I'm thinking about Christmas already... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 01:01 PM - Thread Starter
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...once again trying to figure out a plan for gifts that honors our budget (minimal) but doesn't FEEL "skimpy," makes our kids happy, honors our somewhat unconventional values about consumption.

I'm not sure I'm saying that well, but I hope you'll know what I mean.

I'm putting this here because I think a frugal Christmas and a "simpler" Christmas go hand-in-hand. For years, we have been trying to keep our Christmas traditions small and extra-meaningful without spending a lot of money or setting up unreasonable expectations. I grew up with a family big on gift-giving tradition and I struggle with this every year. I don't want to be too stark or boring in my effort to counter our cultural tendency toward overconsumption. But I still want to keep the hoopla and the $$$ down.

I am planning to spend less on stockings this year, probably fill them mostly with consumables (nuts, chocolate, dried fruit), plus a couple of "the usual" things (we always have art pencils and a story or music CD in stockings, so that might be all - I have given them blank books in the past, but they have mostly gotten discarded). Also I think this year I will give them each an ornament, possibly homemade.

I just don't want my kids to be disappointed... (I guess I worry that when they're grown, they'll resent my "frugal ideals" - hopefully not, though!) We focus on "family" gifts, not individual gifts. With four kids close in age, we either do gifts for the whole family, or gifts where each kid gets exactly the same thing. DH and I stopped exchanging gifts long ago, and we just do 5x7s for the extended family plus something small and consumable (local maple syrup or something like that.)

Under the tree, our main gift this year is a new pillow for everyone. Pillows are expensive! I ordered them cheap from Overstock and still feel like I spent a ton. I am hoping to also have nice new pillowcases as well. I already have a couple of window prisms for the living room, plus a big outdoor thermometer that I have been saving. I figured I would come up with a pile of new-to-us books that all the kids would enjoy. DH will probably add a family game. I am hoping we'll get a decent quantity of hand-me-down Legos that I can wrap up as well. I want to get more flannel sheets for the kids' beds anyway, so I might wrap those up also. My 2 sisters and parents will also give them each something small (my parents are giving them magazine subscriptions this year.)

Does that sound "fun" enough? A lot of those things are utilitarian, but will be appreciated (I know they will love getting new pillows). We also will try go to a special annual Christmas concert (expensive for a family of six) and indulge in special food that we don't ordinarily have. We don't really need much of anything. We are trying to keep the clutter in our house down. We don't watch TV, the kids don't use the computer, we don't have ipods or cell phones or gameboys or anything like that. The things we have are meant to be enjoyed for many years, so they don't grow old or need replacement like some other kinds of things.

What are you planning? I know it is September, but every year I want to make a plan early on so I can budget and find deals and not be stressed about doing it all at once.

Also, for those of you who do homemade/handmade/consumable gifts for your kids, what are your best ideas?

Amanda, mom to Everest (12), Alden (10-1/2), Ellery (7-1/2), & Avery (6)
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#2 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 03:09 PM
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I think experiences (rather than things) help with the too-much-consumption problem.

Zoo passes, etc. (if it is reasonable for one's budget)

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#3 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 03:11 PM
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I always do myChrismas planning right about now. I was hoping to convince my kids to forgo individual gifts and accept a Wii as a joint present. But only one of them went for it. My ds will get a big lego set. My dd I don't know yet. She is kind of in between the American Girl doll and the ipod sets, you know? I will fill both stockings probaly with some school supplies, maybe an itunes card (because I share my ipod sometimes ). I bought a pretty ring for my dd for her stocking, might add some other cheap jewelry/hair stuff. For my ds, it will probably include more small lego sets. Some candy, sometimes bags of chips because we never buy them regularly. They will split a good board game (probably Settlers of Cataan). And I bought a nice playmobil set at a yard sale yesterday. I usually also get them some new pajamas which they desparetly need. My ex and I usually split the cost of each large present so it comes to about $50 a piece for each child. If I can squeeze in the time, I would love to make the pajamas because nice cotton ones are crazy expensive. But that is probably a pipe dream (work part-time, grad school full-time!!).

