Christmas Stockings – A Thrifty Essential
I still remember the outrage with which I greeted my mum’s suggestion that, since none of her “children” were even in their teens any more, we could, maybe, just not bother with stockings this year. I was horrified – didn’t she realise that the little bits and pieces in our stockings each year were part of the very fabric of Christmas? Hmmm?
the little bits and pieces in our stockings each year were part of the very fabric of Christmas
I was reminded of this ten years later when Tartan Dad had a year out of work and we were approaching a very budget Christmas. We did our sums and worked out that we had enough left to either buy each other a gift or a stocking – but not both. It turned out my thirty-something self was no keener to do without stocking fillers than my twenty-going-on-five self. So we ditched the “tree presents” instead – and had a lovely Christmas morning without them, opening our stockings.
That year, more than ever, we needed the abundance of little fripperies that fill a stocking. We needed them because we were carefully, painstakingly sticking to our budget to avoid going into debt – we had enough of everything we needed but we did not enjoy an abundance of anything. Just for one day, we got to be greedy.
We needed those little stocking-fillers because, while our budget allowed us to save up for the big, important things we needed, it did not allow us to just buy little things that took our fancy as we walked round a shop. But our stockings were full of those – all the little things we had routinely denied ourselves every other day of that year.
And we needed those fripperies because, in a year of living sensibly, they were a little ray of silly, luxurious fun. Living on a budget is a serious business but sometimes we need to cut loose a little or we will lose the will to keep going.
Thrifty Christmas Stockings
No surprise then that I am still a huge fan of Christmas stockings. I am not a huge fan, though, of the way the cost of filling them can spiral out control faster than Prancer, Dancer and Dasher taking Santa on an emergency trip to Toys-R-Us. Some people spend more on Christmas stockings than I spend on the kids’ main presents. And when I say ‘some people’ I mean even otherwise thoroughly thrifty people. OK, I mean me. Readers I am Tartan Mum and I am an uncontrolled stocking-stuffer.
Or I was, until three years ago when I finally found a way to take control of our Christmas Stockings. I used to just buy until I had what felt like enough stocking-fillers at what seemed like a vaguely filler-y price. Then I would get a shock on Christmas Eve when it turned out to be way too much to fit in our stockings. And an even worse surprise when I finally added up the total cost. I needed to set limits that gave us bulging stockings without stretching our budget to bursting point. The Tartan Thrifty Christmas Stocking Planner was born.
The Stocking Planner – Christmas Under Control
A simple system for setting a budget, keeping to it, and building a well-balanced stocking
The Stocking Planner is a way to plan and keep track of our stocking-fillers so that I buy lots of very cheap fillers interspersed with a few more pricey items rather than lots of pricey items interspersed with the odd cheap one. It has stopped me buying too many gifts at too high a price, as well as making sure there is some variety in the value of the fillers in our stockings.
It has also helped me figure out what the appropriate budget for our family’s stockings is – because that’s different for each family. There is no government-approved minimum stocking spend – just what fits your lifestyle and finances. Think a little structure could help you stay on budget this year? Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Set A Top Spending Limit For Stocking Fillers
You need to decide what is the highest price you are willing to pay for a stocking filler. So – imagine you are shopping. Your kid* suddenly spots – and demands – a £50 doll’s house. You have not budgetted for a doll’s house and £50 is a lot of money so you probably say no without a moment’s thought.
What if it was a £40 toy? Still no without needing to think about it?
What about £20? £10? A £5 plush toy? What if it was a £3 comic your kid was pleading for? A £1 sticker pack? A 50p novelty chocolate?
Somewhere on that sliding scale there was a point where you would stop saying no without thinking and would start to think – however fleetingly – about whether you could just buy it. So what was your threshold? What was the last point on that sliding scale where you wouldn’t have to think about whether that was too expensive or not?
That threshold price – that’s the price for the top level of your Christmas Stocking Planner. You are going to buy one item at that price for each stocking. Any gift that costs more than that gets parcelled up and put under the tree. Anything that costs less is a stocking-filler.
Step 2: Set the rest of the prices for your stocking-fillers
Each level should be cheaper than the one above it. So if your top price is £5, for example, that will mean that your next level is, say, £3, the one after that £2 and so on down to 50p. That gives you five little 50p gifts, four gifts at £1 each, three at £2, two at £3 and one at £5. That’s a total of 15 gifts for £23.50 per stocking. Click here to download a copy of the £5 planner.
If you opt for my planner with a top price of £3, and a bottom price of 20p, your stockings are going to cost you £13 each. Click here to download a copy of the £3 planner.
If the most you can spend per item is £1, then your stockings are going to come to just £5.30 each. (Don’t believe you can fill a decent stocking for a fiver? Come back next week and see how to do it.) Click here to download a copy of the £1 planner
If none of these plans suits your price range you can download a blank planner here to price up as you see fit.
All of my planners have space for 15 gifts. That number suits the Tartan Family, but if you and yours like a fatter stocking, adapt it by adding an extra row (or more!) at the bottom. Because the lower rows are the cheapest you will up the quantity without hiking the price greatly.
Step 3: Take A Reality Check
You need to check what the total cost of your stocking plan is and multiply that by the number of stockings you will fill. Now take a good, hard look at that figure – can you afford that this year? If the answer is yes then skip to Step 4. If the answer is no you need to decide carefully how much you can afford to spend on each stocking and reduce your top price and all the prices below it. Your stockings will have just as many items in them; only the prices will be different.
Step 4: Get Ready To Shop
Once you have picked the planner that suits your unique circumstances print one out for each person. Whenever you buy a stocking-filler, note it in the box for its price-point. That way you will be able to see at a glance whose stocking is full and whose still needs stuffing. And you won’t accidentally buy everything at your top price. (Been there a few times!)
That’s it. A simple system for setting a budget, keeping to it, and building a well-balanced stocking. I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!
*What if you are filling stockings for adults, not kids? Imagine you are shopping and you spot something that [insert name] would just love. At what price would you buy it without hesitation? And at what price would you pause to think about it? That’s your threshold price – the top price you will spend on stocking fillers for adults.
More Christmas Posts
How To Fill A Christmas Stocking For (Around) A Fiver
5 Ways To Make DIY Stocking Fillers – When You Have No DIY Skills
1 Cheap Pic-n-Mix, 10 thifty Stocking-Fillers