Last Updated February 14th, 2018

Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make

Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make

People are getting their tax refunds at this time of year, and are ready to spend them. A lot of people, however, don’t spend them wisely. Suddenly you have a chunk of money right there, ready to be spent. It’s easy to use that unwisely. These are some of the tax refund spending mistakes many people make, along with some suggestions for smarter choices.

These situations aren’t true for all families, of course. Something that’s a mistake for one is just fine for another. But all too often, there’s a smarter choice available. The tighter your finances are for the rest of the year, the more careful you should be when spending your tax refund.

Major Tax Refund Spending Mistakes

Most times, it’s a mistake to spend your tax refund on these things. Not always, of course, but if you want to do this, make sure you know why you’re spending your money this way and be sure there isn’t something smarter you should spend your tax refund on.

That New TV

Getting a new TV, smartphone, or whatever gadget you’ve been eyeing is often a tax refund spending mistake. Sure, they’re nice to have, but how much do you really need it? Why couldn’t you afford it before?

If you’re spending your tax refund on something like a TV, think about why you’re spending it that way. If it’s just “I have the money now” and not “That’s how the timing worked, and the old one is about dead,” you may need to rethink things. You’re smartest to buy such things when they really need to be replaced, not just because a chunk of money came in.

If you couldn’t afford it without the tax refund, is it really affordable with it? Maybe there’s a better way to spend your money.

Other Splurges

It’s easy to want to splurge when you get extra money in your account. I get that. But it’s not a good idea to spend your entire refund on stuff that won’t last.

Whether it’s a new wardrobe or a nice vacation, really think about why you’re spending your refund that way. Be sure your priorities are straight. There are good reasons to spend your refund on things like vacations (you can’t beat the memories!), but not all reasons are good.

The Wrong Down Payment

There are times when it’s the right move to spend your tax refund as a down payment on something, such as a new or newer car. Other times it’s a huge mistake.

Don’t use your tax refund as a down payment on something you will struggle to make the monthly payments on. Just because you have enough money for the down payment doesn’t mean you can afford the thing the rest of the year. Keep it sensible so that you don’t add to your money troubles after the tax money is gone.


Some people can’t resist gambling when they have some extra money. It’s that dream of hitting it big, and you have a system, right?

Casinos look as amazing as they do because people lose a lot of money there. Odds are that you’ll be one of them.

If you really want to gamble, only use a small part of the money for that. Don’t risk your entire tax refund. If you have a good day gambling, you have some extra money. If the odds aren’t in your favor, you’ve only lost that part of the money, and still have the rest to spend more carefully.

money twist

What Should I Spend My Tax Refund On?

The right choice for what to spend your tax refund on depends on your situation. If any of these apply to you, however, they’re probably a good choice.

If you’re getting a huge refund every year, odds are that you should adjust your withholdings. Remember, this is money you put in. If you change your withholding, you’ll have a little more money each month, rather than having it sit around until you file your taxes. You can put that money to better use if you get it as a part of your regular paycheck.

Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is expensive. If you get a big tax refund, spend it paying down that credit card debt. It’s so hard to get out from under it that the boost should help you quite a bit. Getting rid of credit card debt is usually a wonderful idea. Considering how high credit card interest can be, there are few things that can beat paying it off for financial benefits.

Household Repairs

Are there any repairs around the house that you’ve been delaying on because of money? Spending your tax refund getting your house into better shape is probably a good idea.

You might look into better insulation for your home, new windows, a new roof, new carpeting or flooring, or planning a remodel of your bathroom, just for some starter ideas. Depending on the size of your tax refund, it may not pay for the entire amount, but if you can afford to make these changes with your tax refund money, this is a great time for it.

You may even be able to consider getting solar power if there are good deals on it in your area and your electric bill is high enough for it to be worthwhile. In my area, solar companies try to get the monthly cost to less than what you’re paying for electricity, so this could be a good deal regardless of the size of your tax refund.

Start An Emergency Fund

How prepared are you financially for an emergency? Do you have a few months’ income saved up? If not, spend your tax refund by starting an emergency fund for your family.

