Thinking about Christmas in September is kind of silly; it seems we don’t get a breather in the world of retail between flip-flops and Santa hats.
When you have more than a couple kids, though, and a passel of nieces and nephews, and an oh-so-limited Christmas budget, one has to think out of the Christmas box. Here are a few tips to help tie up Christmas when you’re on a shoestring budget:
Shop the clearance aisles! No one needs to know that awesome toy you bought for your nephew cost a fraction of what it was new. Many big-box stores have clearance aisles and end-caps that feature some great toys and other gift items but for rock-bottom prices. Also, if you pay attention to when big-box stores mark down items either for clearance or mark them down more, you can score even better deals by being patient….but not too patient, as other people shop the end-caps too. They may snag your great deal while you wait!
Shop consignment sales! Many churches and other groups hold giant consignment sales that feature clothes, toys, baby gear and equipment, and furniture. I buy all my daughter’s clothes twice a year — in the spring and fall, at a giant consignment sale in Charlotte, NC. I’m able to score some really great deals on toys for her for Christmas that I hide in the attic when I get home. She doesn’t care that they’re not new. I tell her they are “pre-loved.”
Shop yard sales! Churches often hold yard sales to support mission trips, and of course individuals hold yard sales to, ahem, buy Christmas for their kids and declutter. A thorough cleaning, maybe some paint, and voila! Christmas!
Swap. I love to make Christmas cookies and devote a few days in December to this. What is really fun — and a great way to bake a little yet end up with a wide variety — is to have a cookie swap.
Using the cookie swap idea, what about a toy swap? Making sure everyone knows to just bring complete toys (think of a board game without all the pieces) in good condition, hold an event where you can swap toys. Kids get new-to-them items, and everyone ends up with the same amount of clutter. It’s a win-sorta win!
Layaway. Some big box stores allow you to layaway items for Christmas. This does two things. One, it allows you to buy new, and pay a little towards it each month until the time to retrieve it in December. Secondly, it allows you to keep it out of the house until December. If your house is like mine, hiding places are scarce and kids just keep finding them anyway. Having the stuff still at the store until December when it can be wrapped and hidden in plain sight is very helpful.
Serving others. Enlisting your kids on this one teaches them some phenomenal life-lessons. Using the gift guides from many different charities, you can use the money you would spend on Christmas presents and help out families all over the world by providing goats, chickens, Bibles, soccer balls, blankets — the list is endless. You can also take the Christmas funds and sponsor a child.
It is totally okay to limit the amount of gifts one gives to children. I tell my kids, “three gifts was good enough for Baby Jesus, and it will be good enough for you fine people.” Some people limit the gifts by the type of gifts: one thing you read, one thing you wear, one thing you need, and one thing you want. Every family is different in this.
We need to remember, in the frenzy that the Christmas season can become, to not forget the Reason why we celebrate. It is, after all, about a Baby, born in a manger, for us. May we be intentional now about slowing down, being still, and taking in the Wonder of Christmas.
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