I asked my sister in laws to create wishlists for my nieces and nephew and also we created them for the whole family. This allows for me to shop as items are on sale and ALSO ensures I will get something they like.
Swag bucks, My Points, and Inbox Dollars-the largest amount of money spent was actually money I earned on the internet. All year long I search using Swagbucks.com and read emails daily from My Points and Inbox dollars. In November I cash in all my points for gift cards and then shop using the gift cards. I have also given the gift of a gift card! I also store up coke rewards and pampers points for gifts. This year I cashed in enough combined points for 3 gifts and 6 $25 amazon.com gift cards!
Debit card points-our Chase debit card earns us reward points. I have to remember to ask for the debit to be run through as a credit card, but by doing so I earn points that can be turned into cash or gift cards.
Host a party and use the hostess rewards for gifts-this year I gave a gift to our teachers that included a cute gift fromUppercase Living. I hosted a party in October and instead of using the hostess rewards towards things for our own house I cashed them in for gifts.
homemade gifts-the other part of teacher gift included homemade syrup, pancake mix, and coffee mix. It was a hit and was VERY inexpensive to make. One thing that I did to make this less expensive-I bought the mason jars in August when they were on sale.
stash away a few dollars a month-this can be done through a Christmas club at your local bank or by having some money directly deposited into a separate account. One thing I figured out, if I have to transfer the money myself it's not going to happen.
search the deals-my dad is really big on getting the photo calendar for Christmas. He loves it, and it's a really easy gift for me to do. I am not brand loyal at all and every year I search the sites for the best deals. This year Vista Print offered a calendar for $5! It was really good quality and looked the same as the $20 from Kodak! I also used eversave and groupon for online purchases.
keep an ongoing idea list-if you have to get gifts for the hard to buy for person who always says they don't need anything keep a list bookmarked of possible things. This allows for you to confidently buy within your budget instead of panic buying in December.
don't forget the stockings! Dollar bins as the year goes on allows for us to have fun stockings and also partially fills the Operation Christmas Tree Shoeboxes without making a huge hit to the budget. I keep a box in the basement hidden where I can see it and no one else can.
Stick to the budget! I often feel that we, as a family, aren't giving gifts that are “good enough”. I have always felt that gifts are a way of showing graitiude and that can be hard when there just isn't enough money to go around. I have had to come to the conclusion that being present is part of the gift except that when the money is gone the money is gone. It's not worth it to have to pay off debt later simply because I'm feeling guilty!