by Auntie Em
I have a niece I nicknamed “Little Money.” Instead of carrying around a blanket or stuffed animal, she always has her piggy bank with her. At first I thought it was cute, but after a few visits, I started thinking it was getting expensive to regularly give her money to put inside.
Was my relative using this as a dirty trick to nickel and dime us to build a college fund for her 4-year-old daughter?
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Auntie Em decided to strike back against this piggy bank routine. When Little Money came for Thanksgiving this year, I asked her if she was going to open up Mr. Piggy to buy Christmas presents for me and my husband. No, I didn’t dismiss Santa Claus. Instead, I explained that he didn’t bring us old folks gifts and it was very sad for both of us.
Then it happened. I must have hit a sweet spot because she immediately opened her bank, and come to find out that she had more money in it than I had in my own wallet. Her mother was equally surprised, and made a joke about using Little Money’s stash for her own Christmas shopping.
But no mother or aunt wants to break a toddler’s bank for the holidays. Nor do we want to max out our own credit cards. The holidays should never be about Christmas lists and spending money, but more about spending time together. Here are some tips to help curb your holiday spending without looking like a cheapskate:
Don’t wait to the last minute. Nothing drives overspending like panic. Waiting until the last minute causes you to overspend because you are in a hurry to get your hands on anything, and price comparing is no longer an option so you wind up spending more than you planned because the item you wanted to purchase was no longer available in the size, color you needed.
Family grab bag. A grab bag is when everyone brings a generic gift and you exchange gifts either by picking them out of a bag or assigning a number to a gift, then picking numbers from a hat.
Keep the credit cards at home. Set a budget, bring cash and spend wisely. Credit cards lead to a nasty case of “the might-as-wells,” as in: “I might as well spend more than my budget because I’m too lazy to be a frugal shopper.” Using cash makes you very aware of your spending.
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Give inexpensive gifts to babysitters or teachers. You can find attractive small scented jar candles on clearance and put three of them in a small basket, which can be purchased at the thrift store with some tissue paper, ribbon and a nice note.
Save money by buying used. It is possible to get almost anything used, second hand or almost new by visiting thrift stores or yard sales.
Make memories, not more junk. Most kids get more than enough for Christmas from grandparents, aunts and uncles. If you can only afford one gift for your child, make it a memory! Wrap a note in a box with instructions for a treasure hunt. Send your child all over the house with clues, and then have the real gift sitting under the tree when they return. Simple, but a great memory for them!
Go outside for holiday activities. Have a kids’ afternoon that will wear little bodies out and provide fun memories. Try a trip to the beach or a nearby hike. Another great and frugal way to entertain the family through the holidays is to take a drive around town, or another town nearby, to see their Christmas lights. It could become a family tradition.
Image by Sarah Parrott via Flickr
Make homemade Christmas tree decorations. Another way of saving money is to make homemade tree decorations. This has the added bonus of keeping the kids occupied and making them feel involved. Try making colorful paper chains as an alternative to tinsel, or designing decorations on cardboard. Pierce a hole through the cardboard and tie some ribbon through it to make a unique hanging tree decoration.
Homemade Christmas stockings. Similarly to having children make their own decorations, they can also make their own Christmas stockings, with a little help from an adult. Take two pieces of seasonally colored felt and draw an identical shaped sock on each. Cut the shapes out and sew together the outside edges. Try decorating the top of the sock with some cotton wool for a classic Christmas look.
Homemade Christmas cards. Keeping with the homemade theme, homemade Christmas cards are an excellent way to save money. Sticking a print-out of a family picture on the front and writing a personalized message inside makes homemade Christmas cards unique and memorable.
Check out a Christmas book from the library. Read the book together as a family over the holidays.
Make personalized calendars. Buy calendar blanks or use a template from an online program. Then you can add pictures of your family, important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries of the family and maybe a special note or quote every once in a while. For parents, make them extra special and add little surprises, like a couple dollars taped to a summer date for an ice-cream treat or a coupon for a video and popcorn night.
Start a family history. Each Christmas decide on a different topic. For example, your family could write about their favorite Christmas the first year. Then have each family member write or have the toddlers draw a picture about it. Collect the stories and pictures and put them all together in a notebook or inexpensive binder for a Christmas gift that will carry a lasting value.
Now you can have wonderful holiday season without having to break into your child’s piggy bank.