Full-to-bursting Christmas stocking needn’t leave you bust

Posted Dec. 23, 2008, at 5:20 p.m.

Anyone who has ever stuffed a Christmas stocking knows the process can be a costly one. All those little items can easily add up to an expenditure as big as Santa’s sound when he says ‘Ho, ho, ho!” When ’tis the season to be frugal, you may be tempted to cut Christmas stocking costs, in order to put more presents under the tree. But with a little creative thinking, that need not be the case.

Here’s how to overstuff your stocking without bursting your Christmas-shopping budget. Santa’s secret is to use other household budgets to fund filling the Christmas stocking.

• Select grocery items that you would purchase anyway with your food-shopping dollars. As you go up and down the grocery aisles, look for items in small, attractive packages. For example, boxes of Barnum’s Animal Crackers will eat up a lot of space in a stocking. While kids will enjoy them as a treat, adults who grew up snacking on them will seem them as a nostalgic gift.

• Use your grocery budget to start a new holiday tradition. Try stuffing the stocking’s toe with an unusual fruit, such as a pomegranate, or another seasonal item such as a handful of chestnuts.

• Spend some of your pharmacy budget on items that ought to be replaced anyhow. Splurge on a battery-powered, cartoon-character toothbrush for the child in your life. If that seems excessive, simply buy a fresh, new toothbrush in red or green, or the child’s favorite color. Mint-flavored dental floss and new tubes of toothpaste make great stocking stuffers, too.

• Use your personal care budget to endow family members with new shampoos, shaving cream, mascara, hairbrushes and other necessities that wrap up nicely.

• Turn to your home repair budget to update emergency supplies and safety items. Batteries, flashlights and candles are always great gifts. Children enjoy flashlights as playthings, too.

• Even the housecleaning budget can provide some nice stocking stuffers. A container of silverware polish makes a great gift, especially if it is accompanied by a certificate saying you will clean the silver, too.

• You can turn your automobile maintenance budget into some terrific gifts. Polishing cloths, car air fresheners, and even a certificate for an oil change all fit into stockings quite nicely.

• Spend your workweek lunch and coffee-break budget at Christmastime, too. Buy gift cards for local eateries and coffee shops that the recipient will patronize anyway. Consider this to be setting someone up for a good start back to work after the holidays are through.

After spending so sensibly on most of your Christmas stocking stuffers, add a few luxuries such as a good-sized chocolate Santa, or a favorite candy bar, many of which are packaged prettily or in vintage-style wrappers for the holidays.

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