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Reader Testimonial: My Money-Saving Christmas

Lecia from Kindly Deeds emailed in the following testimonial which I thought many of you would enjoy reading:

Due to two consecutive layoffs, my husband has been employed for only seven out of the last 24 months. That means we’ve had two holiday seasons in a row with very little money to spare on gifts. Each year we draw names with both sides of our family, which gives us an extra 14 people to shop for, in addition to our own family of seven!

Both this year and last year, I relied heavily on my email updates from to help me provide Christmas for all those people. If you haven’t signed up yet for the Money Saving Mom® email list, you definitely should. Reading and using those emails has saved my family hundreds of dollars over the past two years.

As a direct result of the emails, I got:

  • Two cute little change purses from Target for my daughters. They love these and keep their dollar store Silly Bandz in them!
  • About $40 in gift cards to by using Swagbucks for several months. Plus, I signed up for the Amazon Mom program and got free shipping throughout the holiday season.
  • A free Duplo-style car that I just had to sign up for. That was perfect for my little nephew.
  • Three $10 credits from Kellogg’s after buying three boxes of cereal per credit (and I got the cereal three for $7, and then saved more by using coupons)! These credits were good for any toy or electronic product at stores like Wal-Mart.
  • About $20 in PayPal cash from taking surveys on sites recommended by
  • A free photo collage from Walgreens. I used my son’s Homecoming photos to make a collage for him that he treasures.
  • Free or nearly free photo books from various sites that made perfect gifts for grandparents.

We also scrambled together a few more dollars by trading in books and video games at our local used bookstore, and transferring some prescriptions at a time when K-Mart was offering $25 gift cards for each transferred prescription. Since three of my five kids take daily medications for asthma, we were able to get $100 in gift cards this way.

Once I got through the Christmas season and took a minute to breathe, I realized how blessed we had been, and I was so full of joy and gratitude for the wonderful and frugal Christmas we were able to have.

Lecia Crider lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband, Jay, and their five children. She blogs about service opportunities at Kindly Deeds, and she’d love for you to take a peek at her husband’s resume on LinkedIn!

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  • Heather says:

    I think its great you saved so much money from this site, I have too. My question is why in the world would your family expect you to get anyone anything when you had been laid off so much that seems crazy having so many to buy for and you have 7 kids of your own! Your much nicer than me i so wouldnt have done all that. I realize its about giving, but just being with family is much more important than the gifts.

    • Rose says:

      I agree. That was my thought exactly.

    • I have to say that I completely agree… I think that in the spirit of the season it would be extremely easy to say, “We really have to watch our budget this year and although we would love to exchange gifts with ya’ll, we simply won’t be able to this year.” Or, take $5 per person and make a donation to a worthy cause and let them know you made a donation in their name.

  • Freebies says:

    I grew up in Phoenix!!

    Isn’t saving money great- it is the best feeling not to go into debt over stuff like Christmas!!


  • Ramona says:

    Great testimony to how working hard and being creative to live within your means really pays off! A lot of people would just go into debt at the holidays in order to provide gifts for family and friends but it’s really not necessary. I am so grateful I found I tell anyone who will listen to me that it is possible to get great deals on things and save your hard earned money by visiting this site. I also saved a great deal on Christmas presents for family and friends through this site. I am ever grateful and I love to hear stories like this, thank you for sharing!

  • Lori says:

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 I found this Web site before Christmas and was able to save a ton of money by utilizing some of the shopping tips outlined here. I have become a devoted follower of money saving mom and check it several times a day to see what new deals and ideas I can find. I also enjoy the sense of camaraderie and Crystal’s inspiring, refreshing words. As a stay at home mom who can go a whole day without speaking to someone older than age 6, it has definitely been a blessing to me personally as well as to my budget!

  • Kate B says:

    Very creative!!!
    We saved money this year by only buying for immediate family, only, and went with practical gifts.
    You know what? This year was the best Christmas ever! No stress! I enjoyed Christmas for the first time since I had children. I also was able to focus more on the most important part of the Holidays. The food!! LOL
    I just wish more people could discover that Christmas is about Jesus, sharing with others and FOOD.

