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Saving Money on Those Family Budget Crunchers


by Andrea Sternberg

In our family it's not the basic expenses that add up as much as the extras that seem to be never-ending. We can deny it all we want but with school age children ten dollars here for a birthday present and twenty there for the team party add up. Planning ahead can save you a great deal of money.

Sit down before Christmas and make a list of the extra gift or event expenses you had throughout the year. The list is endless and these are just some examples of areas you can plan ahead for and buy clearance items.

Some things to include are:

  • Gifts for family
  • Gifts for friends
  • Teacher gifts (holiday and end of year)
  • Class Parties
  • Scouting or team parties
  • Sports equipment for next year
  • Classmate birthday parties
  • Mothers Day
  • Fathers Day
  • Events you volunteered to bake or cook for

The Day After Christmas:

  • Stock up on wrapping paper and ribbon in solid red, green, silver or gold for use all year long. I just wrapped a gift for a classmate of my son's using green paper and applying dinosaur stickers.
  • Buy your baking items for Valentines and St. Patrick's Day. Almost always the red and green sprinkles are half off as well as colored frosting and other decorations.
  • Picture frames go to 50% off at most stores. I stocked up and will use them for giving a picture of the kids to family.
  • Stock up on holiday Ziploc bags, snacks and paper goods. Don't buy these until they are 75% off. Use the snacks for lunches over the next few months.
  • Stock up on scented candles. Who says you can only enjoy the smell of pine at Christmas time.
  • Buy your candy for Valentine's Day.

My first stop the day after Christmas is Target. At holiday time they have pre packaged gift sets in every department, these go 50% off on the 26th. This year I got tools we needed for our home, commuter mugs, sleeping bags, a bike for my son's Birthday, my Dad's Father's Day gift, flashlights for our home all at half what I would pay normally. The packaging is holiday theme but items can be taken out and wrapped in a gift basket.

The Day After Halloween:

  • Stock up on non food treats. Last year I purchased three bags of matchbox cars packaged for trickery theaters and I will use them as package toppers for Birthday parties.
  • Buy your decorations for next year. Take into consideration class parties when planning how much to buy.
  • Get next years costume now. My son has a terrible time deciding what he wants to be for Halloween so its hard to plan a year ahead but try to do it for the little ones and yourself if you can.

The Day After Easter:

  • Stock up on solid colored baskets and cellophane for gift baskets throughout the year.
  • Large plastic eggs can be used next year or they make a great tub toy for the kids.

Class Parties -

These can get expensive if you don't plan ahead. Know what holidays your child's class is celebrating and buy the year before, after the holiday. This year I was able to give each child a gift bag with stickers, pencils, crayons and a coloring book. Total spent for 25 bags was $10. The crayons I purchased at back to school time and everything else was bought the year before.

Birthday Parties -

My five year old was invited to over 20 Birthday parties this year at $10 or more for a gift it can get expensive. If you find a toy on clearance that could be used as a gift buy it in bulk. This will save you time and money. How many times have you forgotten to buy a gift, ran out hours before and spent twice what you planned on?

Cards and Correspondence -

I think Birthday cards and Christmas cards are a huge waste of money. I send out a family newsletter a few times a year. I send one out after Thanksgiving that doubles as a Christmas card. I also include the kids clothing sizes, toy interests and what they are NOT allowed to have. This helps friends and family who buy gifts for the children.

Birthday cards are impersonal, save your $3 and have the kids draw a picture or put their hand prints on paper, scan it and use as a card for family throughout the year. I recorded my son singing happy birthday and I send it via email to friends and family with a computer, much more personal than an electronic greeting card.

Andrea Sternberg is the Mother of Three Special Needs Boy and Editor of the Living For Less Website

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