A Thrifty Parent’s Christmas Shopping Guide 2018

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Thrifty Parent’s Holiday Shopping Guide

It happens every year: You set a budget for holiday gifts, but quickly realize it’s just not enough. The only thing worse than the insane crowds of shoppers, which descend daily on the mall, is trying to wrap a tight budget around all the gifts you feel you need to buy. So between the crowds, the disappointment of being broke, and the stress of trying to make this holiday the best ever, it’s no wonder that the joy of Christmas becomes the hassle of the holidays.

This guide will give you some general holiday shopping tips and ways to save money and stretch your dollar. Plus we’ll highlight some of this year’s “it” toys and toys that are popular every year. You can expect common sense advice that will help you save money, time, and your sanity.

Saving Money on Holiday Gifts

Shop Sales

This year we are seeing more early-season sales than ever before. Wal*Mart and Amazon.com are just two retailers that are offering great deals on electronics in the weeks leading up the Black Friday. These early sales are likely to rival Black Friday prices and similar to Black Friday, the quantities are limited. Be sure to be a smart shopper, however, because some stores are trying to lure early shoppers with “sales” that are no better than their everyday prices. Compare prices before you buy to ensure you’re getting the best price.

Shopping early holiday sales are a great way to save a ton of money on a number of electronic items and toys.

Unfortunately, lots of people are looking to stretch their gift budgets, too, which means you’ll need to be prepared to wade through crowds of people and stand in never-ending lines. Help fight the insanity by making a game plan before you go; this is probably not the time to wander aimlessly through the aisles or have your kids in tow. If you can get your hands on a sales flyer prior to the sale, make a list of the toys you are interested in and find someone to watch the wee ones.

Black Friday

Black Friday is the one-day mega sale the day following Thanksgiving and kicks off the “official” holiday shopping season. Stores open early, some open very early.  To help make sense of the madness, sites like Black-Friday.net list all available Black Friday ads.  Participating stores offer some amazing deals, and if you can stand the crowds, expect to save big on toys and electronics, as well as kitchen gadgets, clothing, linens, and door-buster items. Black Friday sales are often the best way to get that one big-ticket item your kids are dying for, especially if it is normally out of your price range.

There are some drawbacks to shopping Black Friday sales. First, quantities are often extremely limited on big-ticket items. Second, you have to get up really, really early and deal with lots and lots of people. Of course, there are still decent deals later in the afternoon and the crowd’s general decrease as the morning wears on. Bottom line: If you’re trying to maximize your gift budget and are feeling brave, hit the stores early-early. On the other hand, if you just can’t stand crowds and chaos, shop later in the day or wait for Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is the online equivalent to Black Friday and is the Monday after Thanksgiving. Some retailers offer the same or very similar deals to their Black Friday sales while others offer completely different, but still very good deals. If the site does not explicitly offer free shipping, be sure to check online coupon sites for free shipping codes. However, as online shopping hits epic levels, this year you don’t wait until Cyber Monday! Many online retailers are trying to entice early shoppers with sales beginning as early as Thanksgiving Day, and large retailers are offering the exact same sales in stores and online. For parents who aren’t able (or willing) to hit the Black Friday sales, online sales can be the perfect answer!

Pre-Black Friday Sales

Black Friday got its name because the day after Thanksgiving is typically the first profitable shopping day of the holiday season. Since stores want to make money it seems natural to try to become profitable earlier and earlier each year. Over the last few years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of BIG sales prior to Black Friday. Wal*Mart and Amazon are offering up prices comparable to their Black Friday sales, so if you see something appealing it’s a good idea to buy it now. Be careful, however, because other retailers’ “sale” prices are not sale-priced at all; in fact, some prices are at or just slightly below their regular prices and are just trying to catch foolish shoppers.


Inexpensive Gift Ideas

If you exchange gifts with even just a few neighbors and friends it can be overwhelming and financially exhaustive to purchase gifts for everyone. What do you get for the people who have everything, and how do you shop for adults on a limited budget? With a little planning, you can give thoughtful, homemade gifts that will be appreciated more than a less personal gift.

Homemade Gifts

Homemade gifts are wonderful to give to the people who have everything, especially if you have a particular talent or hobby. Knitting, crocheting, and fabric crafts enable you to give away unique gifts without breaking the bank. From the home chef, cookies, canned goods, and even herb-infused oils are delicious ways to share your talent with friends and family. Even if you don’t have a specific hobby or talent, you can search the internet for ideas on creating easy homemade Christmas gifts. Homemade Christmas gifts are also a great way to get your kids involved by having them help out.

There are some things to consider before committing to homemade gifts this year. First, homemade gifts are not always cheaper than a store-bought gift so be sure to budget for the cost of materials, which can skyrocket if the project is quite large. Also, making multiple gifts may take a great deal of time. Be sure you have enough time to create homemade gifts to avoid getting overly stressed by the time Christmas rolls around. Here are a few ideas.


