Did Stocking Stuffers Blow Your Holiday Budget?

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Did Stocking Stuffers Blow Your Holiday Budget?

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Did Stocking Stuffers Blow Your Holiday Budget?
When I was a kid, we didn't have a fireplace, or a mantle to hang stockings from. Of course I saw this phenomenon on TV, but didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it since it was a holiday tradition that was completely lost on me.

When Christmas time arrived after purchasing our first home, my wife bought stockings and hung them on the mantle of our wood-burning fireplace. Because I had never participated in the stuffing of a stocking before, I went about the month of December assuming they were simply decorations. As we were discussing gift giving one evening she mentioned still needing to get me stocking stuffers. Not realizing until this point that there was a stocking stuffer obligation, I was completely unprepared. 

So, I sneakily put into hers a present or two that were small in size.

We added stockings for our two kids as they entered our lives, but I always followed Vonnie's lead when it came to filling them. Well, to be honest, I simply never brought it up because I always thought we spent enough on "normal" presents such that there really wasn't a need for stocking stuffers. I was going with the "ostrich approach," thinking if I stuck my head in the ground and ignored it, then she would magically forget about it.

Surprising how THAT never panned out, isn't it?

Even after I'd accepted that they had to be accounted for in the Christmas spending budget, we've never had quite the same viewpoint on how much is enough when it comes to stocking stuffers. Each year there seemed to be that, "Oh no!  Christmas is coming up and we don't have enough things for the kids' stockings!" emergency which would cause a panicked free-for-all run to Wal-Mart. Many times when a guy is in a hurry, the budget gets completely tossed out the window and we just do whatever it takes to complete the task.

You'd think that after this many years I would have learned.

Back in late November I exchanged comments in a blog post with some other Community members who have experienced a very similar problem. We promised each other that'd we'd do better this year. We committed to not let stocking stuffers blow our budget. 

I offered to write this post, and suggested that we share how we did in the comments section.

So, friends, how did you do?  I'll go first . . .

Related Links:

Oh Yay, the Holidays are Coming

Preparing for the Holidays; Time Capsule Style

The Hangover

Travis Pizel, Debt Management Plan Customer with Leading Provider of Debt Relief, CareOne Services, Inc.  Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Here we go!  For the kids Vonnie and I decided to get the kids some of their favorite treats.  We found a "5 for $5" section at Target:

    Tristan: 5 of his favorite treats (Laffy Taffy, Xmas Sweet Tarts, Holiday Sweedish Fish, Santa Hershey's bar, and a Xmas Nerds Rope).  We also found a giant 24 ounce can of Mountain Dew - this thing was HUGE! at Walmart for $1.79.  Total cost: $6.79

    Tori:  4 of her favorite treats (Nerds rope, Sweet tarts, laffy taffy, tic/tacs) as well as some body lotions and washes from Bath and Body.Total Cost: $8.00

    Vonnie:  I got her a bag of her favorite Lindor Truffles ($4.00) and a new Paddle Brush (Tori has been stealing hers) for $5.00.  Total cost: $9.00

    Me:  Vonnie got me a huge bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans for a dispenser I have in my office (guestimating $8.00?) and a box of my favorite candy ($1.00)  Total cost: $9.00

    Total Stocking stuffers cost: $32.79.  Average cost was less than $8.25 per person.

    This is THE best we've ever done cost wise....next year I'd like to tone down the Candy theme (but still get some), and find different little items along the theme of the small body washes and lotions we got for Tori.  I thought that was a GREAT idea.

    Ok, that's me......how did you do?

  • Hah, when I was a kid in the 70s, we didn't have a fireplace, so my mom bought a cardboard one to hang the stockings on! LOL. Also, around 1975, my mom started knitting handmade stockings that were HUGE - what you bought would barely fill the TOE!

