Due to popular demand, I’m going to spend a little bit of time over the next week or two talking about frugal gift-buying for C/Hanuk(k)ah. Before I share some of my favorite deals, I wanted to outline my strategies for celebrating Chanukah on a budget.
Disclaimer: I know that not all families do gifts for Chanukah, and obviously that would be the biggest money saver! We do “do” gifts, but they are small and modest, as you will see.
1. Set a realistic budget
Whether you want to spend $1000 or $10, the first step to making sure you don’t spend too much is to set a budget. (There’s that “B word” again!)
The amount you choose may be a function of your resources — i.e. how much you can afford right now — or a function of your values — i.e. Chanukah is not a major holiday in the Jewish calendar, despite its proximity to Christmas, and therefore we only spend a modest amount of money on modest gifts.
For us, we set a fairly modest budget due to both our resources and our values. Our total allotted amount is $75, which includes our three kids, each other and our parents.
2. Make a recipient list
I know that some of you might prefer to do this step first and then set a budget. The reason I advocate setting a budget first is because it reins you in a bit more. If you realistically know you can only afford to spend $50 this Chanukah, then a 20-person recipient list is going to be a challenge.
Once you list out all the people you’d like to give a gift to, assign a target dollar amount. You might need to fine-tune this as your pick up your gifts, but it’s a good idea to have a clear value in mind when you start shopping. Of course, for bargain shoppers like myself, I like the challenge of getting the most for the least.
3. Plan in Advance
Sorry, I know this tip isn’t very helpful for this year, since the first night of Chanukah is just 2 weeks away. But keep it in mind for next year, as I do think it’s important to plan in advance so that you don’t end up relying on your credit cards to pay for your gifts.
We plan in advance by saving a fixed amount every month ($25) into our family gift fund. This covers birthday gifts, Chanukah gifts and anniversary gifts for the five of us. We stretch our dollars by using Swagbucks-earned gift cards at Amazon, buying on sale, getting freebies, etc.
4. Keep a running list
If your kids are anything like mine, you probably hear the frequent retail refrain of “Mommy, can I get that? Pleeeease? Oh Mommy, Mommy, I really waaaaant this!”
I have started telling them to “put it on the list” — i.e. the list of things you would like to buy or have bought for you. Most of the time, they don’t bother, which tells me that they really aren’t *that* interested in whatever it is they are asking for.
But if there is something that has been asked for repeatedly, I usually put it on MY list. That way when it comes time to shop for birthday or Chanukah gifts and I’m drawing a total blank, I have some ideas of what I’m looking for. This is also helpful for adults in your life — they may not be whining/begging you to buy them stuff (I hope not!), but you might see or hear about something in July that would make a perfect gift in December.
Having a list like this also enables you to get better deals. When I realized I could snag Don’t Break the Ice — one of the items on my list for my boys — for just over $1 at TRU last week, I did a little happy dance.
5. Get creative
From baked goods (always appreciated) to gift baskets, you can often put together your own gifts for a fraction of the cost of buying similar items.
For example, if you have been stockpiling from CVS, you might have some high-end bath and beauty supplies that will make a nice Pamper-Me basket. Line a basket (picked up on clearance at Michael’s or at the Dollar Store) with a pretty washcloth (clearance) and fill it with lotions, bath wash, salts and nail polish.
If you have a baker in your life, how about a pretty chafing dish, stuffed with high end or organic baking supplies — picked up on sale and with a coupon! You can even put together a notebook with a few of your favorite recipes.
Last year, I used a free coupon code to make a photo flip-book for one of my sons. I included pictures of him throughout the year — with his baby sister, wearing his Purim costume, on the first day of school, fishing on his cousin’s boat, etc. He loved it and still looks at it to this day. How many of us can say the same thing about gifts that we gave our kids last year?!
There is a similar deal right now from Vistaprint for a free photobook. There is also a Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal on Picaboo Photobooks or Calendars deal at Picaboo — but it has to be used by Monday night at 11:59 PT. Use the code BGFTHX at check-out.
6. Exercise your strategic shopping skills
Shopping for Chanukah on a budget requires the same ninja-like coupon skills as shopping for your groceries. If you are shopping the brick-and-mortar stores, scan you weekly circulars, and consider shopping at Black Friday sales (you can check out my Black Friday preview here.)
If you want to shop online, always check for coupon codes and free shipping codes. The deal-a-day sites can also be a real boon, especially if you are planning to give gift cards. You can read more of my online shopping tips here.
What are your strategies for shopping for Chanukah on a budget? Do you have your list already planned or are you flying by the seat of your pants?