Somewhere out there I know there’s a mother or father who is feeling guilty this Christmas season. There are lots of reasons for feeling guilty around the holidays. “I can’t afford to buy my kids exactly what they want,” and “I bought my kids exactly what they want and I can’t afford it” are two of the most popular guiltfests.
As usual, I’m willing to expose myself and our way-of-life to make you feel better (whether it makes you feel rich or like at you have a sister frugal friend) and remember it’s not too late to return that ridiculously expensive X-Box 360.
This year, most of what my kids are getting is used. Actually, that’s true of every year. I can afford to get them more of what they want if I buy it on Craig’s List. Last year I scored a Nintendo Wii for $100!
Ainsley is getting: fabulous Columbia winter coat with matching gloves, $20; gorgeous lavender formal dress, $5; several books, all used; several pairs of really nice expensive brand shoes, all used; a brand new pair of boots, $20; a brand new pair of monkey pajamas and a very nice digital camera I got on Amazon’s Black Friday sale.
Zack is getting: an awesome new yellow and black bike, $25 used; a Ninendo DS w/ 3 games, used $55; several pairs of expensive brand shoes, all used; five pairs of Old Navy jeans, new $10 each; several books, all used; shirts and pants, used; and a brand new pair of monkey pajamas.
They will share the year’s worth of canvas and art paper I scored at Michael’s Black Friday Sale.
We could spend all our money on lavish gifts for our kids. But, we have other financial goals that we want to keep knocking out as 2011 closes and 2012 revs up: pay off our cars, eliminate credit card debt and save for a vacation. We’ve been there and done that and realized there’s no joy in Christmas if we’re still paying it off next September.
So, if it seems like everyone in the world is spending $1,000 on their kids this Christmas, except you. They aren’t.
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Due to previous years of party exhaustion we have instituted Extended Family Christmas on Christmas Eve.
We did stockings and presents for the children.
My mother-in-law – always beautifully sentimental – handed down her mother, grandmother’s and her own China. There was a set for each daughter-in-law to be handed down to our daughter(s).
Christmas morning was perfection.
Crossing traditional gender-lines, Zack got his own baby doll so he won’t have to borrow his sister’s and a cooking set and Bonnie Bell lip gloss (it tastes good and Ainsley wants him to stop stealing hers). I theorize that it’s just as fundamental for boys to practice being nurturing caretakers, exceptional fathers and competent homemakers as it is for girls to practice being maternal. He loves them. Oh don’t worry, he still received loads of trucks, tractors, animals, and dinosaurs which boys traditionally get and he loves those too.
By the same token, I was excited to give Ainsley the giant set of Tinker Toys to encourage development of engineering and inventive skills.
Everyone in our house got ipods or mp3 players. It was fun to reflect on getting a Walkman when I was a kid. How cool was that?
It’s fascinating to see how many of the new toys come with interactive Internet components.
Webkinz and Precious Girls Club toys and products both come with secret codes for websites where they can play learning games and practice earning and spending money and points. They can interact online with each other if they know each other’s sign-in code. I was thrilled to hear that the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood was effective in getting outside advertising OFF of webkinz.com. I wasn’t even aware that it was on there and I’d been allowing Ainsley to play on Webkinz.com for months. It’s hard enough to approve the original content without worrying about approving of and supervising outside advertising.
Two of Ainsley’s friends got Nintendo DS and they can text each other from the video game. It’s a brave new world. Parents have to try hard to keep up.
Tell me what your family got excited about for Christmas.
So let’s talk about stuff. Presents. Gifts under the tree.
Santa is bringing Mp3 players. Ainsley is getting an ipod Shuffle. New. She’s getting the one from the Product (Red) Campaign so part of the proceeds went to Aids medication in Africa. Zack is getting one that looks like those old Fisher Price tape players that he can carry around and work himself.
If you spend 2 years dedicatedly writing about girls there comes with it a perk or two. I held the perks back for Christmas morning.
A Genuine Thank you to every company who helps support this website and every company who makes products appropriate for girls.
Sure, it’s easy to be frugal when people send you free stuff right?
Absolutely true. But, it’s also easy to be frugal when they don’t.
Quite a few of the other items under our tree are from thrift stores and garage sales and I feel just as good about those.
I scored Ainsley this giant set of Tinker Toys for $1.50. It’s value on Amazon is $199.
Zack is getting this real cowboy hat, retail value $40. I paid $2 and it’s never been worn.
I paid $1 for this brand new Melissa & Doug farm animal puzzle. Retail value, $9.99.
I’m especially excited about this Thomas Travel Tote, retail $21.99.
It’s FULL of trains that retail $10 to $25 each. There’s a little wear on some of the trains – a boy before him loved them much. He’s 2, he doesn’t care. I paid $3 for the whole set!
And let’s not forget there’s a $5 bike. He’s gonna love it!
If we paid retail value for all this stuff we’d be paying our credit cards off until 2020. That is not going to bring joy to our family or the world.