This is money you try hard not to touch, even though it’s fairly accessible. Keep it separate from your regular spending money, at least in terms of how you track things. This way you don’t have to touch the credit cards if you need a major car repair, a pet gives you a huge vet bill, you need a new refrigerator, and so forth. An emergency fund will cut down on the stress of these events.

Try for a high yield savings account for your emergency fund if you can. This should keep it accessible for emergencies, but still let it earn a bit of interest.


How does your retirement portfolio look? Have you been good about contributing to a Roth IRA or other retirement account?

If you have room to contribute, this is a wonderful use of your tax refund that will pay itself back when you retire. Most people don’t have enough money saved up for retirement. You can give yourself a boost by adding an appropriate amount of money into your retirement account. This is especially important for stay at home moms and dads who often struggle to contribute to a retirement account.

If you can’t contribute more to a retirement account, how about a regular investment account? It won’t have the tax advantages of an IRA, but it’s still a good way to make your money work for you.

A Sensible Vacation

Taking a vacation can make a lot of sense, even though they can be expensive. You can’t beat some of the experiences you can have while on vacation.

You need to keep it sensible, however. Don’t take a vacation that is far beyond your means. The money you spend on vacation, even if it comes entirely out of your tax refund, should make sense in light of your overall financial situation.

Improve Your Career Or Business

Have you been waiting for the money to improve your business or career? This is a great thing to spend your tax refund on because it should pay you back.

What would you like to learn that would help you to earn more money? Now is the time to take action and do it. You could learn to be a virtual assistant and start a whole new business from home, for example. You could learn a skill that would make it easier for your employer to promote you.

Whatever you choose, be sure that it’s a wise choice. Don’t fall for a scam.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 30th, 2018

Retirement Planning For Stay At Home Moms And Dads

Retirement Planning for Stay At Home Moms And Dads

When you first plan on staying home with your children, the first thing you do is take a look to see if you can afford it. You cut back on cable TV, buy older cars, lose retirement benefits…

Whoops! Most families forget about what being a stay-at-home mom or dad does for their retirement income. The years spent not working have a huge impact however, when you decide to retire. Retirement planning is very important for stay at home parents.

What Retirement Benefits Do Stay At Home Moms And Dads Lose?

Let’s start by looking at what you’re losing for your retirement. No 401(k) with your employer contributing towards it. No pension, although those are getting scarce anyhow. Less money available to put towards retirement. You aren’t putting money into Social Security, so your benefits will be lower.

According to this article on Fortune, the financial loss for taking a 5 year break from work can cost a mom $467,000 in income, wage growth, and retirement assets on average. A man would lose even more on average.

Ouch. Being a stay-at-home mom or dad means you lose a lot for your retirement, although not every family will lose so much. There are a lot of different factors that go into how much you would lose.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prepare for your own retirement. It means more sacrifices, as you’ll have to put more money aside, but better to provide your own retirement than be a burden.

piggy bank

Save For Retirement With A Spousal IRA

If you don’t work at all, you will want to consider having your spouse contribute towards a Spousal IRA. You may want to talk to a professional to determine the best type of IRA. According to the IRS website, up to $5500 as of 2018 (check for each tax year) may be contributed to a spousal IRA in a given year, assuming you are married and filing a joint return. The limit goes to $6500 when you turn 50. See this post on the IRS website for more information on IRAs.

Of course, it’s hard for most families to come up with $5500 a year to be put towards retirement. Saving while working is relatively easy; it can come out of the paycheck before you ever see it. It doesn’t hurt much. Saving deliberately is much harder.

Figure out a monthly dollar amount you can contribute so that it goes throughout the year. Don’t hurt your family doing this, of course, but do what you can to contribute to your retirement savings. The time will come when the money will be important to you.

Don’t Forget Old 401(k) Accounts

If you had a 401(k) account with a previous employer, take advantage of it. Don’t cash it out or leave it sitting. Roll it over into an IRA. Your investment advisor can help you, or you can read up on it.  Rolling over your 401(k) into an IRA will give you a lot more flexibility with the investment.

