Thursday, May 3, 2012

Saving/Shopping Year Round For Shoeboxes

This year, our church's shoebox goal is 200! To some, it may seem lofty, but I think we can do it! Last year we sent 167 boxes. The year before, 120. Two years ago, 80. And 3 years ago, 40.

So, how do we afford the shipping cost and items to fill 200 boxes? For my family, It was hard at first. Just to find wiggle room in our budget to send our family's 4-5 shoeboxes ($28-$35) was a difficult task just before Christmas. Let alone having any left over to help pay for shipping boxes at the church. And we still needed to fill the boxes which can become pricey!

Our solution:
To save up some money for shipping costs, we decided to put a jar on the counter for our loose change. I cut the picture off of one of the Operation Christamas Child brochures and taped it to the front of the container to remind us what we are saving our change for (Beautiful children around the world that need God's love). After Christmas, we started putting ALL of our loose change in the jar whenever we come home. I don't keep any change in my pockets or my purse. It all goes straight into the jar! When I took it to the bank a few weeks ago because the jar was getting full, there was $81 in the jar!! Holy cow! I had no idea that little container could hold so much money. I also had no idea that we had that much spare change. I have started occasionally throwing in one dollar bills now, too, because I've realized how quickly the money adds up!

Another solution we have come up with, is to occasionally write an extra check for $7 (enough to pay for shipping one shoebox) and put it in the offering plate  at church with Operation Christmas Child on the memo line since we send the boxes from the church. $7 is a small amount that we can usually find in the budget. By cutting the amount of fast food stops we make, it has left extra wiggle room for extra giving. If we put an extra $7 in the offering plate each week of the year, it would be $364 enough for shipping 52 shoeboxes. We couldn't do that all at once! If four people commited to putting an extra $7 in the offering plate every week designated for Operation Christmas Child, it would pay for all 200 boxes and then some!

As for items to fill the boxes, we have come up with a few great ways to make our money stretch:

1. Clearance- After every holiday, I watch the clearance items like a hawk. At first, I didn't enjoy taking extra time in the store with three screaming boys to look for clearance items, but I have found that making it the first isle I go to in the store helps tremendously with that issue. When clearance is 50%-75% off, I may pick up a few items, but I don't go overboard. At this price, I will pick up the items that are a great deal, that I don't think will still be there at 90% off. Otherwise, I wait until the holiday clearance is marked 90% off to pick up items for the shoeboxes. Dollar General and Walmart are the two stores I have the best luck with for this. I am usually able to get several bags full of items for just a few dollars. Clearance sales have become one of my best friends! I can get a lot more for the shoeboxes this way.

2. Coupons- For items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap, I watch for sales and match them up with coupons I have. I try not to pay more that .25-.50 for each of these items. I can usually get them free (+tax). Clip With Purpose and Mummy Deals highlight each week items that are on sale and coupon matchups for products that can be used to fill shoeboxes. They are both GREAT resources for helping to fill the shoeboxes on a budget.

3. Back to School Sales- I only buy school supplies for the boxes at back to school time when I know they will be at their lowest price. I can usually get 10 packs of pencils for .19, crayons for .25 or less/box, and glue sticks for .20/2pk. I also like to pick up rulers, pens, markers, notebooks, and pencil sharpeners during back to school sales. If I purchase them any other time of the year, I usually pay at least 50% more for these items, so I try not to do that.

4. Free Samples- Don't throw away free samples of products just because you won't use them yourself! Many of them can be put in the shoeboxes. I like to watch for offers for free samples that I know can be put in the shoeboxes and then sign up for them. They don't cost me anything except a few moments to fill out my address. If you go to a job fair or convention with lots of booths, they usually give out a lot of free things like pens, pencils, water bottles, reusable bags, etc. Save these for the boxes!

5. Look Around Your House- Occasionally, you will buy things that you never end up using or you get a gift that you really don't need or want. A lot of these can be used in the shoeboxes and since you already have them, they don't cost you a thing!

6. One Thing at a Time- Everytime you go to a store, any store, try to pick up a single item to go in a shoebox. A dollar toy, a tube of toothpaste, a pack of gum... THEY ADD UP! How many times do you walk into a store during a single week? A month? A year??! By picking up one item at a time, you spread out the cost and make it less of a hit to the bank to fill lots of boxes. (Or even just one box) When you go into a store and you are standing at the checkout counter, grab a pack of 25 cent gum. The items do not have to be expensive. If you go to multiple stores in a day, why not grab an item at each of them? Even if you don't buy an extra item EVERY time you go into the store, by even occasionally picking up an extra item to put in the shoeboxes, you can fill a shoebox quicker than you know!

7. Homemade Items- This is one of my favortites!  I especially enjoy when I can include my boys in making items for the boxes. If you need ideas for homemade items, check out my pin board on Pinterest for Operation Christmas Child Craft Ideas. In the late summer or in the fall, I am hoping to hold a church crafting day for shoebox items. I have been gathering items and supplies for it, and will set everything up so that there will be ways for all ages to help make homemade items for the shoeboxes. I crochet, scrapbook, and sew, so I love to be able to use my talents to make special items for the boxes. You may also consider gathering a few of your extra supplies and create a craft kit or a few of them for boxes (squares of scrapbook paper, extra material, beads, buttons, stickers, ribbon, yarn) If you craft, you probably have a few things you could put in a ziploc bag to make a kit.

Have any other ideas?? Please feel free to share them with us! How do you afford to send boxes on a budget?

Oh, and just in case you are wondering about the container with a cow on it, my 5 year old son has decided that he would like to purchase a cow for Pakistan Christian Ministries to donate to a family so that they can have milk for their family and make a little money by selling milk from the cow. His goal is $450 (the cost of a cow). He puts the money he earns in that jar, so he can save up to donate a cow.  Such a sweet heart my boy has!

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