It’s Christmas Eve and it’s a little late to change your Christmas strategy now. Except Christmas comes every. single. year. on. the. exact. same. day.
Now – this year – is the perfect time to gently announce that you’re not going to give individual gifts to the extended family, but you’d be willing to do white elephants or draw names between adult siblings’ families next year.
Now. While their blood pressure is souring after spending too much money on gifts for you and yours. While they’re worrying about the credit card bill that’s going to come in 3 weeks.
I’m gonna tell you it feels delicious to start the New Year with a clean slate instead of behind on the bills. THAT is priceless.
Because it takes a few months and some planning to find these perfect gems at garage sales, now is the right time to decide that next year – next Christmas is going Meaningfully Frugal.
If you find Christmas depressing you are not doing it right. (You spent money you don’t have on people you don’t like – stop that.)
Make spreading JOY your Christmas Tradition and you will find yourself and your family feeling . . . well, Joyous.
Don’t believe the ads and marketing – spreading Cheer costs virtually nothing, though it is priceless.
There’s still plenty of time to spread some Jolly around.
Have you been to a nursing home lately?
It’s a sad, depressing place. Until YOU brought your children with their smiling faces and did a little dance or sang a sweet song. You don’t need an invitation or a reservation – any nursing home in the country will welcome a smiling family with 30 minutes to say Merry Christmas or sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
My mother-in-law produces a Grandkid Christmas Pageant every year. Every kid gets to learn a part and participate. We took the show to a Nursing Home to spread some Christmas Joy this year.
Making your neighborhood safer with Christmas Cheer is a wise investment.
We let Ainsley play outside with her friends unsupervised. I know it’s a very old-fashioned thing to do. But, we do it for 4 great reasons -
1. We believe she can handle herself and every little bit of experience in handling herself in the neighborhood without supervision makes her better at handling herself.
2. We do not parent out of fear. We teach courage and parents have to go first.
3. We still believe in the overall goodness of human beings like our neighbors.
4. It makes her happy.
To make our neighborhood safer we go out into it and knock on doors and introduce ourselves. We delivered Christmas candles to spread Christmas Cheer. Zack, to his eternal remorse is not allowed out alone yet, but within the next few years he will be and twice this year the neighbors have brought him back after he escaped.
Knock. Knock. Hi, we’re Tracee and Jeremy and these are our children. Perhaps you see them playing in the street, riding their bikes, hanging out with their friends. We sure do appreciate you looking out for them and helping them stay out of trouble. We’re so happy we live in a safe neighborhood where people look out for each other’s children.
This actually cost me nothing. See, my mother’s neighborhood does this and she has been saving up the Christmas Candles delivered to her house for years. She’s allergic to the scents and could not use them. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Very frugal neighborhood gifts that you might try include Christmas cookies, cocoa, fresh baked bread, banana bread, candy canes, ornaments from thrift stores, etc. Do whatever is easiest for you.
Christmas Caroling to the town’s shut-ins.
Anonymously leave money for someone (in front of your kids).
Clear out toys and clothes we’ve outgrown to give to a family whose house burned down.
Light the Advent Candles as a family at church. Ainsley read a very long recitation and prayer perfectly.
Ainsley’s two grandmothers, eh hem I mean two sets of grandparents, pooled their Christmas dollar to get Ainsley a realAmerican Girl Doll.
Doesn’t Kit Kittridge look just like her?
It might just be an absurd amount of money to spend on a doll.
But, its like when my husband was researching our next phone plan and he kept trying to tell my father-in-law and I about other phones and all the “even better” deals and features.
But we want IPhones. We said.
It would be just like the time when we got a new computer that we could afford and it was a small PC. I hated it every time I used it. It was frustrating and annoying.
Yet, my used Macbook Pro makes my heart sing every single time I touch its keys.
The American Girl Doll is like that. It makes her happy every time she looks at it, holds it and thinks about it. Are there cheaper dolls? Sure. Dolls that pee and some you can take in the tub? Yeah. Could we get a knock off that look exactly the same for 1/2 the price? You bet. But, it is not the same. It’s not. No, it’s really not. You can say it is. You can try to convince her and yourself that it is. But, it’s still not.
She got it early. So NaNa could be there to see her face when she opened it. Unfortunately, my mother lives in Utah.
It’s a big deal - they don’t indulge her like this every year.
If you pop out an early gift it’s a bigger deal than one which gets swamped under the avalanche of other gifts from everyone on Christmas Day.
Also, I didn’t want that American Girl upstaging us and Santa.
The moral of the story?
* Sometimes the brand matters. Even a used or reconditioned one of exactly what we want is better than another brand on certain items. Factor in resell value.
* Pool money between relatives for THE thing.
* Don’t upstage each other’s gifts. Sometimes that means an early present is appropriate. The child really gets a lot more enjoyment out of an early present.
Oh, and if you’re sucking in anxiety this year sit down and count out all the other people who will be giving to your children. I count this as a frugal tip because it costs me nothing but mediation between two sets of grandparents.