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10 Tips to Pack a Frugal Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

Next week is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. We've participated in this wonderful program for a few years and I'd highly encourage the rest of you to consider doing so as well. It's a simple and practical way to brighten up the lives of needy children around the world.

When you're on a really tight budget, it might be easy to feel like you don't have any extra wiggle room to be able to afford to buy the items needed to fill a shoebox. If that's how you're feeling, you definitely will want to watch this video by Clair from Mummy Deals where she shared creative ways their family is filling 45 shoeboxes for $45! I was very inspired!

Go here for more details on Operation Christmas Child and how you can participate in this Christmas ministry.

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  • sar says:

    45!! that is amazing! we filled 4 for about $6, and i thought that was good. i hope cvs has back-to-school freebies again next summer. those really helped!

  • Olathe mom says:

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing the link. We pack shoeboxes, as well, and this gives me new, creative ideas for making the most of our resources.

    One question, do you simply set aside the $7 per box (shipping charge) in your additional household giving budget? If I’m calcuating correctly, do you spend about $315 to ship the 45 boxes you create?

  • carrie says:

    We are filling them this year as well. I have gotten great deals and while I spent more than $6 on four of them I feel I have done well. You can fill the shoeboxes for super cheap, but don’t you still have to include a check for shipping with each one?

  • mel says:

    Don’t they also ask for money to cover the shipping though? I’ve never done more than a few boxes, because of the money I donated for the shipping

    • Karen says:

      Yes, money to help cover the cost of shipping is desired ($7 suggested at this time) — however the boxes also go through customs and this can cost additional money. For instance, in 2017 there have been some changes: no toothpaste and no candy at all (even hard candy). That’s because a number of countries now classify both toothpaste and candy as luxury items and a high fee must be paid. I volunteer at a distribution center (check boxes for appropriate items and pull out the $) If we pull out an item that’s not allowed, it is replaced with another item. The pulled out item is then sent to a local charity.

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks! Our homeschool co-op is doing shoeboxes this year. Passing this along.

  • Jennifer Taylor says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I was really wanting to pack a shoebox with my children but had totally forgotten about it. I have printed out the instructions and now look forward to packing shoeboxes and praying for the children who will receive them! This is definitely a tradition we would like to start with our children!

  • Rachel says:

    I would also love to fill boxes, but I could never afford to pay shipping for 45 or even 10 right now! Maybe one or two!

    Money Saving Mom here: Rachel, please don’t feel like you need to do 45 or even 10. Just do what you can do! You might even contact your church or some of your friends to see if they’d help out with the shipping costs if you donated the actual boxes put together.

  • Ruth says:

    Amazing. I think I spent at least $20 on 2 boxes.

  • Ruth says:

    How do you know what size of shirt and shoes to put in? We chose age 5-9, and sizes of children vary widely.

  • S Davis says:

    I’m curious to learn what they did about the $7 shipping request as well. We usually do, with great savings throughout the year, but we still write the check to cover the $14 shipping/delivery. There isn’t a discount for that.

  • Katie T says:


    I would put in a larger size that might fit a 9 year old for the 5-9 range because the littler ones can wear them bigger and they will grow into them.

  • Summer says:

    We love Operation Christmas Child in our family! We were able to create 9 boxes this year, using each and every tips she mentioned in the video before I even knew she was mentioning them! We actually wrote a check to pay for the shipping on each box, but we know that this is something we are going to do when November comes, so it is planned for in our budget. Thanks for sharing this great info!

  • Carolyn says:

    If you pay for shipping online at, you can follow your box and see what country it actually goes to. We’re always wondered where “our boxes” end up so are looking forward to this.

  • Heather wood says:

    I packed a shoebox entirely using my Wags Register Rewards.

  • jen says:

    Tip! Check with the private Christian schools in your area. Many collect these boxes and then you don’t have to pay shipping. Just call around and drop them off at the closest school/church participating!

    • Karen says:

      Yes! Shipping costs are still there. The money is for shipping the boxes overseas and going through customs. Please don’t forget to help in that way.

  • Renee K says:

    I think that if I supply the items to fill 10 shoeboxes, then money donated from other people could cover the shipping on my boxes, rather than buying stuff for a few boxes. What I spend for 10 boxes is what one person spends on one box. What do you think?