Retirement planning grow money

There’s No Room In The Budget!

It’s often hard to find room to contribute to a stay at home parent’s retirement fund. Really hard. Living on a single income is financially challenging on its own, even without adding in retirement contributions.

See if you can fit even small contributions into your budget. I’ve seen $100 a month suggested, but for many families, that’s a lot of money. Great if you can do it, but a frustrating number to hear if you can’t.

My personal preference if the budget can’t spare anything is for the stay at home parent to find a way to earn money from home, and put some of that aside for retirement. Not only will this help when you retire, but it keeps your skills up for if you go back to work outside the home someday, as most do.

Working at home also improves your family’s overall financial stability. The fact that I work at home has kept us from financial disaster in the past. Things were still hard, but not completely impossible to deal with.

Get A Remote Job And Contribute To Your Retirement

If all you want to do is be a stay at home parent, you may not want to find a job, whether it be part time or working at home, but it is an option to keep money going towards your retirement. It ensures that some money is going toward Social Security. Once the kids are in school, a highly flexible job can keep your skills sharp, too.

You have a lot of options for remote work these days. If the job involves significant computer use and very little face to face time with people, there’s often a remote option for it somewhere. You can start your hunt on my remote job board.

Some remote jobs offer retirement benefits too. They usually require that you work full time to get benefits, just as with most outside the home jobs.

If your remote job doesn’t offer retirement benefits, you can still set up an IRA for yourself and contribute to that from your income.

Start A Home Business And Use A SEP-IRA Or Individual 401(k)

A home business can be a lot of fun when you’re a stay at home mom. It also gives you more options to contribute to your retirement.

Running a home business means you can start a SEP-IRA or individual 401(k) for yourself. This may allow you to contribute more to your retirement than you could to a Roth IRA, depending on how much your home business earns.

The basic rules are that you cannot contribute more than 25% of compensation or $55,000 a year (as of 2018), whichever is less. The limits are adjusted for cost of living each year. Remember that this includes all contributions to a retirement account.

There are special rules to determine how you contribute to a SEP-IRA if you’re self employed.  It’s on the complicated side, and if this is an issue for you, talk it over with a tax professional.

night sky

Get Life Insurance For Both Of You

Life insurance doesn’t necessarily have to do with retirement, but it’s an important safety net for your family. Get it for both of you.

If the spouse who works outside the home dies, you get some money that will help you get through the financial side of the loss. If the stay at home parent dies, the money helps the family deal with the changes, such as a possible need for childcare that wasn’t there before.

But I Didn’t Have An Income! Why Will I Need One When I Retire?

Many stay at home moms and dads don’t feel a need to have a retirement account in their names. They trust their marriage and their spouse. Life is good. Death, disability, divorce, unemployment… these things don’t scare you.

But they should.

No one goes into a marriage assuming they will later divorce, but it happens to many. If the retirement accounts are all in one spouse’s name, splitting them can be complicated. It’s possible, but it’s not easy and some give up on it.

Never assume that things will remain the same forever. Even beyond the issue of divorce, it’s easier to have money in each spouse’s name in case one has to go into long term care. Life throws curve balls. Be prepared.

This is not a matter of trust. It’s about smart financial planning.

If everything goes well, it’s still good to have retirement accounts in both spouse’s names. You can contribute more to your retirement this way. Having more money available to you and your family in retirement is a very good thing.

If at all possible, don’t neglect the retirement planning just because you’re a stay at home mom or dad. The financial benefits to your family are too good to pass up.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 4th, 2018

The Financial Hazards Of Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad

The Financial Hazards of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

I’ve gone over the financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad. They can sound pretty good, but they are not the full picture. There are also a number of financial hazards of being a stay at home mom or dad. It’s vital that you know them as well.

Loss Of Income

Obviously, you’re losing a lot of income when you stay at home and don’t work at home. While that loss may be offset by not having to spend money on childcare and such, this is not the complete picture.

