I was pleased to spend each shift last week inspecting boxes to make sure no forbidden items were included. That was very instructive. I’ve already discussed how I’d undervalued the WOW item and I’ve mentioned that presentation of the gift really does make a difference. Today I’m going to talk first about ways to find money in your budget for shoe box packing. Then I’ll look at the the weird, crazy, useless stuff I found in boxes. Then we’ll look at Fillers.
New to OCC Shoe Box packing?
First, if you are new to Shoe Box packing, read this post and follow the links in it to the Operation Christmas Child website.
Finding Money for Shoe Box Packing
First of all, remember: One well-packed shoe box is a HUGE help. You need not break records for numbers of boxes packed. One box helps. Quality matters.
Three Ways I’m “Finding” Money This Year:
- My Swag Bucks Account. I’m not a huge Swag Bucks Points earner. The videos usually result in viruses and I’m not glued to social media to catch all the codes. That really doesn’t matter. I earn swag bucks by doing my Walmart and Old Navy shopping thru them. If I need to order anything else online I check the site first to see if the store participates. I also do the simple daily poll (1 question). I used to do the search but it seems to take ages to earn with that now. There are all kinds of bloggers who can teach you ways to maximize this (or any other system like this). Just Google it. I’m dedicating this to getting some cool toys for WOW items using Amazon Gift cards. Plus Amazon has great “Add on” items in toys as well–if you spend X amount you can add great toy X for $X. That sort of thing. If you are a Prime member (I’m not) there are also super toy deals just for members.
- My monthly Kroger Pharmacy $2 coupon. I get one of these on the paperwork that accompanies a monthly prescription. I usually just toss it in with the grocery coupons, but this year I’m using it either for on-sale school supplies or a discount on a better toy, stuffed animal, soap or soap containers (see this post for the type food container I now buy for soap in some boxes).
- Canceled Netflix. I’ll buy myself one month to binge a show I like, but that basically pays the suggested $9 donation for 11 boxes.
Other Ways To Find or Save Money for Shoe boxes
- The blogs Simply Shoeboxes and Shoebox Shoppers have other tips–CVS points and Walgreens deals and all that sort of thing. Susan at Girls in White Dresses told me that Menards often has tools for older boy boxes (see yesterday’s post) for free or almost free with rebates. Remember to save pads of paper, pens, good sturdy bags, water bottles, free make-up bags and things you receive at conferences or events–they can at least be filer items when needed. Also save extra kids party favors (always, always as “extra” in a box, clothing your kid didn’t want (that is appropriate) and similar.
- Hold a garage sale or sell on Ebay or Facebook or Craig’s List and apply your earnings to your shoe box fund.
- Ask friends, co-workers, book club, etc to donate similar items or give you shoe boxes.
- Give up your Starbucks or after work beer with the guys or lunch out one day a week and put the money in a jar for shoe boxes.
- Make a meatless pancake dinner once a week instead of having fast food and put the money in a jar.
- Ask failed home sales people to donate APPROPRIATE Discovery Toys, Thirty-One bags or other appropriate products.
- Cancel the gym membership you never use or the over-price cable tv that you don’t need.
- Call Flo and see if you can reduce your car insurance.
- If money isn’t super tight look at the “You Saved X Much” on your grocery receipt and put that much cash away–you could easily buy in bulk with that!
- Transfer a prescription and use the amount saved on shoe box stuff.
- Apply all rebates earned to the shoe box fund.
- Dump your change in a jar for shoe box stuff–include any found in the washer!
- Say no to ridiculous birthday parties, bake a cake mix cake, and have kids bring pencils, sharpeners, crayons and notebooks instead of gifts.
- “Charge” admission to New Year’s or Super Bowl or 4th of July or whatever parties to be paid in shoe boxes, kids’s shirts, soap or whatever for shoe boxes.
- Sell or use gift cards you don’t want to buy shoe box stuff. Wal-mart buys cards.
