Kids' Christmas Gifts on Less

When I was growing up, I had no idea that my family was poor. Extremely poor. Scrape-together-enough-money-for-necessities poor. We lived in a nice enough house. We always had food to eat. And we never felt deprived of fun toys. You all know the story about how my mother made ends meet and got out of poverty, but I haven't talked a lot about how my magical childhood filled with toys was possible. In the spirit of the holiday season, let me elaborate on how my mom made the Christmas magic happen on less.

Shop Cheap

Mom's Deal: Every year, my mother would hit the garage sales. She scoured the sales throughout the year for the best and brightest toys, hand picking the newest-looking or most desired toys for pennies on the dollar. She found countless unopened toys or toys that were barely used at all. Since my siblings and I were young (and didn't get cable TV with all the gotta-have-it toy commercials), we didn't have many burning desires for specific toys, and opening any present was a wonderful surprise.

Your Take: Although it's a little late this year to hit the garage sales, there's still a little time left this year to make the pennies stretch. Anyone looking to save a buck on toys this year can still hit up Craigslist, E-bay or online garage sale sites for cheap but great gifts. Also, thrift stores can be a great place to find some good deals. One warning: clean everything really well with bleach and pass on the really grimy stuff.

Ask for Help

Mom's Deal: Although my mom did a great job finding excellent, barely-used toys at sales, there was always a gift or two that landed on the must-have-brand-new list. For these gifts, my mother would enlist the help of family. Thankfully, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and even close friends were dying to buy the gifts that could light up us kiddos' eyes.

Your Take: If you're strapped for cash, let family be the gift heroes to the munchkins. I guarantee, when you're back on your feet, there will be plenty of time to spoil the kids yourself. There are also a ton of great programs that can help provide a memorable Christmas for the little ones. Check in with your local Department of Human Services for a list of organizations that may be able to provide anything from a holiday meal to gifts to necessities during your time of need.

Pay it Forward

Mom's Deal: Every year, the sibs and I would clean out the toy box. We'd set aside toys that we no longer needed, most of which we had simply outgrown. Then we'd get to play Santa to other kids in the same situation as us, donating our toys to the local Goodwill. Mom told us that by giving, we'd make room for new toys...and we'd make another kid's holiday super-special by paying forward our own good fortune.

Your Take: Take the time to help the kids donate. You, too, can pay forward your own good fortune. In today's world, you can even take advantage of cyberspace and post the toys for donation on a “Pay it Forward” Facebook page or website; these sites can get your name and gift needs out there. Once your donations are made, other families can then donate to you in turn.

The holiday season is magical for so many reasons, and celebrations are not limited to gift giving. But as a child, gifts often do play a large role in sharing the excitement. Therefore, when the cash cow is a little lean during the holidays, you can always play Santa with a little help from gently used items, family generosity, and a Pay it Forward mentality.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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Anonymous's picture

Miss T wrote:

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 20:37 Comment #: 1

I love these especially the pay it forward one. What a great example to set for kids and teach them how to give.

Anonymous's picture

AverageJoe wrote:

Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:52 Comment #: 2

Wow. The pay it forward advice is my favorite of all. My kids have too much stuff. I love having them gift part of what they already own. Sweet idea.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 15:00 Comment #: 3

Miss T and Average Joe, paying it forward really does help clear out the clutter and make another chid's holiday really special!

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