I have four kids.  Three of my kids have birthdays within a nine-day timespan (coming up shortly).  Shortly after, there’s Christmas, then the fourth child slides his birthday in at the middle of February.  Needless to say, this makes gift giving… interesting.

Now, back when I was a better budgeter, I had money set aside all year for gifts and spent it at the right time.  Now… I tend to plan for gifts far too immediately before the event.  That needs to change, but I’m still going to have to manage three birthdays in the next few weeks.  How do I save money on gifts?

One sneaky thing I do is movie clubs.  If your kids love movies (mine do) and you can do as much of the “deal” as possible to start, these can actually be a good deal.  For example, I have a deal from The Disney Movie Club to get five movies for $1, add a sixth for $11.95, add a seventh for $8.95, and free shipping.  Do the math on that one… I’m getting seven movies for the price of one.  In exchange, I agree to buy two more movies at some point during the next two years.  I usually buy one for the odd man out (whoever didn’t get a birthday or Christmas present in the original seven) and then buy the last one when it’s a good deal or something we really want.  I’m sure eventually we’ll run out of movies, but, for now, this works well.

Another thing I do is buy a gift through my kids’ school fundraisers.  This year, I managed to get one for each kid that way and still raised money for their school (and maybe helped them get a little prize).  This isn’t a favorite thing of mine; I hate these kind of fundraisers.  But it helps the school and the prices are usually reasonable, so it happens.

As far as birthdays go, I sign up for all the birthday clubs.  All of them.  We may not use all the freebies each year, but we always use some of them.  I took my oldest and two friends to an amusement-type park for almost six hours last weekend.  After snacks, drinks, and dinner, the cost was under $100.  I told the oldest this was his birthday present as well as party and he was good with it.  (Your mileage on that one may vary.)

I don’t try to buy gifts for every person we know.  I’d like to (even though gifts isn’t one of my predominant love languages), but I’d rather get nice gifts for those I get them for than get a bunch of cheap gifts for everyone.

The kids only get three gifts for Christmas (just like baby Jesus).  One very small gift, one medium gift, and one larger gift.  By saying it this way, I can change what “small”, “medium” and “large” are defined as when money is tight.

The final big gift giving tip is to buy all year around.  I don’t try to buy for Christmas during December; in fact, I try to never go near a shopping establishment after Thanksgiving.  Sales come up all year around and shouldn’t be missed just because it’s not Christmas yet.  The one exception is to make a run for a really good Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale… but only if it’s really good.

Gift giving should never be painful and it should never put you into debt or stress  you out.  If it does, then you’re doing it wrong.  Seriously.