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I was shocked to see the first of the Christmas goods appearing in some of the stores in recent days. I suppose it is because I am from the generations for whom Christmas didn't appear on the horizon until the days became noticeably shorter and colder and the teachers broke out the glitter and glue.
Anyway it reminded me of a time a couple of years ago here on Thrifty Fun when I responded to a sad little post from someone who had been out of work for months and was desperately trying to make a happy Christmas for their children. The downturn was biting then but unhappily for many of us, two years down the line things are even worse.
I recall that the Thriftyfun community came up with a few ideas but as it was 17th December we all basically knew it was a bit too late to do anything. I was so moved by her plight that I actually wrote a My Frugal Life post in which I outlined some of the different ways you could achieve a happy and frugal Christmas for your children with little money.
The key to making winter holidays on a tight budget is to start as early as you can. That goes for every aspect of the holidays. There are 20 weeks until Christmas so now is the right time to get planning. While the weather is good you can visit garage and car boot sales, or pick up items you know your children will like for a good price on Ebay. You can have a clear out, sell your own unwanted items and use the cash you make to launch your Christmas savings. By adding to this each week you will have a little cash cushion set aside for treats and holiday food. Don't worry if you can only put a few cents away, it doesn't matter, because it will encourage you and give you heart if you know there will be a little extra when the time comes.
Organise a swap meet or bring and barter where you can use your cooking or craft skills to make things that you can exchange for things you can put away for the holidays. This is a good chance to swap toys and clothes that your children have outgrown for new to you items that they can use and enjoy in the coming year.
Finally don't ever be afraid to tell people with whom you are going to exchange gifts that you need to set a price limit. As long as you do this in plenty of time your pride will stay intact and embarrassment can stay at a minimum for everyone enjoying the holidays with you.
By ayesha christmas from Slovenia
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Truer words were never spoken. And even nicer that you are from another part of the world.
I make all my presents, yet find that try as I might, I can't seem to send them cheap.
So, I have started a trend with the people I can't see much if at all anymore. When the Autumn leaves begin to turn, I gather some of she smaller ones and press them. I have a lot of people in Tucson, and states that don't have maple or oak trees. When these are done, I have someone take a nice photo of me, and actually put the leaves inside the frame (plastic ships better) and that is my present.
I know there are a lot of us struggling this time of year, who actually dread the Holidays for this very reason. My philosophy may benefit you, too.
"If I can, I do...If I can't, I wish I could". The adults who know me know I live on a budget where most months I struggle to keep cat litter and denture tablets in the house. So, when I can't they all understand and when I can, they all love what little I can send.
If this helps even one person, then I feel better. Good advice Ayesha.
I have always bought gifts at yard sales. I look for coffee/tea cups that will speak to my family and they do the same. Being that both my husband and I are disabled Veterans we don't have a lot of money so I encourage my children to make gifts. My daughter does beautiful crochet and cross stitch and my son puts together really difficult puzzles with no problem and frames them for us.
I know this is an old post, but there are churches out there who will adopt families, and nobody should be too proud to accept Christian charity.
A church we used to attend worked with a city organization every year. We had a "giving tree," a large paper cutout hung in the church foyer. Paper "ornaments" were all over it, with a child's name, age, and wish.
Some were sad--a coat for my sister, a nice meal for our family, while some were the usual toys, video games, etc.
One year, a little 3-year-old girl requested a Talking Alf doll. It cost about $75, and the lady in charge had to tell the family that it probably would be possible for somebody to spend that much. She was an only child, so there weren't siblings to try to spend equally on.
I was in choir and I didn't get to the tree until it had been picked over. We weren't exactly poor, but things were tight for us, too. I thought we could spend $25. One of the few ornaments was for the Alf.
I hesitated, but then I thought, I don't want to tell a 3-year-old that "beggars can't be choosers," so I took the ornament. I signed into the book, and didn't tell anybody except my husband.
But word got out. People started handing me $10 here, $20 there, and even my agnostic friend gave me $10. Before it was over, I spent about $25 of my own money. (Ask me if I believe in Santa!)
The little girl got her Alf, complete with batteries.
A year or so later, one of my single-mom students with 3 kids (deadbeat ex, of course) wrote a paper about her struggles. I gave it to a lady at church who ran the Giving Tree, and we wound up adopting them. All the kids got everything they asked for, plus some, and we took quite a bit of food over so they could have a nice Christmas dinner.
So, while I digressed, my point is--check with your city. There may be a way to make sure your children get what they want.