Avoid the temptation to go online and spend a lot of money on the hot toys your kids are clamoring for. All these toys will be available in January for their retail price.
I've been told by one confirmed conformist that "Children will feel unloved if they get gifts that aren't new." It is not true! Depending on the messages you've given them before, your family just might be delighted to get quality previously-loved items that A) aren't missing any essential parts, and B) are chosen to appeal to the interests or taste of the recipient.
If your hubby has been eagerly awaiting the next Tom Clancy novel, chances are he will thoroughly appreciate a gift of second hand TC novels that he somehow missed along the way. Make a list of what's on the shelf at home, go to a used book store, and buy the titles that your favorite fan doesn't already own.
Does your daughter yearn for a sweater in a particular style and color? Check out the thrift shops until you find one that someone else got tired of or outgrew. Sometimes you can find like-new items with the designer lables, and other times you can find some with minimal wear that have all the appeal of the trendy one.
If pre-washed jeans are on some one's wish list, you are all set -- just find a pair in the right size and style with requisite amount of fading, and you'll make someone very happy.
On the other hand, if it is really the lable that is wanted, not the look or the style, then get the recipient a lable. Maybe you can buy them new somewhere, or maybe you can make a friend at the charity trift store and ask her to save you designer lables from irreparable items. Make a donation to the charity for the lables you get, and put them in the stocking of the lable lover. I'd let the recipient decide if that is a sweet reward or a "lump of coal."
There are even nice toys available in thrift shops and tag sales. In some households, children are urged to thin out their collection of toys to make room for the new gifts, and a few of those much-loved toys are sold or donated, and still in fair to new condition. Once, I knew I'd gotten a construction set that would please my son, because after an hour, the young lad who sold it to me came hunting for me and offered to buy it back. If my budget were not so tight, I would have let compassion have the upper hand, but I knew it would be a long time before I could find such a cool toy I could afford.
For most of the other gifts I give each year, I either make them by hand or I find items on clearance in various stores.
The handmades are very popular with the spoiled rich relatives! Yes, all the price and fashion conscious people I've given handmade gifts have thanked me effusively, with comments like, "you just can't buy anything this nice." I DO carefully select the projects I do, and I do craft them with professional care and consistency. I usually make a group of related items, and allow the recipient to choose from three or more.
As for the items bought on clearance, I remove the sales stickers, and I give them to people who really like those kind of items, often wrapped with a few related items that may have been on clearance as well.
If you are really broke, then find gifts to give from among your own possessions. One year, my mother gave me a fake fur coat she knew I admired. A few years later,in college, I was given a coat the giver revealed had been her first major purchase from her first real job. Not only were these practical items, they bonded me with the givers. In each case, they cost more than money, and they were bestowed with affection and honor. No king could give a better gift. I have from time to time given my children items they knew I still valued, rather than not have one really nice gift to wrap.
There are also the service gifts. Your mother in law would probably be deeply touched by a coupon promising spend quality time with her, or to help her with a chore she finds difficult or depressing. Your own mother would appreciate the same kind of offers. Your spouse would probably be thrilled if you gave him/her a luxurious foot massage or neck rub after a hard day of work. Your children would treasure a year of coupons to spend playing with them outdoors, to build a snow man in January, to deliver valentines together in February, to fly kites in March.
Some of the best gifts are not bought for large sums of money. The most important gifts come more from the heart than the pocketbook.
A site I really like is http://www.ParentsBestToys.com
The site doesn't sell toys - it only lists toys that are reviewed and rated by parents for parents. If you are going to spend money on a toy, make sure it is of good quality and that others before you have 'test driven' it. It seemed the toys I bought my kids ended up dusty on a closet shelf. I have been using this site as a reference and I am surprised what a difference it has made! Home run toy picks just about every time in my house.
For the poster looking for recommendations for a one year old, you didn't mention a boy or a girl. This is what I came up with on this page: http://www.parentsbesttoys.com/Toys_For_Ages_0-2_Page_5.html = A cute drum in the shape of a lollipop that is 50% off regular retail:
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