    As a kid, our stocking stuffer 'staples' from Santa Mom were socks (cheap and bulky!), batteries (we were getting them for our toys anyway, so why not put them in the stocking?), and at the toe tip was usually a roll of film for our flip-flash cameras. Yes, I'm that old. As a teenager, any hygiene products we ran out of in December would get wrapped and put in our stockings, as we got told "borrow your sister's deodorant for a week!" I must admit, stuffing stockings now, 35 years later, is still an homage to how they were originally stuffed.

    I don't have kids, none of us do (well, one is pregnant), so stuffing stockings isn't about candy and playing cards. I did get THREE pairs of socks though, lol. Bear in mind I was helping to fill HUGE stockings for mom, 3 siblings, and 2 brothers-in-law. I put a lot of thought into it throughout the year, and included a number of things from my South Africa trip - skincare products from an aloe farm in I visited, $1-8; weird animal jerky (ostrich, kudu, sprinkbok), $2-5; Zulu doll Christmas ornaments, 4 for $20; carved Cheetah pens, $3.50; baboon wine stopper, $2.50; organic wildlife socks, $7. Supplemented by American-bought items: $3 novelty cell phone cases (the kind you say you'll never use and then you do because you broke your existing one); cat toys, $1-3 each; items from my drugstore couponing-for-free that I know they love (Axe spray, Gillette razors, Burts Bees lip balm, etc). Can you tell I love doing stockings??

  • OK, now me...............  I went to the Dollar Store and picked up some little necessities, like pens and post-it note pads, nail clippers for the boys/men, and several bags of Christmas candies to split.  I put in some tangerines and found some stuff I had bought and NEVER EVEN OPENED (like little bottles of lotion and body wash for the girls.)  Got the men a few little bottles of Purel for pocket or car.  Stockings LOOKED nice and full, and the little things were all appreciated.  Didn't spend much over $1 on each item, but tried to find useful, or fun things.  this was a fun challenge, and knowing I would be accountable to the CareOne community made it more fun.  So, how about everyone else??????

  • I did well! For Daryl I got skewers and a campfire Kabob cookbook (for the trailer and the trip this summer) for $2 - they actually had great camping dinner ideas that we will really use and there were 8 skewers in 4 different colors. Perfect. I also got him a belt that he really needed that was on sale and I hung a roll or trailer toilet paper on the belt. He got an orange in the toe of his stocking and a Mountain Dew under his stocking. For candy he got a little box of Jelly Bellies.

    Tyler got a green apple in his toe and some pez, some stickers for the top of his computer (99 cents), a pack with 5 trial size colognes (3.00)(He has his first girlfriend and has been talking about colognes a LOT)  and a coke.

    Lexi got a red apple in her toe, pez, a sticker that says I heart Geeks for her computer (99 cents), a rubixs cube keychain (99 cents), her favorite body wash and loofa set for $4 and hot cocoa spoons (3 for $1) and a Root Beer

    My mom and I each got Bath and body works. Together they were $15 but we EACH got a full size tube of our favorite lotion, bath gel and body spray. It only comes out at Christmas. I got a buy 3 get three and had a 40% off coupon so really it was a steal and came to $7.50 for each stocking. We both had oranges in our toes. She had Neccos for her candy. I had a Pepsi

    We each had one piece of Unreal Unjunked candy.

    I did have to get the stocking out and stuff them 4 times to prove to myself that I had enough. The kids were thrilled. I bought no junk that was a total waste of my money and I felt OK about the candy we got. There was not a lot of it.

    I am proud of us!! I thought you did great. Now that the kids are older it is nice to get them lotions and soaps. Considering last year I bought a bunch of stuff as I went along and then went out and spent $200 on stuffers alone right before Christmas in a panic I think this was MUCH better. Knowing we were going to report in gave me that extra push to really think about what I was buying. I am THRILLED I did not pay for cheap junk that would be thrown away. Every year as I see them go in the trash I think I might as well have just thrown the money straight there.