There are also lost career opportunities when you’re a stay at home parent. Staying home with the kids for five years means you’re missing out on five years of raises and chances for promotions. It’s five years that you might not be keeping up with your industry well enough to return to the same position as you had before.

This is why it is important for stay at home moms and dads to keep up with their industries or work to improve their educations. Another option is to work at home, whether you telecommute from your old job, find something else that can be done from home or start your own online business, such as a blog.

It can be more difficult to find a job as you get older too, especially if you haven’t worked for a while. Age discrimination is a thing, and it’s very hard to prove.

Working at home part time doesn’t entirely resolve these issues, but it’s a start. Some moms will be fortunate enough to find something that brings in enough money to replace a full time outside the home job, but many others will not. It’s something to consider.

Decreased Savings For Retirement

Few stay at home parents save for retirement, yet it’s just important for them as it is for a parent who works outside the home. It’s hard to save the money when things may be tight already. But the younger you start saving for retirement, the more benefit you will gain from each dollar saved. Vanguard has a great chart on this on their site.

Loss Of Network

Your network of friends and professional contacts can make a huge difference in your career path. When you take a break from working to raise a family, your professional network usually shrinks dramatically. It’s hard to keep in contact with people on a professional level when your lives are in such different places. Plus, you aren’t showing yourself to them as a professional; when they see you, it’s as a parent.

Financial Dependence On Someone Else

You love and trust your spouse, or so I assume. You believe that they will be able to provide for you and your family. That’s a part of why you’re at home with the kids and they’re working.

I touched upon this in the work at home section of the financial advantages of staying at home post yesterday. I reiterate this today – there is a lot of risk in being financially dependent on someone else.

Not because they’re unreliable. Not because they’re untrustworthy. But because you never know what life is going to bring you. Unemployment, disability, divorce and death can all happen, and you won’t always see it coming.

You need to have a plan in place to handle a financial crisis, whatever the cause may be. Shit happens. Take some time with your spouse and make sure that you and your family will be taken care of, no matter what happens.

That includes if something happens to you. Stay at home moms and dads provide a valuable service to their families. What would your family do without you? Your financial emergency plans should include something for if you can’t continue to care for your family for whatever reason. Life insurance for both parents is a good start. It doesn’t hurt to have small policies for the kids too. You know you would both be wrecks if something happened to one of your kids, right?

Get into the “what ifs.” They aren’t fun… in fact, they can be downright scary to consider. But they are important. Plan for them before you have a problem. They shouldn’t rule your lives, but they should be acknowledged.

Having One Parent Manage All The Finances

Even when both parents work, it’s not that uncommon for one to handle most or all of the finances. One usually has more interest in the subject or more time for it. That doesn’t make this an ideal situation.

Make sure both parents know what your financial situation is. The parent who works outside the home should not be the only one to know how your finances are doing. The same goes for the stay at home parent.

Both parents need to know what the bills are, when and how they get paid, what your income is, and what’s in savings. Take some time and talk about these things regularly, regardless of who handles the finances for the most part.

Offsetting The Financial Hazards Of Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad

There are some things you can do to offset the hazards of being a stay at home mom or dad. You need a safety net, for your own sake and the sake of your family. I mentioned working at home and improving your education in the benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad article. Those are the two big things you can do to minimize the risks.

Finding the right work at home opportunity is quite challenging. The scams are numerous and much easier to find than the legitimate opportunities. The skills you already have may or may not be suited to working at home and you may have to pick up an entirely new skill set. If you can make it happen, however, it can be well worth it.

Many parents plan on going back to working outside the home, at least part time, once the kids are in school. These jobs are generally easier to find than work at home jobs, but a part time job that makes the most of your skills can be very hard to find.

Taking classes at night at a college or online when the kids make it possible is always an option. Improving your education is a great choice if your career wasn’t where you wanted it to be before you became a stay at home parent. There are so many options now, although paying for it can be a challenge if your budget is tight.

