Thursday, October 6, 2016

toddler stocking stuffers on a budget

As I mentioned before, I have $30 budgeted for all of our stockings. I usually don't put anything in mine and will only put one or two things in Jon's, so it averages out to about $10/kid. Since Baby Turkey is going to be a newborn, I figured he or she wouldn't be upset if all we put in the stocking was a new pacifier and a rattle. In the future I will have to be more thrifty since that will not be the case, but I am pretty happy with my haul so far this year. So how do I do it on a budget?
1. Start shopping early. Since I still have about 3 months until Christmas, I have the luxury of waiting until I see something for a complete steal to pick up. Believe it or not, one of the places we've found the best deals on smaller children's toys is Walgreens. Whenever we are there we peruse the clearance section and if we see anything (in our case, as they cleared out the end of summer stuff) that we think the kids would like for a good price we pick it up. We got some balloons like these for less than $0.49/each at Walgreens on clearance.

2. Zulily. This is only really good if a specific sale offers free shipping or if you are getting other item(s). I recently bought these on Zulily for cheap  (3 pack of 12 for $7 - one for each big kid stocking and one for now, so $2.33/ea) with free shipping!

3. Target Dollar Spot. This place can be dangerous, as I am sure you know. Around Christmas time they get Christmas themed board books (or at least they have in the past). I usually plan on getting each kid one of these books for their stockings. They also have had chapstick in the Dollar Spot and our kids are chapstick junkies so I usually get them each one of these as well. Some other good dollar finds are water bottles, glow sticks, etc.

4. Shop local Facebook buy pages/Craigslist. I think almost every year we've given our kids at least one secondhand toy at Christmas time. Some were in better condition than others. And you know what? I've never heard a complaint! I got a big light-up robot similar to this that is like new for $2 off a local buy page. I thought it would be small enough for the stocking but it ended up being about 18" tall in real life so now that's one of Elden's Santa gifts. As a result, we also got Edith a working toy vacuum like this off a buy page for $1 to complement Elden's robot. That being said, I have been keeping my eye out for small (re: stocking size) Transformers for the kids. I'm not sure whether I will find anything but we did get them some from garage sales a few weeks ago.

5. Have a general idea of what you want to get ahead of time. I knew off the bat I would like to get them these candy sticks as their candy item, and generally speaking that I would want to get them chapstick and a book. That gave me an idea of how much room I had left in the budget so I knew whether something was worth buying as I came across it. As with all things budgeting, planning ahead to the best of your abilities is key.

6. Oriental Trading. This is where I buy pretty much all of our birthday party items for the year. It is cheaper than the Dollar Tree, but the key to making it cheap is buying enough stuff so you don't have to pay the ridiculous shipping cost. I buy all the supplies for both kids parties at once, and since their birthdays are later in the year I will often also get candy to hand out at Halloween and/or some of their many party favors for stocking stuffers at Christmas. I totally spaced on the stuffers this year so that didn't happen for us, but next year I plan on doing that. This avenue is particularly thrifty if you can get together with a handful of mom friends and pool your money since a lot of the party favors come in lots of 6 or 12 (split the cost per child/item).

So all that being said, what do I recommend as cheap stocking stuffers for the toddler and preschool crowd?
1. Blind bags - don't go to Amazon for these. We have found them on clearance at Walgreens and then they average $2.50/each at stores like Target.
2. Glow sticks
3. Balloons (on a string, on a stick - it doesn't matter to our kids as long as a balloon is involved)
4. Chapstick
5. Water bottle
6. A small notebook/crayons (our kids are very into coloring these days)
7. Temporary tattoos
8. Stickers
9. Fruit snacks (we usually get ours at Aldi)
10. Special applesauce/yogurt pouches (again, this is an Aldi buy)

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