Frugal Baby: How to Save Money on Gifts

The following is a guest post from a good friend and mom to several kids!

How to Save Money on Gifts for Kids (and Adults, Too!)

The Gift Closet/Gift Storage Solution

It always seems that one of my kids’ birthdays is right around the corner, or someone is invited to another birthday party, or Christmas is coming in just a few short months. Since there’s usually something happening that requires a gift, I had to learn to money on these items as they took up a huge chunk of my budget.

Here is my strategy: I have a small storage closet in my basement that I have named The Gift Closet. When I’m shopping and I find an item discounted by at least 75%, I consider if it would be a good gift for any of our family members. If it’s the right price and I can see potential in giving it to someone in the future, I purchase it and store it in The Gift Closet!

The month following Christmas is one of the best times to stock a gift closet. Holiday merchandise is not all red and green with snowflakes! Last January, I found several Disney Princess items for 75% off (less than $5 each) and they did not look “Christmas like” at all.

I also find a ton of items at “Back to School time” when crayons, markers and other art supplies are on the cheap. For adults, I shop the semi-annual clearance sales at Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop and Victoria’s Secret and snap up full-size lotions and soaps priced at $2 or less each. If I have a high-value coupon for Kohl’s or JCPenney ( like $10 off $10) I buy something in advance. Everything I buy goes into the Gift Closet for future presents.

If you can’t afford the space to give up a closet for gifts, don’t worry! Pick up a few big plastic totes and label them by age. You could simply label Kids and Adults or you could get a few more and sort by Baby/Toddler, Pre-School, Elementary School, etc. Even if you just have one tote and you dump all your gifts into it, you’re ahead of the game and saving money!

Use Coupons
If you play The Drugstore Game, you know that you can get some pretty nice free items at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid each week. Many of those finds are definitely gift-worthy, especially when grouped with other items! I can put together a lovely gift basket with free body wash, lotion and a $1 bath scrubber, and no one knows that the entire thing costs only as much as the basket and scrubber!

Personally, I like gifts that I can use – I do not need any more knicknacks or trinkets! Food is a great and much-loved gift. My dad truly loves and appreciates a gift bag filled with special snacks like peanuts, mixed nuts, candy, and cookies. These can all be cheap or free if you use coupons and watch for deals at websites like Common Sense with Money.

Shop The Dollar Store or Dollar Section
Sometimes my Dollar Tree has great items for gifts. I have found great cookbooks, kids books, calendars, coloring books, photo frames and other wonderful items that originally cost much more than $1. Remember, lots of dollar stores carry brand-name goods that were liquidated from other retailers. If you start looking, you might get lucky and find some great deals for a dollar.

The “One Spot” Dollar Shop at Target is another great place to find bargain gifts. You can even find this stuff on clearance for up to 75% off at different times throughout the year! Other stores with dollar sections include Michael’s and Toys R Us. Think creatively when you browse through Dollar Stores and dollar departments. Could you put a coloring book with markers and some bubbles into a cute beach bucket for the next toddler party you attend?

Greeting Cards
I also purchase all of my cards at Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree always has nice cards and they are 2 for $1.00. If I’m in a pinch I know I can find a decent selection of cards for $1 at most drugstores. I never pay more than $1 per card.

My kids also love to make cards for relatives and the recipients always love it! It is a double bonus – something homemade and free! Last year I bought a white piece of poster board for $.25 on sale, and the kids made a huge birthday card for their great grandma. Grandma loved it so much she cried, and the kids were so proud of themselves for making her such a wonderful keepsake.

Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags
I reuse gift bags! Most of the time these are in “like new” condition when my family receives a gift in them, so why not reuse them! After holidays I usually can pick up tissue paper, wrapping paper, and new gift bags for up to 90% off. A solid red or green gift bag can be used for any birthday! The kids have also painted or colored on plain paper bags to make a homemade a gift bag. The recipient really enjoys this as part of the gift too!

Homemade Gifts
People really like homemade gifts. Even if you are not creative there are plenty of things you can still do. You can bake cookies for your child’s teacher, homemade sweet bread for a neighbor, or if you have an elderly person in your life could you help them out with yard work or another job.

Have your child make a special gift for Grandma and Grandpa, they will treasure it more than any store bought gift. If your child is small you could take a picture of him or her and frame it for an inexpensive gift!

My kids think it’s really special when I make them little “gift certificates” for part of their birthday present. Dinner of your choice! Special time with mom! Help mom bake cookies of your choice! Don’t underestimate the power of quality time, and giving kids the Independence to choose when they want to do something really special with you!