  • Brooke says:

    I also started following this site before Christmas, as well as a few other money-saving blogs, but this is definitely the one that I love the most. I love that your blog is not JUST about the deals. I love reading the stories that you and others share, the advice that you provide, and the recipes that you post are just wonderful! All the money I have saved by following these deals would almost mean nothing without the practical advice and wisdom that I’ve also found here. This blog has not only blessed our family with the ability to save money, but also the inspiration to really reach for our goals! Thanks for all you do Crystal! 🙂

  • Ashlee says:

    This year we were actually able to give the most and still spent the least. It took creativity, lots of online deals (thank you Groupon!) and even more great deals posted here and on other sites.

  • Jennifer says:

    Frankly, I can’t believe your families still had gift exchanges if you were unemployed that long. Our families have had years where we just don’t exchange gifts. That way we can concentrate on our immediate family and get together for a nice family dinner. The only person who was upset was surprisingly my mom. Everyone else (except the kids, of course) was relieved.

    I am so tired of getting some of the junk people think I might want and I am sure they feel the same way about the things we buy. I like to just concentrate on getting together.

  • Sarah says:

    I saved almost $700 between July and November through surveys, rebates, and selling items through consignment. It was fabulous the week before Black Friday going to the bank to take that cash out of the bank, and seeing how far it went with all my sale shopping! I also got my husband a Keurig that he loves with credits on Amazon saved from Swagbucks and doing reviews for Viewpoints.

    • Nicole says:

      I have started “saving” my AGC’s from Swagbucks and ViewPoints for Christmas this year. I started saving Jan 1 and already have $101 for Amazon. I have noticed that I have started watching where I can get Amazon gift cards for FREE. Good luck to all.

  • Lynn says:

    It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your family during a very stressful and difficult time! You must be so proud of the example you are setting for your children. My husband is from a very large family (he is one of twelve – yes, as in a dozen – children!) and for many years they used to draw names for Christmas as well. We finally made the suggestion that it was really just getting to be too much for everyone (Grandma and Grandpa still generously still buy gifts for all the grandkids!) and were surprised to find that pretty much everyone agreed it was time to give up the practice! Maybe if you brought the subject up with your family, you might find they too are finding an extra 14 gifts a year a bit of a stretch!

    • Nicole says:

      In my family there are 3 siblings (including myself) starting this past year we went to the rule that the adults don’t shop for each other. We only purchase for the neices and nephews. I did buy a lot of gifts thru Amazon from deals that were posted on this blog. It made things so much easier.

  • Sarah says:

    My side of the family does a $5 limit per person. So, we end up buying for everyone on that side, but it’s so inexpensive! And, we shop throughout the year, looking for the best things we can get for that price! On my husband’s side of the family, we buy only for the kids. All the adults together decided that each family would give to a charity the money that they would have spent buying gifts for the other adults in the family. It is so great because we feel like we are all doing something together to benefit others and it takes the pressure off! This is all especially helpful since between our two families, just about everyone has birthdays between September and January (23 birthdays in those months, to be exact)! Christmas has been so much simpler and less stressful in the past 2 years since our families made those decisions.

    • Rachel says:

      Our family does something similar. Instead of buying each other gifts, we buy an angels from the Salvation Army. This way we are giving back to children in our community and not having something we probably would not use laying around the house.

  • prathee chandar says:

    the linkedin link goes to home page, not to her husband’s profile.

  • theresa says:

    I’m not a mom, but I love this site and I LOVE this article. All those little things help to save money but also to make the world a better place.

  • This is a great post! It shows that it is really possible to save money!

  • Holly says:

    My husband’s side of the family all have a secret Santa gift exchange (gift limit is $10 and you only buy one gift). For the rest of our immediate family, we used sites like and other photo deal sites, and waited until they were free or very reduced including shipping. Christmas should not be about over-spending or worrying what gifts to give. Stay within your budget, have fun being creative, and feel no obligation to spend a lot.

  • I’ve started to do more homemade, consumable gifts like fudge or cookie mixes and coffee for adults, and handmade hats, scarves, ornaments, toys, and only purchased new books for my nieces.

