Christmas Shopping on a Budget

Let’s face it, it’s rough out there.  Thinking of shopping for Christmas makes me queasy at this point. With three small children I can’t escape the throws, but I can be thrifty and wise. 

In August I wrote about Back to School Clothes Shopping on a Budget with some simple tips that apply to Christmas shopping as well:

  1. Take inventory of what you have in the way of clothes and toys.  Remove items that are too worn of that have been outgrown.  Be sure they are clean and set them aside (important for later).  Do this not only for your kid’s closets, but your own as well.  No longer in need of the size 4 power suit?  Set it aside.
  2. Make a list of what’s needed.  Remember, there is a difference between need and want.
  3. Set a budget.  It can be per person or in total (in total typically works best for me).  My budget is being set by what I can offset in selling items from Step 1.
  4. Swear off credit cards  No credit this Christmas – cash is King and Queen.  If you buy online and put on a credit card, immediately transfer cash from your bank account to your credit card for the exact amount.  Don’t wait, just do it.
  5. Make a shopping plan.  Start looking on eBay, Craigslist and local consignment shops.  Shop at stores with layaway plans to help pay over time (rather than on credit).  Place a ‘wanted’ listing on Craigslist (it’s free) to see what you come up with. 

I am in need of gently used size 6 boys clothing. If your son has outgrown his and you were looking for a good home, please let me know. Ideally I’d like a bag of clothes – pants, shorts, shirts, sweaters/pullovers for a fixed price ($x for the whole bag)

How to pay for it…
Remember in step 1 we set some items aside?  List them on Craigslist (free), eBay (small fee) or take them to a local consignment shop.  Consignment shops are doing brisk business in this economic downturn with many people taking items in for cash making the inventory levels higher and more choice for you the thrifty shopper.

More advice?
I’d love to hear from others on how they are managing shopping for the holidays.  Let’s here it in the comments!

Back to School Clothes Shopping on a Budget

Here are some timely tips for finding great back-to-school clothing buys without killing your budget or making your kids cry. 

Start by making the list of what’s absolutely needed.  There’s a difference between “want” and “need” and this little lesson is great for parents, grandparents and kids. 

Take Inventory
First, I dig through drawers and closets to take inventory, remove items that are too worn or they have outgrown.  What’s left is our starting point.

Make a List
Next, I make a list and divide it into “now” and “later” columns.  I know both of my school-age children need pants and shorts.  The little guy needs a few shirts as well.  One is fine on a jacket, the other could use one although it isn’t needed on day 1.  I also know that during the course of the semester my daughter will likely need a black skirt and white blouse.  I don’t need it for the first day of school either so will add these to my “later” list.

On the “now” list I have pants/jeans, shorts and little boy’s shirts.  I don’t need a slew of them but along with what already fits, enough to make it through the week.  My daughter is in need of a pair of casual (not tennis shoes) shoes so that goes on the list.

What isn’t needed “now” is listed under “later” and as I’m shopping I can take advantage of great finds if it’s within my budget.

Set a Budget
If you have a set dollar amount – super!  You are ahead of the game.   For two kids heading back to school I’ve given myself a budget of $125 cash for everything – yes, everything. 

I was able to leap a little ahead of the game because I received a $65 gift certificate last month that I spent on 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of jeans and a shirt.  My $125 is in addition to this.  Amazon has some great deals as they carry clothes from a number of retailers including Target and The Children’s Palace.


Make a Shopping Plan
This sounds silly, doesn’t it?  I recall doing my school shopping with my mom and wanting various outfits and items.  I also recall the stressed look on her face.  While I’m not trying to cheat my kids out of the experience, I’m also looking to save money (time, gas, clothes) and get what is needed.  For that reason alone, I’m doing most of my shopping online these days.

Gently Used
I love Craigslist.  End of story.  Here is one of the ads I listed for free in the Wanted > Kids & Babies category:

I am in need of gently used size 8 girls clothing. If your daughter has outgrown her’s and you were looking for a good home, please let me know. Ideally I’d like a bag of clothes – pants, shorts, skirts or dresses, shirts, sweaters/pullovers for a fixed price ($x for the whole bag)

I placed a similar ad for boy’s clothing and within hours had a number of offers to buy bags of clothing for anywhere from $5-$30.  I’m in communication with two that sound promising and for less than $30 I should be able to get everything I need for my son.

eBay is another avenue to take for both gently used and new clothing in “lots”.  My husband jokes that this is the new “off the back of the truck” service.  I don’t question, I simply bid.  Yesterday I was successful in two auctions and for a total of $39.88 my daughter now has 9 pair of gently used (but new to her) pants including 2 pair of Levi’s and 2 skirts.  That’s more than enough and still leaves $85.12 in the budget for shoes and items for my son and shoes for my daughter. 

Don’t Forget the Shoes

Shop for Shoes up to 75% off at
I’m a big believer that growing feet need support.  For that reason alone, I always go for new shoes unless I can find a new pair on Craiglist or eBay. 

However, more and more I’m finding that you can’t beat, especially on Saturday’s when you can save up to 75% on your order.  Free shipping, free returns, great customer service, great selection and super prices.