Whatever you do as a stay at home parent, consider your financial future. Don’t leave it as some vague thing to be handled when the kids get older. Plan now so that you can make the most of your time as a stay at home parent and still have a good career later. You will thank yourself later for thinking of your financial future now.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 3rd, 2018

The Financial Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad


The Financial Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

The decision to become a stay at home mom or dad is usually not made lightly. There can be significant financial consequences, both to the family and to the parent who stays home with the kids. But there can also be financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad, and these are worth considering.

No Daycare Costs

The cost of daycare for young children is significant, and this is often a large part of why a mom or dad may choose to stay at home. The more kids you have, the more this costs. Sometimes a family comes to the realization that one paycheck is going almost entirely to the cost of daycare. There is little point in working outside the home if all your money goes to that.

The cost of childcare in much of the United States is higher than the cost of attending an in-state public college. This is why it’s difficult for many families to keep both parents working if they have more than one child – too much income goes to daycare.

I live in California, and according to the Child Care Aware map, the cost of in-home child care for an infant is $7,678. It’s $11,817 for a daycare center. The costs are a little less than double that if you have an infant and a 4 year old in childcare. That’s a lot of income out of your paycheck. Getting rid of that is a huge financial benefit.

These numbers get better, of course, once the kids go to public school and need less daycare. They’re pretty much irrelevant for me now, as my oldest is 15 and my youngest is turning 9 soon. That’s why so many parents go back to work once the kids are in school – you can earn enough to make things worthwhile more easily.

Income Taxes

Your income tax burden may drop when one parent has no income. Not only do you have less income to tax, you may fall into a lower tax bracket. The change in tax bracket, of course, depends on how much the family earned with both parents working versus having just one work.

Remember that the higher tax bracket only applies to the income above the previous bracket. The income below that is taxed at the lower rate. This makes estimating your taxes difficult, but you can give it a good shot if you want actual numbers to work with.

Spending Goes Down

Your family can decrease spending in many ways with a stay at home mom or dad. It’s not just about child care.

A stay at home parent’s wardrobe costs less than a professional wardrobe, as a general rule. Pretty much everything can be washed at home rather than dry cleaned, which helps as well. How much of a benefit this depends significantly on the job the parent had before.

Stay at home parents eat lunches out less as a general rule too. They also don’t grab coffee out as often as parents who work outside the home. Getting coffee and a little something for breakfast on the way to work can easily run $5 a day. When stay at home parents do go out, on the other hand, it’s usually with the kids, so things can add up a little faster.

These savings can also extend to dinner. Having a parent at home makes it easier for that parent to cook meals at home, so the family eats out less in the evenings too.

A stay at home parent can do a lot to help the family live more frugally. They have time to find the best deals on groceries and other things the family needs. Food is one of the major expenses for a family, and there are many ways to save money in this area.

Transportation Costs

The stay at home mom or dad no longer has commuting expenses. This can be a huge savings. We went through a time when we had only one car because I drove so little. The savings was incredible, as that means we only paid for insurance on one car, having sold the other. Where we live now, it’s not practical to have just one car, but my insurance premiums are pretty low since I still don’t drive as much as someone who commutes.

Your transportation expenses will probably go up some as the kids get older and go to school or join activities. How much of an impact this has depends on how far away these things are – I was able to walk my kids to and from school for years.

No Hidden Work Expenses

Working outside the home can have some hidden expenses beyond commuting and clothes. Consider the social side of working in an office. Some of these expenses don’t come up often, while others are more frequent.

Some places have employees contribute to a coffee fund, for example, so that coffee is always available for everyone. There may also be requests for contributions for birthday gifts, baby showers and retirement gifts for coworkers throughout the year.

While all these things are pretty small in most places, they can add up through the year.

Better Career Focus For The Working Parent

The parent who continues to work outside the home can put their complete focus on their career when the other parent stays at home. They don’t have to worry about being called home when one of the kids gets sick. Staying late to finish a project is easier when you don’t have to worry about being on time to get the kids from daycare, which also looks good to employers.

This makes that parent look more dedicated to their employer, and may improve his or her chances at advancing their career. This benefit can be hard to define because it depends on so many factors, but it can be significant.

