Whether you’re on a tight budget, have a lot of people to buy for, or just want to make more effective use of your resources, cheap stocking stuffer ideas can help you stretch your Christmas budget farther. The 7 ideas in this post offer tips, sources, or mindsets to help you get the most bang for your buck.
Looking for an actual list of cheap stocking stuffers? Check out our list of 25 Stocking Stuffers under $1.
Shop Party Favors
Party favors are inherently designed to be exactly what stocking stuffers typically are — small, inexpensive gifts that can be grouped with others in a bag. That makes them a perfect place to look. Of course, how cheap they really are will depend on how many come to a package and whether you have multiple recipients you can divide them among (or friends to split the cost with).
If you can find a single package of party favors, though, that are suitable for multiple people on your list, you can get up to ten or twelve stocking stuffers from one package of favors. Your husband probably doesn’t want a princess wand, so splitting a package of twelve might not be particularly useful within a household. On the other hand, if you have six children, a multi-pack of bubbles might be a savvy buy.
Break Up Multi-Packs
That brings me to the next tip: buy multi-packs and break them up. Food items like gum and granola bars often come in larger packages containing individually-wrapped packages, but food isn’t the only thing you can find and break up. Pens, small notebooks, and stickers are just a few examples of things that frequently come in packages of more than one, and can be split.
Particularly when ordering online, you can often get a surprising variety of items for a lower price-per-item by purchasing them in bulk. I found 6- to 24-packs of items such as hand sanitizer, whistles, cord wraps, and hand warmers.
Use Samples as Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers
Product samples often make great inexpensive stocking stuffer options. One way to get these is to purchase “trial and travel”-type items. The drugstore often has travel-size packages of shampoo, lotion, etc. There are even travel-size first aid kits that fit nicely in a stocking. Some cleaning supplies come in travel sizes, too. This might not sound very exciting, but for the right recipient, cleaning supplies can be a good choice. Travel-size laundry detergent, for example, could be a useful gift for a college student or someone else who has to carry it to the laundromat.
Cosmetics and similar companies often sell sample sizes of their products. Give your daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend (etc.) the gift of new colors to try, without feeling stuck with a full-size package if the color turns out not to be a good fit.
Free samples can go into stockings, too! These might seem like overly-cheap stocking stuffer ideas, and you might not want to fill a whole stocking with free samples, but if you have them, you might as well use them. Especially if you’ve accumulated samples of things you can’t use but that are well-suited to someone you’re filling a stocking for.
Pay Attention to the Clearance Aisles and/or Dollar Aisles
Clearance sections at the drugstore, grocery store, discount store, and/or hardware store can be a mixed bag. They’re often full of items you won’t find very relevant. I often find random things like switchplates (for the light switch) or partial boxes of hair dye. But you can often find real gems here, too. The drugstores, in particular, tend to have some amazing deals right after the seasons change.
All of these stores can have their own unique offerings, though. Keep an eye out for things like hand tools and flashlights at the hardware store, snack food or discontinued office supplies at the supermarket, etc.
Several stores also have dollar sections or dollar aisles, where either everything’s a dollar, or where there are clusters of items for $1, $3, $5, etc. Target is pretty well-known for their “Dollar Spot.” Michael’s (the craft store) also has a dollar section, where they usually carry items like small rubber stamps, ink pads, and punches, as well as small gift items perfect for stocking stuffers like notepads, note cards, and miscellaneous monogrammed items. The offerings in these store sections changes fairly regularly, so check back over time to find new choices.
For the Cheapest Stocking Stuffers, Shop All Year
One key to making the most of the opportunity presented by some of the previous tips/sources is to shop for stocking stuffers all year long, rather than saving it for one big trip in December. Make it a habit to check all of these sources every time you’re in the store(s) in question. Not only do you spread out the expense this way; you also get to take advantage of the seasonal turnover of the clearance and dollar aisles. And you have access to a variety of samples over the course of a year.
You can also pick up some extra, inexpensive items with Amazon’s Add-On program if you just tack one or two onto each order throughout the year. (Add-on items are less expensive items that ship free with Prime or Super Saver shipping, but only if your total order meets a certain minimum. That way smaller, lighter items aren’t creating excessive shipping costs.)
Visit the Dollar Store
It might be overly obvious, but no discussion of cheap stocking stuffer ideas would be complete without mentioning the dollar store. Although not everything from the dollar store is appropriate for a stocking (of course!) it has the advantage of offering a wide variety of products. As a result, you should be able to find stocking stuffers for every member of the family there. Even if you prefer not to do a lot of your actual shopping there, it’s a good place to walk the aisles and get ideas.
We particularly like the dollar store as a source for coloring books, activity books, and puzzle books. We also put blank cards — usually from the dollar store — in our kids’ stockings each year, so they’re prepared to write thank-you notes after the holiday.
Make Your Own Stocking Stuffers
Do-it-yourself (DIY) options can also make excellent stocking stuffers. Even those who are not very “crafty” can make some simple stuffers like bookmarks or decorated mini-notebooks. Those who are more into crafting have a huge variety of potential options, ranging from accessories to zipper pouches. These can be as inexpensive as free (apart from your time, of course) if you use upcycled materials or supplies you already have on hand. (Because stocking stuffers are small, many DIY stocking stuffer projects are an excellent way to make use of leftover materials from larger projects.)