Once I know what I want, I keep my eyes open to get the best deals.
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#4 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 04:57 PM
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I'm starting my Christmas planning also. I've budgeted $500 for the holiday--and because I usually spend close to $1000 (by not having/following a plan), I'm hoping to cut it down. DD1 wants a knitting machine and a bride Barbie. DS hasn't indicated what he wants, yet (He's autistic and non-verbal). Give him a Veggie Tales movie and bag of M & M's and he's good, though. DD2, also hasn't really indicated any wants (but she's 16 months). I need to take DS to the store and note what he's attracted to. The kids have so many toys that I'd rather get them a couple nice things and spend most of the money on experiences. DH wants them to have a bunch of stuff to open. I'm more like: Stocking, one "special" gift--something they want, a video, a game, and a book.

Things we'll do: Fantasy Lights Drive through at the park: will pack cookies and hot chocolate in a thermos to enjoy as we drive through and look at the lights.

Zoolights at the local zoo.

DD1, maybe DH and I will see the Nutcracker. I am not sure I trust the two younger kids to behave through the performance, though it is put on by a local ballet school and is very family friendly.

I'd like to go see Handel's Messiah.

We'll plan days to bake cookies, make fudge and candy.

We'll have family movie nights where we watch a Christmas movie (love having a DVR for that.)

I'm also thinking about doing a St. Nicholas day--stop by the morning of the 6th of December and fill their shoes with candies and a small present.

Part of my Christmas decoration will be a red-and-green paper chain and in each link will have the event we are going to do that day as a countdown to Christmas day.
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#5 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 06:24 PM
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Great thread!

We were just discussing Christmas planning this am. We are readingthru the Bible in 90 days as a family, and we'll finish 17 dec. In times past, I'd already be done and set for Christmas by mid-september... not anymore. ~sigh

Anyway, I read your OP to my DC (9, 12, 17 yo) and they think it sounds great, esp dried fruit and chocolate in the stockings (ours are similar). My DD now would like art pencils to replace her stocking usuals, heehee.

Years ago (no one recalls when or why or how-- prolly bc mama is frugal, concerned about consumerist "buy-my-affection" Christmas celebrations, and loves doing things together!)... we started celebrating the "12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS" which for us means planning an activity to do together each day for 12 days. (Usually cheap or free, like cocoa and viewing lights displays; ice skating; baking; decorate the tree (then we sleep under it); crafts; whatever...

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#6 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 06:43 PM
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My plan is to use a little advent calendar and have experiences for each day. Some bigger, some smaller. The kids are making gifts for others. I will buy them a thing or two and other relatives do get them toys and such so they'll be more than busy with all of that.

I really want to have the kids focus on giving, family, God sending a part of himself to humanity... instead of OOH, what do I GET. I THINK that doing our advent calendar of activities will be a good part of that.

Last year my DS got a sticker each day from the calendar and he really liked that (just turned 2). Something small and non-cluttering and fun for a tiny tot.

We also decorate lots for the holidays and I turn on Christmas music a lot that time of year. That makes the times special and memorable.

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#7 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 09:29 PM
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I am doing an Advent calendar with DS too. I did one last year and he loved it. I work at a place that sells them and I am pretty sure I can get one for a decent price.

We will also go see The Toys Take Over Christmas by our local college theater company. We went to it last year for the first time and it was surprisingly good. I might see if I can get cheap tickets to anything else around town. I am so happy that DS loves plays.

For presents, DS will be getting a large wooden truck that he has been asking for , a stand up plastic easel that I picked up at a yard sale two years ago for $5 and have been saving for this age. My best friend is stocking it with paint, a smock, crayons, markers, paper, brushes, etc and it is going to be set up next to the tree all ready to go on Christmas morning. His stocking will have things like bags of chips, a candy cane, maybe a small book, some dress up things that I also have picked up at yard sales, etc. I would say that 90% of his gifts will be used/yard sale items/thrift store items.

My favorite tradition that we have started is new pajamas on Christmas Eve. He gets them all wrapped up on his pillow as he goes to bed and then gets to wear them to bed that night. I also "give" myself a new (to me) pair of pajamas each Christmas too. This year, one of our neighbor's died over the summer and her kids had a huge yard sale of all of her things. It was a little spooky, but she had the most fun pair of adult sized footed fleece pajamas in pink skull prints that I just had to get them. They were only a dollar and I am getting the rocking-est PJ's ever on Christmas Eve this year!

