I don’t know about you, but it seems like I’m always toting my kids to a birthday party. Buying all those gifts can be a real budget buster, and nobody wants to go into credit card debt trying to impress little kids—and their parents—with lavish gifts. Below are some tips to save hundreds of dollars every year on birthday party presents.

Check Your Budget

This will be harder for some of you than for others, but I promise if you stop worrying about what other people think, you will automatically save some serious cash. Focus on your own finances, and spend only what you can afford.

Plan Ahead

Make a list of upcoming birthdays and parties, and factor in several last-minute invitations you hadn’t counted on. Computer-savvy mommas can set up a spreadsheet, but notebook paper also works just fine. If you have gifts ahead of time, you’re likely to spend less on a last-minute present.

Stock Up

Stocking up on gifts saves money on gas because you aren’t running to the store every time you get a birthday party invitation. I also tend to spend more when my own kids are with me helping me to pick out a present for their friend. It’s so comforting to know you have a stockpile of gifts in a big plastic tub somewhere for any birthday party invitation that may come your kid’s way. What should you stock up on, you ask? Read on:

Know What a Kid Wants

Some classic, frugal gift ideas for kids of different ages include: stickers, crayons, sketch pads, baby dolls, Barbies, balls, puzzles, small cars, beads with string, lacing kits, Legos, tea sets, dinosaurs, Perler beads, DVDs and books.

Where to Find Deals

Look at thrift stores, garage sales, consignment shops and Craigslist.com because usually a kid doesn’t care if something is used as long as it is useful to them. For new items, check back-to-school sales, sales after school has been in session a couple of weeks and going-out-of-business sales (think of the huge book store that just folded and the savings that were to be had). There’s a large department store chain (hint: it has a bull’s-eye logo) that has great $1 stocking stuffer-type items year-round.

Get Crafty

The day after Thanksgiving I ventured out to our local huge craft store, armed with a 50 percent off coupon. I stocked up on about 20 sets of the following: 3 bottles of paint, a pack of paintbrushes, and 10 wooden magnets in different animal shapes. I spent about $5 per set and had the perfect rainy-day craft gift for just about any kid.

Card Trick

I haven’t bought a greeting card for a child in 10 years because they are expensive, and they just get thrown away (or recycled, as in my house). I used to make my own cards for kid parties, but then my own kids started wanting to do it. You can go old school and use construction paper, or have your kids make a card on the computer.

Wrap it Up

If you have gift bags lying around the house, use them up! I’ve been known to put birthday gifts in Christmas gift bags year-round and have never had a kid complain. Otherwise, you can wrap gifts in the Sunday comics section of the newspaper or have your kids decorate plain copy paper with markers, stickers and rubber stamps.

Kerrie McLoughlin has a blast raising her 5 kids on a budget. For more frugal living ideas, head to TheKerrieShow.com.