Christmas Stockings 101 – How To Stay On Budget, Find Cheap Stocking Stuffers, and More!

Budgeting Tips, Holidays

Trying to figure out what you should stuff your Christmas stockings with this year? Don't worry, we've got a great list of cheap stocking stuffers! Plus, we're talking about how to stay on budget, too.

Stockings hanging on a mantle, from Fun Cheap or Free

Since we spent lots of time talking about how much we should spend on our kids for Christmas, I thought it was time to give our oh-so-important stocking friends some love and attention.

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Many of us think to make a budget for Christmas gifts but rarely stop and think about the stockings. I've made that mistake in years past! I've bought all sorts of fun trinkets and random whatnots for my kids and hubby. Then, before I knew it, I had spent more on stockings than I had on gifts!

It's deceiving because “little things” don't seem like much, so you want more of them…but they really add up! Here are some guidelines, tips, ideas, and parameters for your stockings so you don't go overboard this year. Plus, I've got some great, cheap stocking stuffers that will keep you on budget! So, let's get to it!


Kids sitting on the stairs holding stockings, from Fun Cheap or Free

I propose that the purpose of a Christmas stocking is NOT to use them as another platform for giving gifts. Rather, it's a fun Christmas tradition that holds treats and small items to help your loved ones feel even more special, and have a few more little things to enjoy, at Christmas.

I repeat…it should NOT be an outlet for squeezing/sneaking in more gifts! If you want to give them a gift that is small enough to fit into a stocking, wrap it up and put it under the tree anyway, even if it is tiny! Make it count as a gift in your holiday budget just as every other gift does! Stocking stuffers should not be wrap-able (or should be very difficult to wrap) if that helps you visualize better.


Holiday budgeting envelopes on a counter, from Fun Cheap or Free

As a rule, I propose that $25 per stocking is reasonable, regardless of age. It might not seem like much of a budget to some, but think about it… If you have five people in your family, that's an extra $125 just on stockings! That's more than you should be spending on most of your kids' Christmas gifts.

If your kids are young like mine, then $25 is PUH-LEN-TEE. Go to the dollar store and grab six or seven trinkets, and they'll love you 'til they're 82! Don't feel like you have to spend that $25 per stocking, either! If $10 is all you can afford, then make that work. You can get a lot for $10, especially if you make their favorite homemade treats, like peanut butter fudge or chocolate chip cookies.

Don't forget to track what you spend with our free holiday envelope budget printables! If you're like me and don't really do gifts for your spouse, then feel free to do a little more in their stockings, maybe up to $40. But set a reasonable budget and stick to it.


Every family has their own stocking traditions. A friend of mine always gives her kids a toothbrush and a Matchbox car. My dad always put an orange in the toe of our stocking, a rolled-up magazine, a package of beef jerky, chapstick, and one of those Lifesaver books of candy.

While traditions are important, just keep in mind that I propose stockings should be for small, non-gift items. That's the best way to keep your wallet in check this Christmas. Here's a list of ideas to illustrate what items are appropriate for stockings.


Soft peppermints on a counter, from Fun Cheap or Free
  • Fruit – Oranges, apples, bananas, anything that will fit in a stocking and has a protective skin. (Berries would be a bad idea!)
  • Nuts – Keep this cheap by buying a large bag of nuts and portioning it out into smaller baggies for everybody.
  • Beef Jerky – Just like with the nuts, make this cheaper by buying a large bag when it's on sale at Costco and break it down into smaller baggies.
  • Candy – Make sure it won't melt if it's hanging over a fireplace with a roaring fire!
  • Favorite Treats – Granola bars, fruit snacks, or even their favorite homemade banana bread!
  • Gum – If your kids are old enough, buy them their favorite gum! You could give them each a pack, or just a few pieces in each stocking to stretch your wallet further.
  • Mints – There are not many kids I know that'll turn down those soft peppermints!


Woman painting toe nails, from Fun Cheap or Free
  • Hairbrush – We love our Bathpack hairbrushes! (Use the code JORDAN to get 10% off your purchase!)
  • Nail Polish – The dollar store, Walmart, Target, TJMaxx, Ross, Amazon, and so many other places have fun bottles of nail polish that are super cheap!
  • Hair Accessories – You can never go wrong with cute scrunchies, clips, and head bands. They're definitely a must-have in our hair bag!
  • Inexpensive Makeup – Bonne Bell, N.Y.C, and E.L.F are all great options!
  • Lip Balm – These aren't just for girls! Our boys love getting lip balm, especially since we go through it so much when we're outside at our family cabin.
  • Lip GlossShine Cosmetics has my absolute favorite lip gloss, but you can find plenty of cheap options at the store that younger girls who don't need a nice product will love.
  • Toothbrush – This is one of the easiest cheap stocking stuffers there are! We buy a big variety pack at the store and each kid always gets the same colored toothbrush to make sure we don't get confused.
  • Floss – The kids flossers are so fun and they taste like fruit, so our kids get pretty excited when they get these in their stockings.
  • Toothpaste – You can never have enough toothpaste!
  • Travel-Sized Toiletries – The kids get so excited over how cute the little bottles are! We give lotion, deodorant, body spray, hair spray, etc.


