From Christmas pajamas to toys and household supplies, one mom makes budgeting simple

I love to shop and buy Christmas presents; but I also aim to do it within a budget. With three kiddos nearly the same age (second-grade twins and a first grader) we’re already saving for new-driver insurance, weddings, and triple college tuition. But I thoroughly enjoy a big Christmas.

There’s no one in Central Arkansas that can pull off a tightly budgeted, but big, Christmas like 35-year-old Naomi Meeks. She’s a mom to eight kids under the age of 8; and has lots of bargain shopping experience. Naomi says, “I grew up watching my mom coupon and bargain shop. We didn’t have a lot of money back then so we tried to save anywhere we could. I started myself when my husband David and I were first married. I had a huge binder with inserts for all my coupons and a massive collection of items for my friends and family to raid whenever they wanted. I’ve also been able to donate many items to families in need, tornado victims and flood victims.” 

Naomi and her husband, State Rep. David Meeks, recently adopted a sibling set of five kiddos; after adopting a set of three several years ago. Eight kids later Naomi’s tactics have changed since she was a newlywed.  She says, “I no longer have my coupon binder, but I do get a few coupons from family and friends. I just don’t have the time to keep up with it as much as I did in the past. We have only been a family of 10 for nine months so I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. I use several apps right now I help me save money and time.” 

One of Naomi’s favorite apps includes a cash back option called Ibotta. She says, “You can buy things on their list, scan your receipt, and once you reach five dollars you get money back via gift card or Paypal.”

Naomi goes on to explain how she uses Target’s app called Cartwheel. She says, “You can download deals from groups of items (ie-women’s clothing) to individual things (ie-50 cents off eggs).” She also uses Walmart’s Savings Catcher. She says, “It compares the prices of items purchased to other local competitors’ prices. It refunds the difference of the item to an eGift card.”

The Meeks’ use apps all over town to save. Michael’s and Hobby Lobby have 40-percent off coupons on their apps. Kirkland’s has a Spin to Win app in which you spin a wheel for coupons. Naomi says, “Most fast food places have coupons also. McDonald’s, Wendys, and Sonic to name a few. There are apps for almost everything these days and most are there to help and save you money.”

But her favorite app is Kroger’s, where she does 95-percent of her shopping. Naomi says, “I can download the digital coupons while I’m shopping and use them immediately. I try to see what coupons are available before I go to the store but I don’t always have the time. The app and my card are linked so it even sends personalized coupons.” When it comes to groceries her trick is to buy in bulk and store it until you need it. Naomi says, “ Kroger regularly has digital coupons that you can use 5 times and I try my best to keep up with sales. Kroger has reoccurring sales on rotation.  I buy multiples of sale items at a time and keep them in my pantry. My kids love fresh fruit and vegetables, so we watch the sales. We try to buy local whenever possible. I have a monthly budget that I really try my best to stick to and follow. I have many categories in my budget, including a grocery category and also a category entitled “bulk.” “Bulk”  is used for sale items that may spring up randomly through the month. If there is a great deal of chicken, beef, or another item we use frequently, I will buy extra and freeze or store.” 

Admitting she loves to shop Naomi says budgeting is so important because it gives you the freedom to spend as long as you stay within your set amount. 

To help keep within her budget, Naomi found $3 Christmas jammies for all eight kiddos. She found them when the season’s changed; her favorite time to shop for clothing. Naomi says, “I actually found them at Wal-mart marked down to $3 from $15 when they were changing to spring and summer clothes. Every Christmas Eve the kids get to open a present that has pj’s for everyone, a movie, and popcorn. They are currently in my gift closet and it saves me a little bit during the Christmas season. The changing out of the seasons is when you find the best deals on clothes in any store. I also found solid blue, khaki, and gray shorts for $1 each. You can’t beat that price. I regularly find good sales at Kohl’s, Old Navy, and Children’s Place and they often have good coupons as well. I love shopping for clothes in the off-season. You can find summer clothes for 75-90 percent off in the middle of winter.”

David and Naomi have fostered many children in their home so they’re frequently buying toys. Naomi’s secret for finding them at bargain prices is Kroger. She says, “I find about 80 perfect of our Christmas toys at Kroger all throughout the year. They have a clearance section by the toy section that has toys on sale around 50 percent off and sometimes even more. I have a closet of toys and gifts that I can access to all year long. 

MONEY SAVING TIP – The best time to find toys on sale is usually in September and October. They are clearing out the toy section to get ready for all the new Christmas toy inventory. Last year we saved hundreds of dollars on toys. What we didn’t end up using we donated to other foster children.” 

Surprisingly she’s not big on Black Friday. If there’s something they want they’ll run out and grab it but otherwise are at home. But she fully admits, “There are seasons in life and change happens frequently. As the kids get older and their Christmas lists get more complicated, I am sure that our Black Fridays will change as well.”

Naomi doesn’t know exactly how much she saves every month but feels very confident in saying it as at least several hundred dollars. She says, “My love language is giving. My biggest reason for saving money is so we can give more to family, friends, my church or my children’s school.” 

So take it from a pro; there are so many ways to save money. One dollar here and there will add up quickly, ensuring you an even bigger Christmas.