Everyone is feeling the pinch this holiday season. The usual time for splurging has become a time for gathering the resources we already have. It's a wonderful opportunity to come together and make things special with whatever you have in your family. Here are a few tips for making your family holiday great.
1. Make your own decorations. There is no extra cash for decorations beyond a tree this year so we decided to make our own with some greens from our front yard. I was surprised how good the kids were with just an old hanger, greens and some floral wire. We made wreaths, garlands and various other pinecone creations.
2. Recycle Christmas. One particular year I noticed that the local thrifts stores and consignment shops had some pretty good toy finds. I asked the kids if they might like to have a recycle christmas. With the exception of one small new present for each person, the entire holiday gifting was repurposed gifts. Lots of the treasures we found were perfect for stocking stuffers and the kids loved the hunt. No one seemed to notice or care the items had been previously loved.
3. Skip the holiday madness. You are allowed to skip the 5,000 tree lightings and grand illuminations that are usually followed by eating out and the $10 glow necklaces. Stay in and make homemade pizza, decorate the tree, have a living room holiday dance party, watch a classic movie together. The best traditions often evolve out of just hanging out. Our latest expert, popular author Katrina Kenison has some great ideas for simplifying your holiday.
4. Alternatives to giving gifts. We let our extended family know we will not be sending gifts this year. Instead we suggested a cousin holiday card exchange and a small donation to a local charity.
Choose an experience over a gift, it sends the message there are other ways to express our love than exchanging presents. Go ice skating or go bowling, create a new family tradition outside of the norm.
What are your thrifty ideas for making this holiday great and not breaking the bank? Let us know in the comments.
I hate to be the person to tell you that Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away, but Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away. Typically I like to ignore Christmas until after Thanksgiving. However, this year the finances are much tighter than they have been in a few years so by planning ahead, I can be sure to give heartfelt gifts to the ones I love without emptying my bank account. Here are just a few tried and true tips from our house.
Exchange names for gift giving. If you have presents to buy for 12 nieces and nephews, you may easily find yourself spending more than you should or buying "filler" presents to check the box. Our solution in our family is that every cousin's name goes in a hat and Madeleine picks the names out one-by-one to see who will be giving a present to whom on Christmas. With only three gifts for my family to buy now, we can better focus on finding the perfect present for each name picked and no one is worrying about their children sending their sister's family into the poor house because of gift giving.
Focus on thoughtful gifts. For years we have made photo calendars for each grandparent. Last year I was so overwhelmed with life that I didn't get to it and there was great disappointment on Christmas day. Typically photo calendars run around $20, but most photo processing websites will have specials or discounts if you purchase early or if you purchase more than one. I usually upload around 20 pictures and switch the photos around for each grandparent. That way everyone is looking at a different picture each month. Adding your own captions helps personalize the calendar. "It's your birthday this month, Nana!! Happy Birthday!!" under a picture of Junior blowing out candles on his birthday cake is sure to bring a smile to Nana's face.
Let your kids make some executive decisions. Letting your children take ownership of a gift allows them to truly experience the joy of giving themselves. For Carter's birthday this year, Ethan was determined to get him an ice cream cake. I will never forget Ethan's face when he carried that candle lit cake to Carter. Apparently Ethan has not forgotten it either because he still brings up that ice cream cake. It was his idea and he was committed to it. Because of that, Ethan had as much joy giving that cake as Carter did receiving it.
It is possible for less to be more. Teaching your children that a gift from the heart is more important than what something costs is an invaluable lesson that they will carry with them forever. You only spent $10 on that photo coffee mug, but the fact that your kids picked out that special photo because they thought Dad would like it best can mean more to Dad than a gift which costs ten times more.
These are just a few of the things we do. What things have you done to keep your heart in giving without having to dig as deep into your pockets?
Lately I have been worrying a little about Nate's walking situation. He has a fairly pronounced toeing-in and the poor child trips at least 10 times a day. The doctor says it's no big deal and we have to wait and see if it gets better when he gets a little older.
He doesn't seem to mind that he trips all the time but I feel really horrible for him. Even though the doctor says that shoes will not fix his problem, I wanted to find some lightweight sneakers that would give his feet some support. Trouble is, those really nice sneakers cost $60. You read that right. I have the mother's guilt, so I almost did it. The only problem? My children's feet tend to grow in the fall. So do I really want to buy $60 shoes that might only fit for two months?
I did what any mother of our generation does. I just bought Nate two pairs of shoes on Ebay. I know, I know. The people propagating that whole "kids shouldn't wear used shoes" are more than welcome to send me new shoes. There were two pairs and they looked barely worn (see above regarding fast growing feet).
They fit and they are awesome. All except the part where Ethan spends at least 20 minutes every day trying to pry his feet into one of the pairs of "new, really fast shoes."
K: They don't fit you.
Ethan: Momomomomomom. I want new shoes. These shoes fit me.
K: Ethan, they don't fit you. You wore that size two years ago.
I looked down to see his feet practically folded in half to fit in the sneakers. And now I can't seem to find any "new, really fast shoes" on Ebay in his size. Just my luck, right? I have no idea why the shoes are such a hot item. They have laces. Who makes shoes with laces for 2-year-olds? Clearly someone who has never had children or someone with too much time on their hands.