  • Michell Street says:

    This is a wonderful program. My cousins church actually goes to Boone, NC each year & works the distribution center. Did you know that no child ever gets 2 boxes, not even in different years, because there are so many out there in need. My daughter & I filled 5 the other day. I pay with check & claim as a deduction on my taxes. I have challenged myself to set aside a plastic tote from now until next year to see just how much we can accumulate for free to send. The CVS back to school was a great help. I also have friends in the missionary field in Peru & we send stuff with them. We are so thankful that we are so blessed to be able to help others. Those free trail size deodorants & tooth paste work great as well as soaps from the motels.

    • sue says:

      yes some do get a second box. i KNOW a church in the Philippines that they went to one year , skipped a year then went there again in the next year. YES i was surprised .SO i imagine it happens more than we really know

  • Patti says:

    Just a note: I purchased kids scissors at Office Depot last week: 2 pair for $.25!! I couldn’t figure out why they were so cheap until I realized they are “pointed tip” rather than blunt tip. Actually, they are not very pointed so I bought 20 pairs for our church and 20 pairs for when I do craft work with others. These would be great for the shoeboxes.

  • Marlana says:

    Great Video!!! I’ve been stacking similar bargains. I’ve spent a lot of time in SE Asia, though, and I have not noticed a shortage in flip flops, nor do they cost much. (In fact, that’s one of the first words I taught the village – and it was very poor — in English.)

    Socks are TOTALLY a shortage, though. In Thailand they cost $3 a pair, and they are almost impossible to find, let alone affordable for village people (which is why everyone wears flip flops). But for village children they are very, very necessary, and leches are a major problem both in India and SE Asia, so socks are helpful.

    Anyway, if any of you think of India or SE Asia, I’d definitely suggest socks. And pray that God sends the packages to the person who needs them. He will.

  • DeAnna says:

    Kiddo goes to a private (church) preschool and they have asked us to donate the boxes. As long as they are turned in next week, we get free shipping on them. There are also big boxes set up in local businesses here where they cover shipping if you drop off shoeboxes of goodies. It’s a great program, and along with the canned food drive, is a fun way to teach the kids that others don’t have it as great as they do.

    • Karen says:

      The shipping charge is NOT for shipping within the US — It is for getting the boxes overseas and to go through customs. Starting 2017 no candy at all and no toothpaste as those items are considered luxuries in many countries and charge a fee in customs. There are many costs getting these boxes to a foreign country.

  • Candias says:

    I too love Samaritans Purse and was so encouraged to see your video. It is so true, if you are organized, we can be such good stewards of the money that God has given us and with a little time and effort, we can put a smile on others faces. Thank you and God bless you. Also, for those worried about not being able to pay the shipping cost, Samaritan’s Purse had people who can not get out to purchase and make up a shoebox, but donate money to cover the shipping costs, my mom-in-law for example, so if God puts on your heart to make a box, he will lay on another’s heart to donate for that box.

  • Melanie says:

    Where did she find the boxes? I think that was one of the hardest parts for me. I found some of the clear plastic shoeboxes at a yard sale or I would have had to, gulp, pay full retail price 🙁

  • Kim says:

    Hi Everyone as someone who is very familiar with Operation Christmas Child I just wanted to let everyone know that the donation is not used to cover shipping within the US. It is used to cover the cost of shipping from the US to overseas, the cost of booklets that are given along side the boxes and in some cases discipleship materials that are used by churches and schools where the boxes are given out. You can go to the OCC website and type in your zip code and it will tell you the 5 closest drop off points to your location. They are all over the U.S. You don’t have to pay for anything but the donation is asked for to help with the cost of the ministry.

  • Michelle says:

    Patti, that makes me feel so good to know that my mother as well as ourselves put sockes in each & every box that we have filled.

    DeAnna, very well said!

    Oh the things that we take for granted!!!!!

  • sar says:

    melanie, lots of times churches provide the boxes (ours has for the past several years). but i’m curious how she got them if the church didn’t provide them! as far as shipping goes, i make an online donation, which does mean i spent more than $6 on 4 boxes — i should have mentioned that! oops.