Girls coloring on the floor, from Fun Cheap or Free
  • Crayons – I usually stock up on these when they're on sale at the beginning of the school year, but you can usually find them pretty cheap at Walmart or the dollar store.
  • Coloring Books – The dollar store is definitely one of the best places to find coloring books!
  • Stickers – Man, are your kids sticker crazy? You can never go wrong with stickers!
  • Trading Cards – If your kids are into trading cards, then they'll get crazy excited when they see these cheap stocking stuffers!
  • GlovesGloves are a necessity around here, and it's always fun to get a new pair of gloves.
  • Beanies – You can never have too many beanies, so it's fun to get a new one every year!
  • Travel Games – It's always a good idea to keep some travel games in the car to keep everybody entertained.
  • Playing CardsCard games are so fun! Whether it's regular playing cards or a fun game like Go Fish, the kids will be excited about these cheap stocking stuffers.
  • Pencils – Man, we can go through the pencils in our house! I usually have lots on hand from stocking up on them during back-to-school sales.
  • Pens – The same goes for pens!
  • Cute Notebook – You've gotta have somewhere fun and cute to use those pencils and pens!
  • Fun Bandaids – What kid doesn't like bandaids?! They're definitely a fix-all in our house, which is why we love giving them as cheap stocking stuffers.
  • Small Toys – We're talking about the cheap dollar store toys, here.


  • Travel Lint RollerThis is a great one to keep in your bag so you always have a lint roller!
  • KeychainThese are fun, whether your kids have a key to the house for it or they just play with it at home.
  • Magazine – These are always fun to get, especially if everybody gets a different one, because then they can share them!
  • Small Book – You can never go wrong giving a book as a stocking stuffer!
  • $5 Gift CardsGift cards as affordable stocking stuffers are great for places like McDonalds, iTunes, or even Redbox!
  • Socks – Can you really ever go wrong with new socks?!
  • Underwear – Our kids actually get crazy excited when they get new underwear, especially if it has their favorite characters on them.
  • Christmas CouponsPinterest has so many fun Christmas coupons that you can print out for the different people in your life!

There are a million and one things you could put in a stocking to make it memorable, fun, and stay under $25. Bubba (my husband) loves Burt's Bees lip balm. I usually toss a few of those, a magazine, and some treats in his stocking, and he's happy as pie. My stocking usually has some inexpensive lip gloss, some gloves, and my favorite candy. 

Whew, okay! What are your favorite cheap stocking stuffers to give? Share your fun ideas with us in the comments below!

Image with text that reads "the best cheap stocking stuffers" from Fun Cheap or Free

Looking for more Christmas ideas?

Now get to stuffing those stockings!

Jordan Page Signature from Fun Cheap or Free


  1. Nan

    I ran across your blog when I saw the picture of those darling stockings so I read the article. I will say I laughed out loud as I read, “Every family has their own stocking traditions…regardless of what your traditions are just keep in mind that stockings should be small, non gift items.” Our family’s tradition is that Santa brings only stockings. As a result our children do receive gifts in their stocking. It is not the dollhouse gift that is given from mom and dad but may be the doll or craft project supplies. These gifts are included in the budget just as everything else is. When recognizing that everyone has their own traditions it may be well to not limit traditions to a very narrow minded view.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Good point! In re-reading that I see exactly what you’re saying and agree with you! haha! I’ll update it with more appropriate wording, thanks for pointing that out! And I love the idea of “santa brings the stockings”. I think that’s genius. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Jessica

        well i think you should just leave it i think it sounds fine to me but that is just my opinion.

    • Nadia

      What a strange reason to leave a comment. Most people do not have this tradition and you shouldn’t berate Jordan for such a small issue. I hope Santa brings you a less self-involved attitude next year.

  2. Sonya

    Loved your article! We love stockings in our family. (In fact we get new ones every year). A few years ago, when our two daughters were teenagers, we started a new tradition of exchanging names for filling each other’s stockings. We have a budget limit of $20 per person. On Christmas Eve we all go to Walmart or the Dollar Store and shop for each other. Of course we have to hide from each other in the store and then fill the stockings in secret that night. It’s fun to see how creative we can get. It has also taken the pressure off my husband and me with that last Christmas thing.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      That is the cutest idea EVER! We may have to adopt that in our family, if it’s ok with you 🙂

  3. Amber

    Target’s $1 bins are great for better quality stocking stuffers then the dollar store, which is cheap, but also looks cheap. In my experience, dollar store stuff breaks a LOT easier then regularly priced items do.

    We also get our stockings from santa, he typically brings stockings (for everyone, even adults), a few gifts for littler kids, and a couple for older kids. Adults only get santa gifts of we’ve run out of nonsanta wrapping paper, lol. We do christmas really big though, since we don’t give gifts for birthdays or mother/father/grandparents/Valentine’s day.

    We also wrap stocking stuffers. When you’ve got six year olds and special needs 15 year olds, waiting for everyone to wake up and come downstairs is nigh impossible, so they’re allowed to open stockings whenever they wake up christmas morning. Wrapping the stuffers also makes the real presents less tempting, lol!

    Standard stuffers for us are an Apple and orange in the toe, toothbrushes, chapstick, socks, and everyone gets their favorite lindt truffles. Then any other stuffers are mostly random things our couponing aunt picks up. One year we were all sick, so we got tissue, cold medicine, and nasal spray, lol!

  4. Kamryn Carlson

    Love these simple but great ideas!

  5. Jessica

    I like to order my daughters something each from Sephora and then use my points I’ve saved and get them stocking stuffers! Lot’s of great free samples and small gifts available with points!
    I love your blog and I have gotten so many tips from you! Thanks! From Canada!!

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      Oh, that’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing! 🙂


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