Christmas is coming…

The goose is getting fat! Please put a penny in the old mans hat! Wait, now I have to give pennies to the old man too?! I’m out of freaking pennies!

Do you often feel like the holiday’s are more of a financial burden than an enjoyable time? I think in this economy we are starting to feel the full wrath during times like birthday and holidays. So as parents we need to sit down and ask ourselves, where do we draw the financial line. This year is going to be especially hard for my family in particular. We’ve been effected just as bad as any other family and we’ve had to make many cuts where we can. This year we have two kids for Christmas and that makes it tight. Not only that, this is the first Christmas since my marriage in 2007 that I will be spending Christmas with my husband in the state! I’m so excited! So of course we want to be able to “go all out” for Christmas, however, I just don’t know how to financially make it happen.

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As a mom I want nothing more than for my kids to open a thousand gifts on Christmas morning! However, the bank account doesn’t agree with that. So this year I had a new challenge as a mom, not only finding the perfect gift, but doing it on a budget. For our daughter, who will be six months old this Christmas, we faced the ultimate question, to buy or not to buy. We’ve heard both sides of the coin, ‘ she’s 6 months, she’ll never know nor remember this Christmas ‘… ‘ it’s her first Christmas, she needs something’. As a parent I would love to give her the world, however, she is honestly 6 months old. For my daughter we decided to go super simple. She got a four pack of teething/rattle type toys. I took each toy out and wrapped them separately. She will get four little packages to attempt to unwrap this year and I spent a total of $10 on her.

My son however, was a different story. We kept a $50 budget for my son. Now before I get the you’re playing favorites haters on my back, realize this. My son is 2 and although he won’t remember this Christmas either, there are things about it he will remember and toys he’ll hopefully hold on to for years to come (and let’s be honest folks, $50 really isn’t that much). I made sure to watch sales and get him gifts I felt he could enjoy for time. I’m not a huge fan of battery toys so we tried to stay away from them. He got a holder for his small cars, he got a lego table (a portable one), he got a harmonic (he loves music) and a handful of other small things. I loved me some Target $5 holiday gifts! His “big” gift was a Leap Frog Tag Junior reading system. It was on half off one afternoon at Target so I bought it. I spent a whopping $15 on it. Our son, as mentioned before, has speech issues, so this was a purchase in hopes to help encourage him to start talking and interacting with words better.

If you’re looking for some ideas for last minute gifts or gifts that are less expensive but could be equally as enjoyable as the “BIG” fancy toys try some of these:

– Most department stores will have $5 or $10 toy sections around the holiday times, check there!

-Games, for younger kids, memory is great and simple, for older kids, some classic favorites like Sorry! are enjoyable. Since they are less exciting games, they are typically less expensive

-Freecycle and Cragislist are great places also! Chance are your kids are going to wear on their toys while they play, so why not invest in some already gently used toys? Is your two year old going to know that this was someone else truck? likely not. Also ask friends if there are any toys their children are outgrowing that they are parting with. Garage sales are another great option.

-Hand made gifts, knitted hats and scarves are making a huge comeback this year, does mom need a hobby!? Hand made picture books are a great idea also, make a picture book following the story of your kiddos life so far. Nothing too over the top, but simple, even if they don’t enjoy it now, they’ll appreciate it later! Blankets or soft animals are also great homemade items.

Also consider buying toys through out the year. Rather than trying to go Christmas shopping in only December and then in turn making that month super financially tight, watch sales, clearance items and clip coupons. Even though you’ll still spend the same amount of money as you would in December it”ll be spread over 12 months and in turn  make it much easier to afford. I have gotten some of my best deals right after Christmas because all those extra toys the box stores stocked up on don’t have room to be held until sold! 🙂 It will also give you time to shop around for the best prices if it is a big ticket item you’re after.

And above all, remember, gifts aren’t the only reason for the season 😉 Sometimes it’s just nice to take it back old school, even if you have no religious preference, make gifts for your family to give to others rather then giving to themselves. That reward can often be worth more than all the toys in the world!