Ahhhhh, November. Parents everywhere are packing their little one’s costumes away, raking blankets of crispy leaves into neat, brightly colored mounds, and beginning to think about the winter holidays.
In previous years, just the thought of the holidays was enough to send me into a stress-induced panic. Historically, buying gifts for two children, as well as for an ever-growing list of family and friends, has proven costly. When you add in costs associated with hosting family and friends, holiday attire, and travel, you’re looking at a significant expense.
About two years ago, I heard a friend talking about her family’s “frugal Christmas.” It involved buying her children something from four categories: something they wanted, something they needed, something to wear, and something to read. The idea struck me as brilliant.
At the time, my children had boxes upon boxes of lonely toys sitting in the basement. From birthday gifts, to previous Christmas loot, to gifts from relatives “just because,” we certainly had our share of trains, dolls, and shape-sorters. My husband and I discussed my friend’s idea, and concluded that our own “frugal Christmas” would be a great way to control the influx of “kid stuff” to our home, as well as limit spending. Like many other middle-income families, we aren’t exactly rolling in the dough.
I should probably mention that my family and I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. Instead, we observe it as a day to be together, to reflect upon, and express gratitude for each other, and for all the other, wonderful things in our lives. Although our children are small (ages one and three), we also take the time of year as an opportunity to teach, and show them how we can help others.
Last year was our first attempt at a “frugal Christmas.” Overall, we saved a substantial amount of money, and our children were happy. The look of wonder in our daughter’s eyes as she came downstairs on Christmas morning is a picture I’ll carry with me always.
I’ll be completely honest, though: Our frugal Christmas wasn’t without a smidgen of guilt-guilt, I presume, for not buying the children lots o’ stuff. I’m hopeful the guilt will lessen over time, because if we’re being honest about young children, they don’t need much to have a good time.
My children have a grand time “making soup” from the bowls and utensils in our tupperware cabinet. They spend hours upon hours of gleeful, giggle-filled hours climbing into, and crawling out of cardboard diaper boxes. My children have even been known to play with take-out bags from Chipotle (please see exhibit A above). They will survive without having the newest gadget, doll, or action figure.
This year, we’re making a few additions to our frugal Christmas. First, my husband I will be making something for our children (a felt board). Wish us luck, as neither of us has used a staple gun before. And second, since our daughter is becoming more aware of the world around her, we will be asking her to look through her clothes and toys for nice items to donate to a child who may want/need them.
While we could certainly be more minimal with our Christmas, the “want, need, wear, read” method of gift-giving works for us at this time in our lives. My family and I are creating our own tradition, and I love it. It’s also great to know I won’t have a giant credit card bill after the holidays!
Now I’m curious: How does your family manage the costs associated with the holidays?