Money can be tight all year long but it tends to become especially tight around Christmas and with good reason. First, there’s the Halloween costumes and candy, by the time you recover from buying those it’s time to buy enough ingredients to feed a village and that doesn’t even include your normal groceries. Most families don’t have time to recover from Thanksgiving before they start shopping for Christmas gifts. In reality, most families spend all day Thanksgiving planning their gifts for Christmas and then on Black Friday also buy items that they see on sale and want for themselves.
The bad news is that toys are expensive. That news, of course, isn’t new but when you are buying Christmas toys for your children and your nieces and nephews as well as donating toys to local charities the fact of the matter is that you can spend the next two to three months worried about paying the mortgage and that is a major problem.
How To Save Money On Christmas Toys
Say Goodbye To Guilt
Everyone needs help around the holidays and you will never hear me telling others to stop helping people. It goes against everything I stand for. I remember a Christmas from my childhood that altered my life. It was a cold winter in Georgia, before my family moved to Central America. My parents were struggling financially and at one point they weren’t able to pay the heating bill so we hung quilts up over the doors and windows as well as across the hallway in an effort to keep the house warmer. The only time we were allowed to leave the living room, where the fireplace was, is if we needed to use the restroom. The house was simply too cold.
Christmas didn’t look like it was going to happen that year and my parents had signed up at our church to help another family in need. Additionally, my parents were foster parents and the state was supplying those children with Christmas gifts. So, here we were in a place without much money, no Christmas gifts under the tree for any of my parent’s biological kids but there was plenty for the foster kids under the tree and I can remember my dad being angry about that. He was working hard but life just wasn’t going the way it was supposed to go. Life was expensive and they had hit a rough patch right in time for the holidays.
Someone must have found out that the Christmas gifts under the tree weren’t for my brother, sister and I. We heard the doorbell ring late one night and when we answered it there were trash bags full of wrapped Christmas gifts on our front porch. My brother, my sister and I had been given Christmas gifts and the joy that we felt was something I can’t describe to you. We weren’t excited that we had toys and clothes, we were excited that we were loved.
Now, keep in mind my parents had signed up to help out some other kids before they knew they couldn’t afford to do so. As kids, we knew this. Our parents told us the truth but our parents had also raised us to give to others and that’s exactly what we did. We each picked an unwrapped gift from our pile of gifts and we went to the house with the children waiting for us. I was about twelve at this time and I remember being amazed that this house wasn’t decorated for Christmas and there was no Christmas tree up. I also remember that the joy I experienced from giving one of my gifts to another girl was far greater than the getting the git. I watched her unwrap the bulk package of bright colored makeup and I remember feeling excited at seeing it with her, I don’t remember feeling bitter about it at all.
So, as an adult, I still desire to give to others. What I don’t desire is to do so when it’s not possible to do so. I don’t desire to give hundreds of dollars worth of gifts to others when I only give fifty dollars worth of gifts to my own kids. If I wouldn’t buy a toy for my own children then I’ve learned to let go of the guilt telling me to give that gift to another child. That was a hard lesson for me to grasp because giving is very dear to my heart. That’s the thing though, if I can only give my children books for Christmas then I feel it’s wrong to give robotic toys to a stranger’s child. Bless others, but never do so at the expense of your own family. I’m grateful my parents taught us to give, I pray I teach my children the same but I’ve had to let go of the guilt that says I have to give. Instead, I’m learning that giving is a blessing and it should never feel like a curse.
Set A Toy Limit
My husband and I haven’t been the best with this method. With that being said, you won’t find dozens of gifts under our tree. We typically average four gifts a child but some families have strict methods of toy limits. Some choose to do three gifts to represent the three gifts given to our Savior, I love that but I just fail drastically with that. Other families choose to give a gift of necessity, a gift to bless, a gift to grow and so on. The reason we don’t do well with this is that I tend to give books, games, and movies as gifts in additions toys.
Buy Bigger Items To Share
As our children are growing my husband and I have discussed this approach a lot lately. This would work best for large families. For instance, a family vacation in the “off-season” may be cheaper than buying five kids four gifts each, depending on their ages and interest. Of course, this is still something that I would recommend doing some research on but when done right it can be a major money saver.
I accidentally started doing this and have bought used gifts every year since. One year my son received a used drum set, it was new to him and he never once noticed that it was used. Other used toys can be found on Craigslist, swing sets are a great example of this. That’s the type of toy that your children may not notice has been loved on by others because of the awe factor that goes with it.
There’s a thrift store in my local area that often has amazing finds. Just this past week I found toys still wrapped and never played with for cents. Guess what, I bought those! Yep, those “used” toys are still new and will now be Christmas presents for my children as well as other children.
Watch Out For Stocking Stuffers
Have you ever noticed how much stocking stuffers cost? A dollar here, a dollar and fifty cents here, two dollars there. Stocking stuffers can break the bank! Be very careful in this. If you have children of the same sex and close enough in age to have the same interest an option may be to buy a toy with lots of little toys in it, open up the package and place some of the little toys in each stocking. Socks make great stocking stuffers and so does candy. Candy is another one of those things that depending on the kind you buy you could split between multiple children. Also, do not feel that the stocking has to be stuffed. Remember back in the day families would place an orange on the bottom to make them look fuller.
Buy Year Round
Don’t talk bad about this until you’ve at least given it a try. This has by far been my favorite method of saving money on Christmas toys! A twenty dollar toy once a month is much easier on the wallet than even just five twenty dollar toys the week before Christmas.
Set A Budget
Of course, the best way to save money on Christmas toys is to set a budget and work within that budget. If you don’t know how much money you will spend and the thought of messing up drastically scares you out of the thought of setting a budget I would suggest creating categories and setting limits on those. For instance, instead of saying you’ll only spend $300 on Christmas tell yourself that you will spend $100 on each kid. This works for the everyone on your list! Other examples include $5 on co-workers, $20 on family members at gatherings, $50 on siblings and so forth.