Our Frugal Christmas

Now that Christmas is over (and there’s no chance our family will call us cheapskates), we can safely reveal our total out-of-pocket spending for this gift-giving season. We spent just $75.

My mom is the ultimate gifter. Before she sent over her presents, our tree was pretty bare.

Don’t be fooled though.

Aside from us, there are no other minimalists in our family so gifting is kind of a big deal for them. My mom loves to see people open presents…and she is far and away the most intuitive gift-giver I’ve ever seen. She always seems to know just exactly what we all need. We also put a lot of thought into gifting this year, trying to make sure everyone had something picked especially for them. My mom, who loves to cook, has been looking for a good French Skillet for a few years (and an old-fashioned kitchen timer). We lucked out, finding both on sale at Wayfair just before Thanksgiving. The littlest member of our family recently started sitting on anything that remotely resembles a seat so we found a tiny chair (that won’t topple) just for her. We stuffed stockings for each other, gave gift cards to the teenage niece and nephew, and showered mom and the little one with a few other small, meaningful gifts.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the fridge…

This was also our year to host the family celebration. Much of our Christmas morning was spent prepping appetizers – sausage balls, jalapeno poppers, an assortment of cheeses, and punch – before starting on dinner. For our small family, we decided to go with a boneless turkey breast (no waste!) and the traditional trimmings – cornbread dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn casserole, and rolls. We cooked the turkey in the crock pot, which was a first for us. I’m pleased to say, it turned out rather well.

In fact, everything went rather well that day. And we did it all for just $75. Well okay, not exactly. The actual total, with food, was closer to $400.  Of that though, we only paid $74.88 out of our own pocket. The remainder was covered by gift cards.

Over the past few months we’ve worked various side hustles to score gift cards expressly for Christmas, including:

MyCokeRewards: We pretty much stopped drinking soda at home almost a year ago so collecting Coke points is a bit more challenging than it used to be. Luckily my mom still enjoys her daily Diet Coke and saves her caps for us. Combined with the codes we found in recycling, we were able to cash out points for $30 in gift cards, a free 12-pack of sodas for our guests to enjoy, and a free Shutterfly photo book ($22 value).

Kellogg’s Family Rewards: Though it was a small yield, we were able to cash out points from our morning Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes to get 2 RedBox gift cards ($3 value) and a Finding Dory flashlight for the little one.

Shopkick: This is Angie’s favorite app. Every time we go into a store, she’s scanning something for points. It’s a super easy way to earn gift cards. We cashed out for a $20 GameStop gift card for our nephew (to which we added our own GameStop Rewards points for an additional $5 gift card).

Job Spotter: By far my favorite way to earn gift cards. You simply snap a photo of a help wanted sign and earn points. While on vacation in October we walked a mall in Maryland taking photos of more than 2 dozen seasonal jobs. We cashed out these and other points for $76 in Amazon gift cards.

Our biggest score though was the $400 move-in bonus (Visa gift card) we received in September when we moved into our new apartment. $200 immediately went back to pay our deposit but the remaining $200 was put away for holiday spending.

Saving money is always a nice gift but the best gift we received was seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of our family throughout the day…and knowing they were safe.

On Christmas night, as my niece, her boyfriend, and the baby were pulling out of our parking lot, the front wheel of DC’s truck fell off. Not the tire…the entire wheel separated from the axle. We feel so blessed that they were not on the highway when it happened.

Yesterday we took down our holiday decor and put our house back in order. (Truth be told, having a tree in the living room, albeit pretty to look at, makes us feel cluttered). With Christmas 2016 now in the past, we’re looking toward the New Year and to discovering new ways in which we can be even more frugal in 2017.

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