  • Yay for us, we set a goal and we did it!!!!

  • Heh. You won't believe this, but we actually budgeted for stocking stuffers this year and then never bought anything! In fact, I think the stockings didn't even make it out of their container in the crawl space. We went to "Christmas" at my in-laws house on Saturday the 22nd, and opened presents and had dinner, and when we got home that afternoon the kids said "why don't we just open all of our stuff today too?" The wife and I didn't care, so we had Christmas on Saturday at our house too. Which was before we had planned to go to the dollar store to fill the stockings. So Christmas rolled around Tuesday and it was, well, just Tuesday. The thing that has a tendency to break our budget is Christmas break itself. Somehow we end up spending more because we're home than we would if we were at work. Payday in six days---we're limping along to get there. :)

  • Mike - What a story! How fun! It is like you had your very own Christmas Holiday and did not invite the rest of the world. I love it. I hear you on the limping along. We are almost there.

  • Sounds like everyone did an awesome job!!  We didn't do stockings this year so no cost there.  My children are both adults.  This year I spent time with them before I went to work on Christmas Eve, where we spent some quality time enjoying each others company, and playing games!!  Had a blast!!!  Cost: Free!!

  • Wow, MoneyMateKate - those are some AWESOME stocking stuffers - you have great creativity!  Can you help me next year????

  • Way to go Julie (ConradsMom)!  I knew if we all held each other accountable that we could do it.....thank you for helping making this year's stocking stuffing a success!

  • Kimmer5000, it's such a great feeling to have the kids excited about their stocking stuffers AND stay on track financially, isn't it!  Best Stocking Stuffer season EVER!

  • I agree, Mike - both my wife and I are typically off work the week between Xmas and New Years.  She and I have a fundamental difference of opinion when it comes to time off.  My usual speed is a bazillion miles per hour, so when I am off of work I just want to SLOW DOWN.  She thinks any kind of time off of school/work requires going somewhere or doing special activities.  We always struggle to find a balance........hey, this sounds like a future blog post!  LOL.

  • Enjoying time together and playing games sounds GREAT,  Monica (mdavis1964).  I wonder if we have to wait until the kids are adults to stop doing stockings???

  • I was an epic fail for one person (my son) and not bad for the others.  My 2 daughters were ok but I spent about $15.  Dollar Store - Easy for the young and I got them $5 gift cards for a yogurt place for one and a Moshi Monsters 1 month membership for the other.   For my son, I spent about $50.  He just turned 13 and nothing seemed right, I was desperate.  Next year I will have to think ahead.  He is a minimalist type of kid and just wants cash and candy.  I ended up returning $30 of this crap I bought and gave him a $20 bill, kept candy, socks and movie gift card.  I am thinking a gift card or 2 for $5 or even less if I can get them - $5 for DQ - Dairy Queen, Pizza or McDonald's gift card and wrap them up in a bigger box or something then add in some Axe deodorant or spray and some socks or just a bunch of chocolate bars and chips (thx Travis!).  I spent about $20-$25 on hubby.

    The problem for me is I have several bdays around Christmas - son and 2 nieces, host Christmas dinner for extended family and I just threw money at the situation.  Next year my goal is to spend no more than $10, maybe $15 each and $20 for hubby.  Love the giant can of pop idea Kimmer!

  • Travis - I am one of 5 girls. Every single one of us still gets a stocking. My mom covered it until there was someone else to do it. My sister who is currently single gets hers in the mail. As you notice - my mom got one too. When Daryl and I picked out stockings our first Christmas we got a set of 5. One for each of us, one for the baby (Lexi), one for the baby we just knew would come later (Tyler) and one for my mom who we knew would be spending every Christmas with us. Stockings matter. LOL I think since you did not grow up with it you don't feel the same way. Remember these are the traditions that are the colored threads in the fabric of your kids lives. That does NOT mean you should go broke doing it though! It really is the idea that counts.

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