Affording Christmas and Holiday Expenses
A different way we make sure we have money set aside to pay for our holiday expenses is to open a “Christmas Club” account at our favorite credit union. We automatically put a small amount each paycheck into this account and it earns interest. I also put “found” money into this account. Rebate checks, cashed in change, etc. It is hard to believe that $5 to $10 can add up so quickly. I use this to purchase items like gift cards and take advantage of special deals that pop up around the holidays. I also sometimes find that my gift closet doesn’t have a gift for one or two people on my list. I use the Christmas Club account to pay for those presents.

Find Deals on Gift Cards
If you have a specific item on your list that can only be purchased at a specific store, you still might be able to save money! Did you know might be able to buy a discount gift card to that store? You can then turn around and give that card as a gift, or you could combine it with a store coupon to buy the item and maximize your savings!

Remember Birthday and Holiday shopping should be in your budget. You should spend what you are comfortable with and not feel pressure to buy if you do not have the money!

Readers, do you have any other tips for saving money on gifts? Please share your ideas in the comments!

Frugal Baby: Little Swimmer Alternatives, Cloth Swim Diapers!

baby deals

A reader recently requested my bargain-hunting services for reusuable swim diapers. My 9-month old also just started taking “swimming lessons” with dad, and let me tell you, Huggies Little Swimmers and Pampers Splashers are expensive! For around $10, you only get 11 disposable swim diapers.

 That’s ok for now, since baby’s only taking six lessons over the next few weeks. But summer is coming, and lots of families want to have babies and toddlers running around through the sprinkler and kiddie pool all day. I’m sure you’re planning on changing that diaper, and the costs will add up in a hurry!

After doing some research on alternatives to Little Swimmers, I found that several cloth diaper brands also make cloth swim pants. The best part: they’re considered to be far superior to Little Swimmers and Splashers! I also found that there are actually some public and private pools don’t even allow disposable swim pants. I guess that says a lot about their performance!

With reusable cloth swim diapers, you do lose some of the convenience of disposables, but the cost savings could far exceed the extra work. Like regular cloth diapers, you’ll also pay a little more up front for a small supply, but you’ll also be completely stocked and won’t have to spend another cent on swimming diapers after that initial payment!

I highly recommend reading Amazon’s customer reviews to learn about other consumers’ experiences with the swim diapers listed below. It’s a great way to feel out products before you commit to buying them!

Here are some links to reusable swim diapers:

Real Nappies Splash Wrap Swimming Diaper  ::  These are priced at $12 per swim diaper.

iPlay Swim Diaper  ::  These no-frills swim diapers are priced from $10 to $11 each.

FINIS Swim Diapers  ::  start at just $6.99 with free shipping when you spend $25.

FINIS Girl’s Swim Diapers  ::  These swim diapers for girls start at $8.99 each.

Kushies Reusable Swim Diaper ::  These are arguably the swim diapers with the cutest selection! The prices are a bit high, especially compared to the others listed. You can buy Kushies swim diapers for $10.99 each, but shipping is $3.57.

Bummis Swimmi Cloth Diapers are all priced at $12.75 each and are eligible for free shipping!

There’s a quick summary to start off your searches. Unless otherwise noted, all of these ship free when you spend $25 or more.

Your turn: Have you found any other affordable alternatives to disposable swim pants? If you have, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Why I Love Ebates

One of the simplest ways to ensure you’re maximizing your online deals is to never make a purchase without trying to shop through a rewards website. There are lots of rewards portals out there, but Ebates has long been one of my favorites. Here are some reasons why:

  • It sweetens deals: I consistently earn cash back on nearly all of my online purchases, thanks to Ebates.
  • It’s easy: All you need to do is register for an account and remember to shop through Ebates whenever you can. Just register, log in, search for your merchant and click on their name to start shopping at the retailer’s website.
  • It’s predictable: Their payments are made quarterly as long as you have at least $5.01 in your account.
  • It’s far-reaching: Ebates is one of the most comprehensive rewards portals out there. Most major retailers are included. If the merchant isn’t offering rewards through Ebates, it’s most likely not offering rewards elsewhere, either.
  • There’s nothing to track: Your Ebates check is automatically mailed to you or deposited in your Paypal account. There are no additional forms or claims you need to submit in order to get your money.
  • Few personal details are required: You need to provide enough information to have them pay you (name, address, email, etc.) but you won’t need to provide a credit card or confidential information for participation.
  • It can be combined with coupon codes: When you earn cash back through Ebates, you’re merely clicking on a link to bring you to the merchant’s website. Once you’re there, you can use any coupons or discounts you desire. Coupon codes are completely separate from Ebates, and Ebates even encourages you to use coupons at the retailer’s website!
  • They paid me to sign up: When I first registered with Ebates, they deposited $5 in my account after my first purchase went through! In fact, if you sign up and tell them I referred you, we’ll both get a bonus!