Time To Improve Your Education

Taking some time to improve your education while you’re a stay at home parent is an expense, but you may be able to make that into a financial benefit when you return to work.

There are a lot of online education options these days. You might decide to learn to be a medical coder while you’re at home so that you can earn money. You might look at getting a degree from an accredited college.

Improving your education is never a guarantee that you will earn more money when you go back to work, but you do improve your chances. This can help make up for the opportunties lost while raising your family.

You Can Work From Home

Working from home is a benefit I strongly recommend to stay at home moms and dads. My income has saved us many times. Several years ago my husband was laid off from the job he held at the time, and the fact that I was bringing money in meant that it was a complication, but not a complete financial disaster.

Working at home is so affordable in most ways. Costs will depend on what you do, but many work at home jobs and online businesses don’t add a lot to your monthly expenses. If you need only your computer and your internet connection, well, these are things you’re paying for anyhow.

It is not easy to get started working from home for most people. Work at home jobs can be challenging to find, and businesses… are businesses. It takes time to make one into a success and there are no guarantees that you will ever succeed with an online business. On the other hand, they’re cheap. It costs very little to start a blog, for example.

I strongly recommend working at home, at least a little, when you’re a stay at home parent. A single income family can be hit hard if anything happens to the breadwinner parent. Unemployment, disability, divorce, and death are all things you probably won’t see coming but can happen to any family. Working from home gives your family a buffer against these problems.

These financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad aren’t meant to dismiss the very real financial risk a stay at home parent takes. I’ll be covering that next.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 27th, 2017

Get Your Christmas Budget Under Control Now

Get Your Christmas Budget Under Control Now

How well do you keep your Christmas budget under control? It’s often difficult, right? What you want, what the kids want, what you want to give them… it all adds up to something well above what you can actually afford to spend. Most families find it very difficult to keep the Christmas budget under control.

Decide Who You’re Shopping For

If money is tight, you may need to cut back on who you buy gifts for at Christmas. There are a number of ways to do this.

My sisters and I, for example, are assigned family members to shop for. I maintain a list of all relevant family members, and then assign names. This way no one has to shop for the whole family. It means you can spend less overall and yet get a better present from the family.

This also cuts down on low quality gifts. There’s only so much you can give someone if you can only afford to spend $5-10 on them because you have so many people to shop for. Draw names, and each person only has to buy for one, and the gift can be better.

You can also consider cutting the adults out of the list. Usually this is done by mutual agreement. Seriously, how badly do most adults need a Christmas gift? Talk it out and decide if it’s something you still want to do.

You should also look at your extended family, friends and coworkers. How many people can you reasonably afford to shop for? If times are tight or you’re just tired of shopping for so many people, tell them you don’t want to exchange gifts with them this year. Most will understand. Some will be grateful to have fewer people to shop for as well.

What Is Your Christmas Budget?

The first thing you need to decide is how much you can put into your Christmas budget. This is the amount of money you don’t want to go over when you’re done shopping for everyone.

If this is too hard to figure out, start with how much you want to spend on each person. Most families will spend more on kids than adults, since adults can buy stuff for themselves more easily than kids can.

Make sure you include everyone you need to shop for. Depending on your traditions, this may include kids, parents, spouse, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers, secret Santa exchanges and so forth.

Set an amount for each. Add it up, and you have a Christmas budget. I suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of your spending on each person. This will make it easier to track.

If this number is more than you’re willing to spend overall, you need to trim that budget. There are a couple ways to do this. Review how much you’re spending per person and how many people you’re shopping for. Get that budget under control.

How Strict Is Your Christmas Budget?

Depending on your financial situation, your Christmas budget may be strict or have some leeway. A little leeway is always fun – it’s so easy to find things that go beyond your budget, especially for kids.

Obviously, you aren’t going to keep to your per person budget to the penny or even the dollar. Things rarely work out that way. So long as things balance out reasonably at the end, you should be fine.

