Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making the Most of Your Money: Operation Christmas Child Boxes

One of my family's favorite holiday traditions is packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. It allows us to teach our children the importance of giving during a season that is too often focused on receiving. These filled shoeboxes are sent all over the world to needy children who may not receive any other gifts the entire year. Here are some of my tried and true tips for creating a great box for not a ton of money...

1. Start Early
This is by far the easiest and most surefire way to pack a wonderful, yet affordable box. I keep an eye out for sales and coupons on shoebox items throughout the year, and add the items to a plastic bin. You can often get free toothbrushes, free bandages, free pens, and even free Hot Wheels cars to add to your boxes using coupons and sales.

2. Check Seasonal Clearance
One recommended item for the shoeboxes include hard candies and lollipops. Purchasing these items a few days after Halloween will get you a large bag of candy for 70-90% off. In the same way, you can purchase clearance flip-flops (under $1) after summer, clearance mittens ($0.25 a pair) after winter, and deeply discounted school supplies in late August. Target and Michaels typically clearance their holiday items up to 90% in the days after the holiday.

3. Take Advantage of Samples and Freebies
Those free samples you receive in your mailbox such as deodorant and bar soaps (no liquids are allowed in the shoeboxes) are great items. In addition, free toothbrushes from your dentist's office, and even fast food toys (such as the Little Critter or Berenstain Bears books Chick-Fil-A recently gave out) are put to good use.

4. Check the Dollar Spot (But Don't Go Overboard)
Both Target and Michael's have a dollar section to purchase little filler goodies such as notebooks, art supplies, puzzles, and even socks. But, a lot of dollar items can add up quickly. I have found great items for $0.25 if I check the Dollar Spot post-seasonally when they are on clearance. (Summer items in the fall, Christmas items in January, etc.)

5. Be Frugal, Not Cheap
Don't purchase items solely because they are would rather fill a shoebox with fewer quality items than lots of tiny trinkets that will quickly break. But, you can find almost anything for inexpensively by watching sales and coupons, starting early, and shopping seasonally. 

What are your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Tips?

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