Christmas presents. So, we've reached an understanding: she prefers gift cards. The trick is to package the gift card in such a way that it doesn't resemble a gift card. Taping it to a brick, for example, then putting the brick in a box with a lot of bubble wrap so it doesn't shuffle, will make her think she''s getting this whopper of a gift that can't possibly fit in the airplane's overhead bins, when in fact, it's a gift card to her favorite clothing store. She can keep the brick if she wants but there's really no point in it.
Here's the thing: if you get a person a gift and it's not "them", you've done two things: you've purchased a gift for a family member and made the point you don't know them very well, or didn't follow their list, or inserted your preferences into what they should like. Secondly, you've wasted money on something when you could have listened, followed directions, or bought for the recipient instead of the giver. It's not about greed -- it's about caring enough to know the person for whom you're buying.
The Reason for the Season
As the Christmas season gears up, take the time to sit and think about the Reason for the Season -- Jesus Christ. Research and have family outings to fun but meaningful places that celebrate Christ's birth. Living near Charlotte, NC, I'm blessed in that the Billy Graham Library, with its fantastic Christmas celebration, is only 20 minutes away. Driving around and looking at Christmas lights is also a fun, family-friendly activity.
If you choose not to give gifts, you can always provide for the needy in the name of someone, by using gift catalogs like the one from Samaritan's Purse. Helping others in the name of Jesus is a powerful way to demonstrate mission-mindedness in a family. Of course, there's also the Operation Christmas Shoebox program. We filled up two this year for boys ages 10-14 with tools, pencils, a composition book, a tennis ball, gloves, a flashlight, and other things. Always make sure you put a flashlight in the shoeboxes as most countries are not powered like we are in the United States. Talk about shining the Light of Christ!
I didn't mean for this post to be affiliate-link heavy. I wanted to give you some real ideas on how to save (or even make) money during this Christmas season. It's tight everywhere, folks. Every little bit helps -- and helps us be good stewards of what God has given us.
Thank you for your love and support to me and my family this year. Your prayers, comments, and thoughts have warmed our hearts and indeed, lifted us up.
Peace in Christ,
(c) 2016 Terrie McKee
This post may contain affiliate links, which help support this website and my family. To see the disclosure policy, please click here.
This post may contain affiliate links to products and/or services, including those available on Amazon.com, as Near Your Altar is a participating member in the Amazon Affiliate Program in addition to other retail affiliates. These affiliate links help provide for this website as well as a small income to my family and I. Please consider clicking on the links to purchase or to browse the affiliate's website, which will open in a new window. We thank you for your support. ~ Terrie
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