Watch For Sales

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great days for buying Christmas gifts, but they aren’t the only sales of the season, and sometimes they aren’t the best sales of the season.

It’s always a risk, of course, to see if the sale price gets any better on something you want. It may sell out or you may have missed the best price.

The wonderful part about online shopping is how easy it make price comparisons. You can have several websites open to see how much things cost at each.

Compare store prices with online prices while you’re in the store. Some stores will match online prices with select websites. They probably won’t match anyone other than the big sites such as, but it’s worth knowing. I found a list of stores that should price match online prices you should be aware of.

I also love taking advantage of what my local dollar store offers. They get a ton of toys in at this time of year. They don’t all cost a dollar anymore, but that’s so they can get better toys, the same stuff you’d see elsewhere. Usually it’s a great deal, half or less what you’d pay for the same toy elsewhere.

If you see a good toy at a dollar store, get it quick. Most won’t stay in stock for long. Keep your receipt and you can return it if you find a better price elsewhere.

Try to avoid impulse shopping when buying Christmas gifts. Buy because it’s a good gift at a good price, not just because it’s there. If it’s something you want for you, consider whether it could be put on your wish list for someone else to buy as a gift for you.

Be Aware Of Shipping Costs

Make sure you consider shipping when you compare prices. Free shipping can make the difference in your total cost. Many sites offer free shipping if you spend enough. Pay attention to what it takes so that you can get free shipping as often as possible.

This is a great time of year to get the free trial of Amazon Prime if you don’t already have it. If you don’t want to pay for Amazon Prime, be sure to cancel it in time. Many people find it worth the expense because you get so much more than free shipping. Music, video, Prime member only deals… there’s a lot to be said for it as a service beyond the convenience of fast and free shipping.

Amazon limits how often you can get a free trial of Prime. If you’ve done it before, you may not qualify again. But if Amazon is offering you the free trial on your account, you should be good to go on that score.

If you don’t want to sign up for Prime, just remember that many products on Amazon ship free if you spend enough money. This amount changes from time to time, but it’s not hard to reach. It’s nowhere near as fast as Prime, but it’s good enough if you shop early enough. As some products on Amazon are sold and shipped by third parties, not everything qualifies for this or for Prime shipping.

Consider Handmedowns

On occasion, a handmedown can be an appropriate Christmas gift for someone. This is especially true with kids. One year my younger sister gave one of my daughters a bunch of Barbie stuff for Christmas. It had belonged to her daughters, but they no longer wanted the dolls or dollhouses.

My daughter, on the other hand, was ecstatic to get so much Barbie stuff. That it was used didn’t matter at all.

Handmedown gifts can be very generous in comparison to things you had to spend money on. There’s no way my sister would have spent what the dolls and dollhouse cost on my daughter if she had had to buy them. Passing them down, on the other hand, worked quite well.

This doesn’t have to be limited to kids, although they’re usually the easiest. If there’s something of yours that you don’t want and you know someone else would be happy to have, it might work out as a Christmas present.

I suggest discussing handmedowns before giving them as gifts if you think it might bother someone. Done right, they can be every bit as considerate as something you went and spent money on.

Homemade Gifts

Another way to possibly save some money is to give homemade gifts. What you make depends on your skills, but a nice homemade gift can be very thoughtful.

My go-to homemade gift is chocolate truffles. My pomegranate truffles are very popular within my family – they’re usually my contribution to the food part of the celebration. My recipe makes about 70 or so truffles, depending on the mold I use (easier than rolling them!). I make a few types of chocolates so I can mix it up and there’s something for all tastes.

Cookies are also pretty easy to make as a small gift.

If you can knit, scarves are a simple gift, and you don’t have to worry about what size the recipient wears. If you don’t knit, a no-sew fleece scarf is very easy to make.

Make It Fun

Whatever else happens with your Christmas budget, make the holidays fun. Get together with family and friends. Talk. Play games. Get outside if the weather in your area allows. Many of the things that are most memorable about your holiday celebrations aren’t the things that cost money. It’s the time you spend together that really matters most.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.