Happy Holidays

Gift Giving on a Poor Man’s Budget

Like it or not, Christmas is here and, if you’ve not already dealt with the issue, you’re going to have to figure out what to do about gift-giving. The act of giving is an important part of our annual traditions and nearly everyone has to deal with it to some extent. For those with little or no extra spending cash, Christmas may seem like a burden they’d rather forget. The thing to remember is that it’s not the amount of money you spend on a gift that matters. It really is the thought behind your gifts that count to most people.

If you have kids, they are your biggest concern right now. Kids, especially little ones, don’t understand small budgets and bank accounts. They just know that Santa brings toys and they want to get in on the action. It never hurts to talk to your kids about expectations, but you can talk until you are blue in the face and I assure you, they are still going to expect Santa to unload his sleigh beneath their tree.

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If you need to play Santa on a budget, the first thing you should buy, if you plan to do so, is that one “must have” toy at the top of your child’s list. If you can find your way to buying the big request you don’t have much to worry about. But what if you just can’t swing it? You can still make sure Santa isn’t a complete Scrooge.

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Start by making a visit to your local Goodwill or other thrift stores.  Ideally, you should be Christmas shopping all through the year. That’s the best way to score thrift shop buys. I have had good luck finding new and factory sealed games and puzzles plus new craft items, clothing with tags still attached, and nice housewares often in original boxes, when shopping month to month. But if it’s the day before Christmas and you’re empty handed, you’re going to need to step things up a bit! Thrift store workers are adding new items to the shelves all the time and you should be able to score some nice toys at low prices.

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If you can’t find those much sought after, still-sealed boxes, go ahead and buy used items, just make sure things have all their parts and pieces. You should be able to find dolls, stuffed animals, plastic play sets, blocks, games, puzzles, trucks and cars, books and more. Kids, especially small ones, don’t really care what their gifts are. They just want a lot of them. If you pack the underneath of your tree with colorful, wrapped boxes tied with pretty ribbons, Christmas will be a hit. They won’t care that their presents are secondhand. It might play right into the Santa story anyway, if Santa has his own packaging that doesn’t come from a store.

For teens you can shop the thrift store clothing racks. Look for new or gently worn t-shirts, hoodies and jeans. Look for pajamas, coats and ugly Christmas sweaters. I often find purses and backpacks in excellent condition. Video games and DVD’s can also be found. Girls might like some of the jewelry that is often kept in a display case. Prices are rarely high though, even on the display case items, so be sure to ask about anything that interests you.

Another option is to get together with friends and coworkers and do a toy trade. Gather up some of the toys that your kids have outgrown and no longer play with and trade them to your other cash-strapped friends for toys that their children have likewise outgrown. You just might be able to knock out a good part of your list this way.

If you can’t score everything you need at the Goodwill or through a trade, make your next stop at one of the many dollar stores. Don’t get me wrong, I hate dollar stores that seem to be popping up on every corner in every town in America. They are filled with cheap imported junk that is lucky to work when new and unlikely to last for long after. But for last minute emergency gifts, well, it’s  the place to go.Dollar stores are good for cheap coloring books, crayons, stickers, card games, and even larger toys. Stick to the basics and avoid toys with moving parts that are likely to be faulty. Teens might like gel pens, journals, sketch books, hair accessories, pocket calendars, and nail polish. Everyone will go for candy and other treats.

If after doing your best your still worried that it isn’t enough, make a Christmas plan. Don’t spend all day letting the kids go through their gifts. Instead, make it a fun family day. Get out and go sled riding. Take a winter hike in a local park. Or stay at home but get everyone involved playing board games all day. Bake cut out cookies and decorate them. Do things you wouldn’t normally do together. Put the emphasis on family fun.

For those people you can’t give a secondhand gift to, get to work! If you don’t have cash to spend you can always spend your time and talents instead and make something yourself. Knit some quick potholders or sew some up from leftover fabrics. Make some small ornaments from beads, buttons or seashells gathered at the beach. Glue them together with rhinestones and baubles to make angels or stars for the Christmas tree. Ornaments can also be made from empty thread spools, cookie cutters, pine cones, or even heavy paper.

Decorate an inexpensive photo album and fill it with old family photos or new pictures of you and a friend.

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Bake a batch of cookies and package them up in jars or pretty boxes with tissue paper and ribbon. Or stir up some fudge or Rice Krispie treats ot loaves of pumpkin or banana nut bread.

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Put ingredients together in quart sized jars to make cookie or soup mixes. Body scrubs can also be made and packaged in small jars. Recipes can be found on-line. Decorate the jars with bits of leftover fabric and write your own instructions onto pretty paper that gets tied to the jar with matching ribbon or string. Use the plain backside of a pretty Christmas card.

If wrapping paper can’t be found in your closet, make your own. Small gifts can be wrapped with aluminum foil. Or use brown paper cut from shopping bags. If it’s too wrinkled and creased you can always iron it. Or cut an old rag-bag-ready shirt and wrap your gift with the fabric. Cut strips of fabric to make decorative ties or close it with a big safety pin decorated with some pretty beads. Make flower bows from newspaper. Make your own gift boxes by turning an empty cereal box wrong side out and decorating it with stickers, markers, or even glued on buttons. Or leave it natural brown and add a big ribbon. Make Christmas tags from last year’s used Christmas cards.You can find instructions for all kinds of projects on the internet.

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There are not many hours left. Get ready, get set, and go!

 

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