Gotta run. Gotta go find a pair of used/new sneakers for Ethan. I hope this isn't how they will be about girlfriends in 15 years.
We have been really busy this week, cleaning things up and looking for ways to simplify our lives. That includes putting unused things on craigslist. You really can't beat the concept of putting a picture of something on the internet and then giving a complete stranger your home address so they can come to your house at 11:00 pm and ask if you will take $100 for that treadmill that they said they would purchase for $300.
In our house, it is a feat of nature for anyone to part with anything. You never know when you are going to need that set of golf clubs that haven't been used in the entire seven years I have known you. Maybe, just one day, I might want to golf. So recently when a dear friend gave us two sets of loft beds, I got nervous. I know you can't imagine why. I'm sure I'm overreacting about the five times I have gone to the emergency room. But tonight we decided that perhaps we were at least four more years out for the little one to sleep in a loft so we should get rid of one of the beds. I whipped out my camera to take the obligatory photo for the ad. The camera was handy because I had just been taking pictures of the boys playing nicely. I wanted to have a memory on paper of that moment since I had spent the better part of the afternoon screaming at them for beating each other with a plastic pump that I kept taking away from them and hiding.
My husband grabbed my hand as I went off to the computer.
"Be sure you post the picture of the BED on craigslist and the picture of the KIDS on Supersisters."
I think he was joking though I really can't be sure.
Ethan wanted to get his father something specific for Father's Day, but I don't remember what it was. The only part I remember is that it cost money. I shut him down.
You can see by that haircut that we are doing a little cutting back here at Chateau Cookie. I always swore that the last luxury I would give up would be $14 haircuts for the kids. Either we have reached that point or maybe that chocolate was more luxurious than a head of hair that does not look like it had a plastic cereal bowl slapped on the head and cut around.
I cut the hair today. Having watched the barber on more than one occasion cut a divot out of the head of a child who suddenly decided he really wanted to know what Oprah's Book of the Month was this month, I was afraid. But this is what Father wanted on Happy Father's Day so this is what I did.
Of course I started with Ethan because I thought he would be better behaved. Unfortunately he has that hair. I don't even know what that statement means but I have heard it often. This doesn't make any sense because if you cut 30 heads of hair 5 days a week, is there really a head with that hair? It looks frightening but at least it is out of his eyes.
Then I cut Nathan's hair. There is something heady (pun intended) about wielding clippers. His head looks relatively tolerable to live with but his bangs look like Lombard Street in San Francisco. He was so busy trying to shove the cut hair down the drain of the sink I had him perched on that I just gave up trying to get them straight. You know how it goes with bangs. You keep trying to fix them and then you end up looking like that girl from Northern Exposure. Sometimes it's better to just walk away from something and revisit it later. It's not like I just ruined his prom picture or anything.
The boys then spent the rest of the day chasing their father around the backyard as he did things with cement. There were multiple changes of clothing and eventually ice cream at our favorite spot since it was free-ice-cream-for-dad-day. Other than ruining all photos of my children for the next 6 weeks, I'd say it was a good day.
How was yours?
Pinching the pennies this summer? Wondering how you are going to make it through the summer with kids at home with no cash for camp or a vacation?
Here are a few ideas to make this summer fun on any budget:
1. Take a pool tour- Can't afford the local pool membership? Ask your friends if you might be able to join them as a guest or use their own pool. The trick is, ask a few friends. I know, it's total mooching but I bet your friends would be happy to relieve you from the heat wave that is summer. If this feels horribly presumptious, suggest a trade. Offer to trade for a meal delivered to their door or babysitting. Exchange pool time while picking up the mail, dog sitting/walking while they travel and wouldn't be using the pool anyway.
2. Invest in popsicles- Go straight to your local price club and buy mass amounts of Flav-or-ice or other kid favorite popsicles. Let your kids eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, well, maybe just for snacks. A lot of snacks. A little water, food coloring and sugar never hurt anyone right? These cheap treats will keep everyone happy and kids will say, "Remember the summer mom let us eat all those popsicles? That was awesome!".
3. Take advantage of the free stuff- Most movie theaters offer a free movie once a week before the regular shows. We pack away a tiny ziploc of candy, juice boxes and buy popcorn at the theater. Any bowlers in the family? Check out the cool program where kids can bowl free for the entire summer.
Most local parks and recreation centers have all kinds of great concerts and programming during the summer, look local.
4. Pick something- Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, oh my! Picking fruit and vegetables can be fun and save your grocery bill. There is nothing like being on a farm, grove or patch and picking your food right from the ground, bush or vine. Pick-your-own is a great site to help you find a farm near you.
5. Commune it up- We're all in this together. Gather your friends and gaggle of kids and do the summer together. Create your own at home camp with art activities, slip-n-slide, and afternoon movie showings. Kids will tribe up and parents will delight in the shared company. Prepare a meal together to split and send home for dinner and the day is done. Many hands make light work. It is the village at it's best.
Do you have any ideas for enjoying a thrifty summer? Share them with us in the comments.