There you have it! If I haven’t convinced you to give Ebates a try, what’s stopping you? Leave your Ebates questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to either answer them or find the answers for you!


Even as packaging shrinks while prices rise, you can find ways to save a lot of money on diapers and wipes. Here are some great tips that have kept me from breaking my budget while using disposable diapers:

  • Calculate out the cost per diaper and figure out your how much you’re willing to pay. Divide the price paid for each package by the number of diapers in the pack. For example, a jumbo pack of Huggies size 1 diapers costs $11.99 and has 44 diapers. Cost per diaper at full price is $.27. I not paying more than $.21 per diaper (about 25% less than regular price).
  • Stockpile! I can’t stress this one enough! When you find diapers at or below your “bottom line” price, buy up as many as you can afford! Keep bigger sizes in mind and hold onto your receipts. Most retailers will let you exchange your unopened packages of diapers for the next size up if your baby outgrows them before you open the package. If you don’t have adequate storage space in your home, get creative! Store diapers under the crib, under your bed, and behind furniture if you have to.
  • Shop around! Weekly and monthly sale prices at drug stores are generally competitive or even beat prices at big box retailers like Wal-Mart. Keep an eye on the deals and jump when you see one that works for you!
  • Give store brand (generic) diapers a chance. Almost all store brands are equal in quality to the name brands at a fraction of the price. My sister and sister in-law both swear by Target-brand diapers. In the past, I have bought CVS and Walgreen’s brand diapers for $1 or $2 for a jumbo package. At that price, I couldn’t afford to not try them out! Regular sale prices with no coupons usually allow me to buy store-brand diapers at my bottom-line price. It’s easy, and there’s usually no complicated deal to work out!
  • Rainchecks. If there is a smoking deal, stores often run out early in the week. Instead of running around trying to chase down deals, ask the store manager for a raincheck so you can return and make your purchase when the products are back on the shelf. This also allows you more time to round up more coupons to sweeten the deals.
  • Store Baby Clubs. Many grocery stores have baby clubs where they’ll mail you coupons. If your store has a loyalty card, it may give you coupons at the register for baby products. Most deals can be combined with manufacturer coupons. See what your store has to offer.
  • Store coupons. CVS and Walgreens frequently release $x of $xx coupons that can be combined with manufacturer coupons and store deals. Recently, Walgreens had a coupon for $5 of $20. Use this when you’re buying your diapers for additional savings! These coupons are often available online and can be printed multiple times. Break your purchase into a few transactions to multiply your savings!


  • Get coupons in the mail! Get on diaper companies mailing lists. Use master list of baby mailings to get signed up! They will often send samples along with valuable coupons that can be combined with store sales and store coupons to get you to the bottom line cost per diaper.
  • Look in the Sunday paper for coupons. In addition to the “$ off diapers and/or wipes” coupons you’ll usually find, you may also find coupons that give you a free product when you buy diapers. Combine these with store sales for big savings!
  • Look in stores for coupons. There are often coupons stuck to packages of diapers and wipes that you can peel off and use when you make your purchase. In addition, there may be a coupon dispenser near the product that might make the deal for you! Look for store-specific coupons, too! These can often be combined with manufactuer’s coupons for super savings!
  • Get creative with your coupon gathering! If you’re brand loyal, you can buy multiples of coupons for a few cents each on Ebay. You can also trade coupons at sites like PinchingYourPennies, or work out a deal to give the person you’re trading with stamps or a gift card in exchange for tons of coupons!
  • Look for rebates and incentive programs. The Caregivers Marketplace website gives you a $.75 rebate per package of Huggies jumbos when you buy five or more packs. These can be separate purchases. Save your receipts and mail in the form when you’ve purchased enough. Pampers Gifts to Grow program allows to to enter codes from diapers and wipes on their website for points that you can exchange for coupons and gifts! Finally, Huggies has the Enjoy the Ride Rewards program to earn points to exchange for sweepstakes and instant-win games.
  • Get on the Babies R Us mailing list by calling 1-800-869-7787 or signing up at the store. they will mail you coupons for big savings on name brand diapers! Their coupons can generally be used on multiple packages and can be combined with your manufacters coupons.