Formerly single Mama to the zaniest boy on the block, born on my birthday on 3/28/07. Soon to be Mama to a new little and can't wait to bfinfant.gif and femalesling.GIF and familybed1.gif again! 
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#8 of 18 Old 09-19-2010, 10:21 PM
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I love Christmas

I'm budgeting myself 500$ for everyone.

I am not sure about anyone yet, but I do know that I'm going be putting together a dress up bin for DD, and also getting her some fake food [off Etsy, making it, etc] for her kitchen. Stockings are normally little treats, and I'd like to try and make sine cinnamon chapstick since she's really into it.

For the holiday's we are going to do a lot of baking, and crafts. One special "holiday thing" for every day from December 1st to 25th. Of course some days it'll be coloring in Christmas trees, but other days will be exciting!

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#9 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 01:52 AM
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I'm trying to tie DH down to a budget right now! DH loves to spoil the girls and so do I but I'm trying to change that. Here is what I'm thinking of doing
Both girls need new bedding. DD1's bedding was dry clean only and I didn't realize it.. lets just say it didn't make it out of the wash so now she has sheets and a throw on her bed. DD2 doesn't have a bed but needs to at least partially transition before baby comes. (this will cost between 40-60 depending on what I can convince my DH to get)
I want to make both girls dolls for Christmas, DH wants to get them huge stuffed animals. We are negotiating this right now. (I found a good tutorial online so I just need supplies so about 20-30 in supplies and maybe a dress pattern depending on whether I can find a tutorial online or not)
The 3rd gift I want to do a joint gift of a nice play kitchen, DH wants to do dress up clothes for one and a puppet theater for the other, we are negotiating this as well. (No idea about the cost on this one)

For DH I'm not sure what I will get him. Maybe a video game or a WII game. Or some camping/hiking gear since we all love to hike/camp and hes been requesting some for some time. (30-40)
For me DH wants to get me a IPOD touch for a joint birthday/anniversary/Christmas present. I don't really want him to so I'm trying to convince him to get me a new set of scriptures since the girls got a hold of mine and tripped out a couple of chapters. (If he gets the scriptures it would be around 50 because I know he would want to get me a scripture case to go with it)
Stocking my girls will get:
- new toothbrushes, art supplies, bubble bath, playdough and a small piece of candy. We might do some hair ties to since I can get some really cute ones for cheap.
DH will get:
- toothbrush, body care supplies, a new planner and a book or CD
DH will probably get me-
- bubble bath, bath salts, other bath items. I love taking baths.

We always do a family stocking of a few DVDs, a board game and tickets to somewhere cheap and fun (like the local museum or gardens-they are about 10.00 each for adults and free for children under 6).
(budget about 100 for all stockings)
DD1 wants to do a stocking and presents for the baby even though he/she won't even be here. We might let her just so I can get the baby stuff I need and I don't have to explain to DD 10 times the baby isn't being forgotten. If we do do that we will get the baby
A car seat, a co-sleeper (hopefully used, I'm looking right now for a used one in good condition) and a swing (also used, I just need to find one). For the stocking the only thing I would want to get is a Sophie because DD1 asked if she could get one and give it to the baby. Probably get some baby body wash, wash clothes and a blanket to make it look like his/her stocking is full without it being a lot.
The baby stuff I dont' consider part of the Christmas budget though since we have a separate baby budget and will be getting them no matter what. I actually think it is kind of sweet that DD1 wants to make sure the baby isn't forgotten and I would be getting the stuff around that time anyway(I'm due early Feb).
Family will be getting cards with pictures inside. (About 20-30 here depending on how much printing costs.. Most online places don't ship over here and the stores over here are expensive to print, maybe I should invest in extra ink and print them myself, my printer prints pretty good pictures)

The girls and DH will also get PJs and a Christmas outfit. Well, the girls will get a Christmas outfit, I make them myself. I already have the pattern, I just need to buy some fabric. I think I probably will spend about 10 each for PJs (DD1 asked for Minnie Mouse PJs and DD2 is monkey obsessed) and another 30 on fabric for dresses.

