How to Fill Stockings on a Budget

Every year when other bloggers and retailers publish their gift guides, I find myself in sticker shock over some of the things people consider stocking stuffers. A $50 cosmetics item? $25 for this other gadget? I like to splurge but don’t understand how people are putting hundreds if not a thousand dollars worth of goods into a stocking.

For me, stockings should have things like candy and socks and little goodies. Here’s my tips how to load up a stocking without going broke. Happy hunting!

1. High volume items

The first time I filled a stocking I was surprised how much it could hold and how empty it looked at first. A nice fluffy pair of socks or a small bag of snacks or candy are inexpensive items that will help bulk up the stocking nicely.

2. Shop according to the quantities you need.

I love shopping online, but I’ve found that buying stocking stuffers online is difficult. Either you have to buy things in quanties of 4-6 or more, or they cost a lot per item in order to get them shipped. If this is what you need (e.g., giving each child or family member the same item), then great! But for me, I’m filling pretty different stockings and prefer to shop in person for stocking stuffers for inexpensive items in single quantities.

3. Buy off season and store them.

Hardcore holiday deal seekers will get things on clearance the previous Christmas and store them away for the next year. This is a great way to save money on things that have a long or infinite shelf life. If you have an opportunity to score a sale earlier in the year, take advantage of that! Another great trick is to stockpile good freebies or samples that you get with other purchases.

4. Look outside the official “stocking stuffer” section.

Items often get marked up for holiday branding. Peruse other sections of the store such as bath products, regular socks, regular candy, regular candles, dollar section, etc. At Cost Plus I usually grab a few items from the sample sized foods that are there all year round that I think are really aimed at making gift or picnic baskets.

5. My favorite places to shop for stocking stuffers:

My favorite is Cost Plus. They bring in an enormous holiday-themed area, but as I mentioned above they have a lot of things that are not holiday-specific that make great stocking stuffers. In the sample food section you can find mini condiments, sausages, tea/coffee, cookies. They have international foods and an extensive selection of bath/body products as well.

The Container Store also has a great selection of little knicknacks, typically near the register. Some of the items are a little pricey, but they have a good selection of things that are under $10 and you can order most of them online as well.

Target usually has a dollar section at the front of the store (all year) full of great stocking stuffer options. And lastly, Home Goods and TJ Maxx have great offerings, though depending what you’re looking for and price point these may be better options for finding gifts rather than stocking stuffers. These stores will have things like mugs, beauty products, and accessories all year round but the fun extra gift stock they bring in at the holidays tends to be around $10-15 or too large to fit in a stocking.

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