—By Tori Rotter, Creator, Little + Free
As we wind down from Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday madness and start really thinking about the giftable holidays, it can become a stressful time financially. This can be especially true if you have young kids (or really any kids) that don’t understand the financial impact of the holiday season. And if your kids believe in Santa, it can be even harder to make excuses for a lighter Christmas.
To help any parent that might be struggling with this, I’ve compiled my best tips for navigating the holidays when money is tight.
Turn several small gifts into a bigger gift
Something that is incredibly popular in my house right now are the LOL surprise dolls/accessories. While their products are really cute, I think the thing my daughter likes most about them is getting to open surprise after surprise. A much cheaper way to accomplish that same excitement is to buy a bunch of small toys/candies/trinkets (these could be from your local discount store) and slowly twirl the first into tissue paper, followed by another, etc. This gives the fun experience of discovering gift after gift, and being surprised each time. You can also accomplish this with the more commonly known box-inside-a-box trick, but either way you’re building their excitement and appreciation for each toy.
Ask family/friends to pool together money to buy a larger gift (rather than gifting on their own)
Most children have that one bigger gift they really want every year, and you’ve heard them talk about it over and over. When that something falls outside of the budget, asking family and friends (that you know will give your child a gift) to contribute to the larger gift can take some of the financial weight off that item. Family and friends can then gift your child a much smaller gift (think stickers, a treat, or a book) if they choose (and in my experience your child will still be equally as appreciative).
Separate things that go together
This is really one of my favorite tricks. It can sometimes take a little crafting (depending on how “attached” items are), but this is the absolute easiest way to turn one present into two (or more). To give a few examples, I do this with coloring books that come with crayons/markers, dolls that come with accessories, and stuffed animals that come in pairs. As mentioned, if splitting the item involves a lot of packaging removal you must get creative with the repackaging. But ultimately your child will have more presents to unwrap and feel excited about their matching components.
Social media groups and marketplaces
For the savvy online user, this one may be obvious, but I recently found out how many new (or almost new) items people are practically giving away in various local social media groups or marketplaces. This one can take some planning and consistent checking, but the payoff can be huge! This can also vary by area, but the larger social media platforms have active marketplaces almost everywhere.
Repurpose older toys
This one is especially helpful if you have multiple children. From personal experience I can say that my older daughter almost always has a few things that somehow just don’t get played with (or that she perhaps never really liked in the first place). I keep and eye out for her engagement with each item and if I happen to notice some apathy, I try to store it away while it’s still in great condition. These items have become amazing toys for my younger daughter. The best part about this tactic, is that my older daughter rarely remembers having the item, and on the off chance she does, I simply say I got a new one for the baby because she loved hers at that age. This has also become a great way to reduce waste and make sure their toys are being fully appreciated and used.
Let go of the guilt
While this may be last on the list, it’s truly the most important. Parenting is so tough and has been especially rough the past few years given the struggles. It might sound cliché, but as parents, what we are doing is enough. Many years from now, your children won’t remember an expensive toy. They will remember the holiday traditions and love how they felt around the season. If your budget doesn’t allow for gifting, focus on reminding your kids what the season is about. Make cookies, tell stories, decorate the house, and remember that spending time with you is probably what they want most.