Since we have to get a new tree (we donated our fake one to my DH's command's barracks last year not thinking we would be on the island for another Christmas) and I want to do a small party for single Marines that won't be going home Im budgeting around 500 or so for all of it. Probably another 30 since we try to always donate for Toys for Tots and the local church that gets together baskets for the homeless shelters/batter women shelters, so 530 total.

~Heather~ Mama to Miss E (1/07), Miss A (11/08), Mr.T (2/11) and Miss A (10/12) Expecting our newest blessing sometime late Sept/early Oct.. Wife to my Marine since 11/2005
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#10 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 02:19 AM
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I have a lot less money to throw around this year (grad student again), so I'm starting early for Christmas. DS will be almost 3, so a lot of his presents will be gently used -- he won't know the difference.
I went to a consignment sale this weekend and found three things on my list for about $10 total -- a Bob the Builder doll, a really cool toy dragon, and a toy power drill.
I also want to get him a doctor play kit (Melissa and Doug has a cool one with dress up stuff for $20) and a stick horse (about $25, but I'm hoping I can find one used). I'd also love to find some more Thomas trains off of Craigslist, and I may try to find post-Halloween sales and put together a costumes box for him. I'll hit the used book store, and also pick up a few little stocking stuffers. Altogether, it should be about $50 - $60 spread over three months or so. Oh, and my parents are getting him a really great wooden fire station.
I also have to get presents for my mom, dad, two sisters and nephew. In the past, when I had a nice professional job, I did $50 - $100 for each of them, but it's going to be more like $20 each this year.
I'm asking my parents to buy me contact lenses. Yippee.

Jen, journalist, policy wonk, and formerly a proud single mama to my sweet little man Cyrus, born at home Dec. 2007
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#11 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 02:22 AM
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Christmas is making me hyperventalite.
DS wants legos. Legos are expensive and he wants the newly released sets so... There was also talk of a digital camera of his own??

We will be doing lots of free stuff too. Looking at holiday lights(bringing our own snacks) things like that.

Since we homeschool many of the November and December activites are great for 'school' and the Christmas presents pull double duty as 'classroom' supplies around here but I'm really not ready for this.

I will probably toss in some homemade stuff too... A new blanket, maybe that fireman's hat ds keeps telling me about...
BTW we set a record high of 112 degrees today.

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#12 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 06:50 PM
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I started planning a few weeks ago, a lot of what we're doing will be handmade, so I need to start early! Our budget is $175 for all 3 kids (they're 2, 4, and 5 so it shouldn't be hard).

My oldest is obsessed with Mario, not just playing the games, but he dresses like him and play-acts Mario all the time. I'm planning on knitting him a raccoon tail, a Mario hat, and some "fireballs" for Christmas. I have other ideas for him too, but those will be his favorite

For my daughter, I'm restocking the toy kitchen that my son got 2 years ago, which has barely been used (but we've still managed to lose almost all the food/dishes ). Anyway, my daughter uses it all the time, so I got a set of super cute felt food patterns on Etsy and I will make her a whole set of food, and also a set for my best friend's 3 girls. I've also picked up some smaller pots/pans at the Salvation Army for $1 or so. We're also working on her bedroom, we got this house last year and hers is the last to be done. I got her a really nice wooden rocking chair at a yard sale, and I'll sew a set of cushions for it to match her room, stuff like that.

My middle son is always a challenge, he mostly follows what my oldest is doing, so it's hard to gauge what he really likes. Anyway, he has been talking about wanting a telescope for months now, so that is my big idea for him. He also is into Iron Man now, and one day went on and on about how 'maybe he could get an Iron Man backpack for Christmas' so I hit the Target back to school clearance aisle and got him one for $7.

For all three, we'd like to get more Legos and some Constux, we got a small set at the flea market and all 3 kids love them. I also want to get some of the Lego panels that you can glue down. A couple years ago, my dad and I made a train table for my boys for Christmas. The top flips over, and has tracks on one side and chalkboard paint on the other. The train side gets used a lot, but the other really doesn't. I'd like to convert it to a Lego table so they'll use it more, but those panels are pricey so we'll have to see how the budget holds up.