Gifts of Time

I personally like this option a lot because it truly embraces the holiday spirit, not materialism. Offer a handmade “coupon” that promises the recipient can exchange it for something special, like an afternoon fishing or learning a family recipe. This is what you give to someone who already has everything because time cannot be purchased. Instead of offering to spend time together, give new parents a coupon that offers a free night of babysitting, or chore coupons to help out with dishes and laundry. Gifts like these cost relatively little but are highly valued because time is so precious.

eBay Gifts

Purchasing gifts on eBay has two benefits. First, you may be able to find brand-new gifts for less than retail which is a great way to save money (just be sure to watch the shipping and handling charges). The other benefit to shopping eBay is that you may be able to find the super popular “it” toy of the season that isn’t in any of the stores near you; however, in this situation, you should expect to pay more than retail if the demand is quite high.

Used Gifts

Many parents don’t consider buying used when it comes to gifts because it doesn’t feel right to give a used gift, and that is understandable because our culture values NEW. On the other hand, buying used may give the chance to gift an “expensive” gift that would otherwise be out of your price range. The smaller the child, the easier it is because they haven’t learned the societal beliefs about “new” and “used” toys. Check eBay, Craigslist and local garage sales for gently-used, big-ticket toys like swing sets, play stations, and ride-on toys. In all likelihood, your small child probably won’t notice that the gift is used.

We live on one income so my children are used to getting used. I think that we as parents worry about the “new” vs “used” more than our children do. I believe it’s all in perspective. I know someone who thinks of used as a bad thing and I have the attitude…cool I saved so much money and that frees money for other things I want to do or buy. My children grew up with used is cool and they don’t think anything of it. Rarely have we ever felt the desire for a brand spankin new object. There has a been a few but rarely and the great thing is that we have saved money on other things we can get the best of the best of the one new item we would like. We win!

Check out Amazons Top 100 Toy Guide 

Holiday Gift Guide



 “It” Toys of the Season

Kristin McGrath a savings and deals expert at BlackFriday.com says the “IT” toys are the ones that will top kids list in 2018 and sell out quickly on Black Friday.

WowWee Fingerlings HUGS

L.O.L. Surprise! Bigger Surprise!



I thought these guys were a last year thing but looks like they are still popular.


furReal critters(Munchin Rex, Roo A Too and more)


Sesame Street Playskool Friend’s Lets Dance Elmo

Imaginext Jurassic World Jurassic Rex

Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall LEGO Building Kit

                                                                         This set comes with 878 pieces with mini lego characters. I want one for me!

 Barbie DreamHouse

                                                          Of course, what would any little girls childhood be without a Barbie dream house.

PJ Masks Set



These are small, squishy pencil toppers that also have their own play lands. I have no idea what makes these toys cool, but several websites are claiming these little things will be at the top of every little girl’s wish list this year.

The rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Playset

Laser X fusion


Chow Crown

Players wear a spinning crown loaded with snacks and have to try to eat everything before time is up.



For more gift ideas by age group, check out the Toy Insider. 

Teens| Tweens

Ever-Popular Toys

  • Gift Cards are always popular with picky teens who enjoy a little autonomy and shopping.
  • Music – Purchase CDs for your teen, or opt for an iTunes gift card and let them make their own CD.
  • Books

Stocking Stuffers

  • Bananagrams is a fun scrabble-type game that comes in its own adorable, zippered pouch.

  • Rubik’s Slide – The Rubik’s cube got an update. Starting around $20, it is a pricey stocking stuffer, but one that is sure to please.

  • Action-figure flash drives allow teens to take data with them. I love these and know my teens that where superhero socks are going to add this to their apparel.

Batman 64 GB USB

Batan Logo 64GB USB

Back Shaver– for that hairy little boy. lol

Hey, these boys get hairy and smelly and it’s a great time save money and help them by putting these little fundamentals in their stockings. I feel lucky like the saying goes…”I kill two birds with one stone.”

Here’s your Holiday Shopping Checklist

Happy Holidays!

Best of luck with your holiday gift buying this season!

About The Author

Karie Babbitt

Karie Babbitt is a Lifestyle and Family Travel Writer. Mother of three boys and one girl. She has raised a family of six on a single income for over twenty-five years. She will share how she budgets so she can travel to show her kids all fifty states before they leave her home. Her parenting fails and successes, budgeting tips, food and living life in bliss.


  1. Travel With A SIlver Lining | 8th Nov 18

    great tips 🙂

  2. Alexandra | 9th Nov 18

    Some great ideas here! I will be sharing this post with my friend who is keen to start shopping for her kids but is on a budget 🙂

  3. Michelle | 9th Nov 18

    I have so many friends with children and I know they are all trying their best to count pennies to be able to buy their children holiday gifts. This is definitely a post that I will have to pass along to them.

    Thanks for sharing! x


  4. Josephine | Better as Us | 9th Nov 18

    I love your tips. This season always brings me such stress because of money! I am as thrifty as they come shopping deals and sales. It really makes all the difference!

    Josephine | Better as Us

  5. Misty | 9th Nov 18

    Thanks! I love having a plan when it comes to holiday shopping or it gets out of hand. Love the toy suggestions too

  6. Cris Silva | 10th Nov 18

    Great ideas, I have too many nephews and nieces and I’m always los of what kind of toys the would like.

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