  • Carrie P says:

    I was at the Walmart in Sheboygan and they have the Progresso soups on sale for $1.50. I was able to get several copies of the $1/1 and the $1.10/1 coupons for the Fiber Progresso soups so I was able to get soup for between $0.40 – $0.50/can! How cool is that?

  • jenelle says:

    We got 40 empty shoe boxes from famous footwear for the youth at our church to fill!

  • The shipping of the boxes is part of why we made so few.

    This video makes me a bit sick though when I think how much I spent for the two little boxes we made. And we didn’t put socks in… I didn’t know 🙁

  • This is a GREAT program, get involved!

  • Stephanie says:

    What a great video! Since everyone seems to be giving frugal suggestions, we like to buy the $1 plastic shoeboxes at Walmart and fill those so that the child or thier family can use the container for food storage or any other items that need to be kept sealed.

  • Julie says:

    If you pay your $7 donation online, a few weeks later you will receive an email telling you what country your box went to and even pictures of the kids receiving boxes in that village. How cool is that? Our kids locate that country on the map, and never forget it! We stock up on items throughout the year. I especially hit WalMart after the back to school sale, where I found glue, pencils, scissors and more marked down to 10 cents!!! I also watch out for mark downs on shoes; just last week I found sandals on sale for $1, and bought them up for our shoeboxes!! I like to pack the stuff in a plastic tote; it will last longer that an shoebox, and I have heard that the families find wonderful uses for a sinple plastic box! Now that we are adopting and have a little girl waiting for us in Ethiopia, the reality of povery in the world is more real to us than it has ever been! It is such a joy to bless these kids……… even it if costs us, it is so worth it; this box may be the first gift the child has ever received!

  • We filled our boxes w/ Target Dollar Spot finds, Happy Meal toys we had duplicates of, Chick-fil-a board books, toothbrushes & toothpastes (scored for free this past year), Granola Bars, crayons & colored pencils w/ sharpeners, stickers, & lollipops!

  • Erin says:

    I want to offer a really great suggestion…. In California, we have flea markets all over the place, and often times these vendors set up little ‘stores’ of items that are brand new… Like packages of 10 socks for 5 bucks or new toiletries that they get at overstock stores for about 50 cents each… its a great place to get socks and other random items for these boxes!

    Also if you have a Freecycle in your area or craigslist, post a WANTED ad for the shoeboxes or plastic boxes and note that you are needing them to fill for Operation Christmas Child… sooooooooo many people will contact you with empty boxes that you can come pick up from them for free!!!

  • Many chick-fil-a locations will accept the boxes and as far as I know, they don’t ask for shipping $.

  • Diane says:

    The shipping fee is not for shipping in the U.S. it is to help with the shipping cost of shipping to the countries the shoeboxes will be given in.
    the shipping within the U. S. is donated by different companies so if you drop off your box at a drop off location that shipping is already covered.
    this is a great program and it helps lots of kids. we love it!

  • Glad to see this helped but to answer a few questions:
    I get the boxes mainly from Payless Shoestore. They always have ones people leave/extras. They always keep some on the side for me if I ask and even will ask customers if they don’t need them to leave them. Then I just pick them up. other stores will also help.

    Mariana – That’s cool that you were in SE Asia too! Tim and I spent 3 years as missionaries to Thailand. We noticed the huge amounts of flipflops but also kids that didn’t have anything for their feet :>( For me I just figured the shoes were better as they might not own any, plus the socks weren’t 10 cents! LOL!

    Finally, as far as shipping goes, there are people who don’t want to do a box or don’t have time and will sponsor shipping. You’re right there are no discounts for that but when you donate a bunch of boxes that really helps as there’s others or corporations who will sponsor the shipping.

    Ok, really finally: I was told by the regional director here that $2 of the shipping was domestic, the rest US so here’s what we decided: Instead of packing them in boxes I put them in plastic bags and labeled them. Then when they get to MN they’ll put them in boxes. We still make sure to send $7/box but it means that the $2 they’re saving to ship it can go towards other supplies/Bibles. That’s just what I was told. however so as not to influx them with a bunch that need to be boxed, the ones we did at our packing party we boxed.

    Have a VERY blessed Christmas everyone!

  • Joy says:

    Hey! Love this post … just wanted to let you know that I’ve linked to it over on my blog today.
    Happy Thursday!!
    ~ Joy 🙂

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