  • Gail says:

    Great post and comments! I shop all year for Christmas, as well as other gifts. Take advantage of Money Saving Mom to find all the free goodies and samples, and stash them away. These can often make great stocking stuffers. Right now, Walgreens has leftover holiday toys at 75% off. Valentines candy and stuff is reduced to 75-90% off in many Walgreens and CVS stores. I picked up red foil wrapped Lindt Truffles (they expire in 2012), and also red candles. Hope I can keep from eating the truffles before Christmas. Leftover Christmas bath products and implement sets are still around in some places and really reduced. Take these out of the holiday packaging, and make up gift baskets. Perfect for next Christmas! At Goodwill, I go through the scarf and glove bins. These are usually priced at $2 ea, but on half price days, wow! For $1 ea, I found several brand new with tags winter scarves, including a cashmere!. Into Ziplocs they go, safe from moths, ready for gifts, especially those gift exchanges! When garage sales begin, there are often brand new toys and kids books for 25 cents to a couple of dollars, that someone received for Christmas and didn’t want. I scoop them up when I see them and put aside for birthday gifts, or even Toys for Tots donations.

  • Christy says:

    My husband was also unemployed, though not as long. Pretty much the month of Nov. and about 2-3 weeks in Dec. He started his current job the week before Christmas. We had a baby the week of Thanksgiving, so we gave all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. photo gifts (considering the new addition, they were very well recieved) and spent very little on them thanks to this site! My 3 year old only gets 3 gifts from Santa because Jesus only got 3 gifts. One gift is always a basket of books. This year it was only 3 or 4 paperback books. He also got a bike and shin gaurds, soccer ball, and money to sign up for soccer season (we like to give experiences instead of cluttery stuff whenever possible). He does not get any gifts from us. He gets so much from grandparents and aunts and uncles and grown cousins (my boys are the only children on both sides), he does just fine. I also stuffed his stocking courtesy of the Dollar Tree. Santa brought the baby bottles (I breastfeed, so we didn’t need to many at the beginning, but I pump at work so knew we needed more), a box of “free” diapers from CVS, and a pacifier. The bottles and paci were in his stocking. My 3 year old actually asked Santa to bring Sam bottles and diapers (I guess he couldn’t think of anything else for a 1 month old), so that worked out perfectly!

    I usually pick up gifts throughout the year in preperation for Christmas. Because of the free and inexpensive photo gifts, I saved a lot of these for birthdays (I had individual people in mind when I grabbed some). My husband was able to give his new bosses some Christmas ornaments I had picked up at an arts and crafts fair back in April! Picking up things throughout the year also helps spread out the spending.

    • Nicole says:

      I have totes in my laundry room with each of my nieces and nephew names on them. That way throughout the year if I come across something I could give to them as a gift for whatever holdiay I just put it in there. That way when it comes time for the gift giving I know exactly where to look. Makes it much easier.

  • Lecia, today I am praying for you and your husband, that employment will come quickly and that the job will be perfectly designed for Jay’s talents and gifts. I can testify to the power of prayer – a year ago today I would have been blown away if I would have known where God would be taking us and how much we would be blessed! I became bold in my prayer life and asked God for specifics – and He answered all of those prayers and more. Praying that God will bring down a waterfall of blessings on you and your family! It DOES happen!

  • Spendwisemom says:

    We have paid cash for our Christmas for many years. It is so nice not to have bills after the holidays. There are so many things to make and ways to buy things inexpensively if you plan ahead. It is great to stay in your budget. You did a great job and thanks for sharing.

  • holi says:

    Hi, we are in the same unemployment situation. Except he hasn’t worked at all in just over 1 1/2 years. And Christmas is a rough time. Even purchasing clothes for the growning teens or worn out clothes since we have been in survival mode for going on 2 years. But God is good! We have our house, good health, and have survived the holidays 2x’s! Plus many other blessings too!

  • Cathe says:

    Well done!

  • Lecia says:

    Don’t get me wrong – nobody forced us to exchange presents with our extended families, and my parents offered more than once to let me off the hook, but I enjoy the tradition of it and I knew I could find some amazing deals and make it work. To be honest – I enjoy the challenge and have a lot of fun finding frugal ways to give to others!

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