The Life Your Way peeps have started their 101 days of Christmas series. We’re still wearing shorts and tank tops and running around barefoot here, so Christmas is the last thing on my mind. But if you’re one of those people who plans all year for Christmas, you’re probably well into preparations for this holiday season.
Our plan for this Christmas is to take our boys to the museum of natural history. There’s a good planetarium and IMAX theater there, and we’ll make a day of it. We’ll go on the weekend before or after Christmas, and we’ve already talked to our older son about this (the one-year-old doesn’t care one way or the other). Our four-year-old knows that he’ll probably get some presents from his Grandma and Grandpa, but instead of presents from us, we’re going to have an awesome day at the museum and lunch or dinner out in the big city. Much more exciting than a toy, and he’s excited about it. We’ve decided to start early with the experiences-as-gifts idea so that our boys get used to getting little trips and adventures instead of physical gifts on their birthdays and at Christmas. Hopefully they will grow up with lots of happy holiday memories!
But what if you’d really rather stick with physical gifts for the holidays? Can you do it on a tight budget? Like a budget so tight that December’s spending doesn’t really look much different from the rest of the year? I say yes, especially if you make liberal use of homemade and secondhand gifts. I can hear your groans and eye rolls (they make a special noise to which we bloggers are very attuned), but bear with me.
I’m planning to make some of these for some of my girlfriends. I love them! I would be thrilled to receive one, and I have tons and tons of scrapbook paper that needs to be put to good use. I’m going to spend a few dollars ordering supplies – I haven’t figured out the per-necklace price yet, but I think it’s going to be pretty low. I’ll be sure to post pictures when they’re all done, so stay tuned.
Food is always good. If you’re a good cook, make food for people and package it up all pretty. Buy the ingredients in bulk and make lots of the same thing to give out to everyone – keep it simple and it won’t be a huge chore.
And of course, my favorite: secondhand. I was at Goodwill last weekend and it happened to be their half off day, plus 99 cent jeans day. I didn’t know that before we went, but I realized when I showed up to a full parking lot that it must be sale day. My boys and I braved the crowd and spent about an hour browsing around. We went to the store looking for a fireman’s hat for our son and jeans for him (he’s outgrown last year’s pants and winter will be here before we know it). So it was a lucky coincidence that jeans were 99 cents. Here’s what we got, for a total of $30:
Three pairs of jeans for our son (two for this year, one for next year) and a pair of warm up pants that look brand new. The jeans are Levis and Children’s Place, with very little wear.
We also found a sweet fireman’s hat (always awesome to get just what you’re looking for at a thrift store!).
The coat is too big for him now, but it’s really nice and will fit him in a couple seasons, so it’s stashed in his closet (we keep his wardrobe pretty minimal, so there’s plenty of room in his closet for extras like Halloween costumes and coats).
The shark costume is for our baby – it’s adorable. We have hand-me-downs for him for when he’s 2 and 3, but we didn’t do anything for Halloween when our older son was one (he didn’t care, and neither did we). Since our older son will be dressed as Spiderman this year (garage sale costume, one dollar), I figured we should go ahead and dress up the little guy as well. It will make for good pictures, and a total of four dollars for two costumes is ok with me. The little shoes in the picture are Merrells. They should fit our baby in about a year. I don’t buy much in the way of clothes or shoes for him, since we have hand-me-downs from his brother. But these were really nice, and cost two dollars on half-price day.
The book of crossword puzzles is for my dad, who does two or three of those every day.
The blocks that form an arch in the bottom right corner are just awesome. Our older son has been having all sorts of fun with them, and is fascinated with the strength of an arch.
The two shirts are for me (I got rid of a couple old ones from my closet to make room for them). The jeans were for me, but they don’t quite fit so my mom gets them. 99 cents for sweet Levis – hard to beat that deal.
The bathroom soap dispenser and toothbrush jar are for our basement guest bathroom. They still have their original price tags on them ($20 each) and I got them for a dollar each.
The wallet is Fossil, and very nice. If you’re not familiar with that brand, go see what they cost. Now compare that with the two dollars that I spent.
On another trip a while ago, I found this bag:
It was three dollars. Love the embroidered flowers on soft corduroy!
Keeping in mind that everything in the top picture was $30 total, and the bag was an extra $3, a lot of this would make great gifts. The arch blocks came in their original packaging. The wallet and bag are awesome. The soap dispenser and cup are $40 worth of bathroom décor. The book of 500 crossword puzzles is hardback – a perfect gift for someone who likes crosswords.
I got this cool wooden building set a few months ago for three dollars and our son loves it. It would make a perfect gift. It came in a ziplock baggie, but we just repurposed a K’Nex box to hold them. Three dollars plus the cost of a storage bin (or make your own!) is pretty good for such a great toy.
Speaking of K’Nex, I’ve got a bin that’s 18 inches by 9 inches by 7 inches, and it’s full to the brim:
I’ve accumulated this collection over the last few months, buying three different boxes of K’Nex at Goodwill and combining them into one bin. I spent a total of $10 for the K’Nex, and $2 for the bin. They are stored in the top of our son’s closet for now, and we’ll probably give them to him next year (we sold the dresser we were using to store things for the future, and moved the stuff to the top of his closet instead). If you have a kiddo who’s into stuff like K’Nex, this would be a pretty sweet gift, with a pretty minimal pricetag. I probably could have stopped at one set, but the second two sets I found were huge and had cool things like wheels and geared motors.
Anyway, keep this in mind if you want to buy physical gifts for people this year. Buying secondhand is better for the earth and way better for your wallet (especially if you happen to find a sweet wallet for two dollars…). Check out thrift stores and garage sales in the nicest parts of town, and don’t forget about Craigslist!
If you’re looking for something specific on Black Friday 2012, you might need to look beyond the secondhand market (unless you’re looking for a fireman’s hat, in which case Goodwill might just deliver). Just make sure it’s not an impulse buy, research prices and reviews online, and use a coupon if possible.
Another of my favorite gifts options is giving to charities that are important to my friends and family. Giving Tuesday is an excellent idea, and a great way to give gifts that are truly life-changing and won’t be returned in January.
Ok, we now return to very warm weather and the wading pool that I just filled up on the patio for the boys. But if you love giving presents at Christmas time – and especially if you have a lot of people on your gift list – now’s a good time to start thinking of ways to make your Christmas season be joyful and fun, without any strain on your budget at all.
This post is brought to you by Nerd Wallet. All opinions (and awesome thrift store scores!) are my own.