- Say NO to one kid activity and put the cost in the shoe box fund. Remember to add the cost gas, uniform/shoes, supplies etc savings to the jar as well, if possible.
- Earn money doing online surveys and save the money (the blog Money Saving Mom has a list of safe, reputable companies who do this).
- Enter blog giveaways and do store surveys from your receipt to win gift cards to sell or use for shoe box supplies. Save any appropriate door prizes you win or, if cash or cards, use/sell for your shoe box fun.
- Have deposit on bottles in your state? Paid Recycling? Add that.
- Win at the Casino or lottery? Win at Bridge, Euchre or Mahjongg club? Pay a sin tax into your shoe box fund. Even a $2 pay out on a scratch off will increase the fund!
The Worst Items I Found In Shoe Boxes
- Candy-sized balls of homemade soap wrapped like candy. [Thrown away until we each discovered there was a label–it was that small.]
- A partial package of kid-sized sack race sacks.
- An item that was either a tube top or a very tight infinity scarf.
- A used party banner.
- A newborn sized Onesie (age 2 is the earliest). I put it in for a new baby.
- A lady’s size XL active wear skort. [I’m hoping this was an accident–like maybe she exercised in the shoe box room and hubby was helping wrap up the final boxes and stuffed it in….]
- Whoopee Cushion
- A dirty fly swatter
- Ziplock bag full of gift bag confetti
- Poo Emoji item [Some cultures have strict rules about “poo” and would not be amused at all]
- Three printed paper napkins of dubious vintage
- A tube-top style ladies top with one shoulder strap
- Box consuming, chunky hand knit winter scarves****
- Huge packs of bar soap**** (2 kids got boxes with barely more than a 6 pack of soap!)
- Swim goggles****
- Very used shoes (more in another post)
- Multiple packages of Band Aids****
- A box of just Happy Meal Toys****
- Wet Wipes
- Bath poof-scrubbies (which DO make fun toys, but have you tried to use one with BAR SOAP??) No one would associate them with bathing. Maybe with scrubbing pans.
The scarves might be nice in Siberia or in an European refugee camp, but please wrap them tightly in Saran Wrap or stuff them into a Ziplock bag and suck the air out thru a straw. No one really wants just a scarf. A few that I saw were HUGE. Swim goggles? Really? They may not have enough water locally to bathe daily. No one is in danger of chlorine irritating their eyes. First World Item. Leave it at home. I don’t care if they were two pairs for a 25 cents. Happy Meal toys–sigh. ONE is plenty. More than one in a box ONLY if they are a set. Remove the packaging. I’ll have more to say on these soon.
Please–hygiene items ARE very important. But send extra toothbrushes, not six bars of Zest! One, at most two, bars of soap is enough. A couple of Band-aides are fine, but give whole boxes of Band-Aides to medical missions. Most kids won’t know what they are.
PLEASE STOP SENDING KLEENEX, WET WIPES AND DEODORANT!!!
These are the Holy Trinity of First World Items and their use cannot be sustained. Plus all create trash which has nowhere to go. I cannot believe they are even suggested. Deodorant contains dangerous chemicals if a toddler eats it. Does your 3 year old wear it? I found some in a 2-4 year old box and several in age 5-9 year olds’ boxes. 14 year-olds in Burkina Faso or Suriname don’t use it. All three of these products are best donated to local food pantries, homeless shelters and/or domestic disaster relief.
Whenever possible REMOVE ALL PACKAGING
Do you want a child’s joy destroyed by maiming Barbie trying to yank her out of our absurd packaging? There is no garbage truck coming around to take this junk away. It also costs a lot of extra money to ship it. Remove it unless it provides storage for the product–a crayon box is a good example. Remember, you are not mailing these personally, so you are not subject to the whims of an individual customs examiner wanting to extort import duties! Packaging just adds expense to the shipping. If you are worried of it breaking (it won’t if it isn’t crap) then wrap it in a clothing item or washcloth or pack it in a storage container that can be reused. A well-packed box is too full for things to break!