Generally, we scour yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores and get a lot used. I planning for Christmas!

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#13 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 07:30 PM
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We've altered the Christmas Poem a bit and each girl will be getting:

Something you want
Something to wear
Something to do
Something to share

The want will be a toy. (It is every year. I'm waiting for requests.)
Wear = clothes that they need
Do = a hike, sledding, and outing of some sort
Share = food. Probably like you we'll do nuts, chocolate, dried fruit.

So they'll each get four presents and we'll have the poem written on each of them, in a decorative way.

Very simple, not expensive, yet still fun for the age group I'm dealing with.



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#14 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 07:32 PM
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The original poem that I've heard goes like this:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read

But I don't like to give books for presents because we are avid library patrons and the last thing we need are more books.



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#15 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 07:45 PM
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Your not crazy for thinking this early...if you go to the arts and crafts section we started a thread in May LOL.

This year I'm really trying to make it a special Holiday Tradition. I've started Christmas shopping already. I got my dh's cousin's little ones art sets, 1 of cars and 1 of littlest pet shop each were 3 bucks. I make a lot of our gifts to save money as well

And I just started collecting change for gifts/advents. I'm a server so I get change A LOT! and since the weekend I've saved almost 30 bucks! seriously saving change

mommy daddy son daughter = our family
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#16 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 08:37 PM
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In the job I had for 11 years, I got laid off every November til April. I started thinking about Christmas shopping in June and kept my eye open for things until October, plus I filled the freezer. That way I was ready to be on unemployment all winter and everything was taken care of, like the ant, ha ha. It became a habit and I still do it. Something would always cross my path for everyone on my list. I also spread out the expense that way, caught sales and had time to relax before the holidays hit, instead of being rushed.
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#17 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 09:38 PM
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oh i've already started worrying about xmas time, ughh. I told dh i am keeping my sisters and her kidgs gifts small this year. Dh, i got him a nice coat last year and he lost it, so he will need another one, but it will be an early gift as he can't wait until xmas again for a winter coat as he works outdoors alot with car sales. Ds I don't have any clue I know he will want a couple toys and he is really overflowing with clothes except underwear and and he will need shoes for sure. Other than that I have my grandma which i plan to buy her a nice pair of walking shoes and we draw names in the extended family and that is a big gift, there is a 50$ minimum and a lot of people spend 100$ at least, i try to aim for 75$ and shop lots of sales, I will probably forgo being in it again this year and just put ds in it. But my list is relatively the same from year to year. Dh had a great idea to use a change jar for loose 1$ bills for our trip tomorrow for my bday and we got about 50$ in there in about a months time, so i may enact that for xmas when we return.

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#18 of 18 Old 09-20-2010, 10:09 PM
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I love Christmas! We aren't religious, but we do try to make it more about family and having fun than MEMEMEMEME! I won't say that Santa doesn't give generously, but he can only afford to do so because the Mommy Elf shops year-round for bargains.

I have 3 kids (#4 will be coming in Jan). They will all be getting...

Lots of books - good quality reading or picture books plus some activity books
Art supplies - I got some fantastic deals on back-to-school supplies and picked up some other things earlier in the year.
New Clothes - they are young enough to be really excited about new clothes, including undies and socks. Probably a new pair of shoes each too - the 2yo has 2 pair stashed away. Jammies.
Stuff for their building sets - We have legos and trios and wooden blocks - they will probably get a new set of legos and trios and the 2yo may get some new wooden blocks to add on to what we have.
Useful Stuff - Character bath towel, new cool sheets, new cool blanket, new pillow, etc.
Puzzles - always a new puzzle each.
TOYS - of course some new toys, but I try really hard not to get the super trendy junk that they'll get bored with within a week. And I try to get toys that encourage imaginitive play rather than telling the child how to play.

We don't have any family members to buy for and the kids won't be getting anything from family, so I don't have to worry about them being overrun with junk, but OTOH, it would be nice to have more people to share the season with.

My kids always go through their things and pick out toys/books for children who don't have any. We also let them pick out a new toys for the less fortunate and this will be the 3rd year that we have done the Angel Tree program via the Salvation Army. I want the kids to understand that the season is about love and generosity, not about what material items they will gain from it.
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