50 answers

Christmas with No Money

I am a single mom of two wonderful boys ages 11 and 7. This Christmas is a hard one for me financially. I have absolutely no extra money for Christmas this year. They really don't need any new toys as they already have plenty so I don't want to sign them up under a charity. There are plenty of others who have it much worse than us that could use it more. However, I really don't want this to be a depressing holiday for them.

Therefore, do any of you moms have any fun, creative ways for gift giving from me to them that will cost nothing. The only thing I can think of is wrapping up some boxes with notes in them offering my time such as playing games etc. There's got to be something more I can do though. Especially for the younger one. The older one gets it that times are tough. He doesn't like it but he gets it. The younger one doesn't understand.

Anyway, any ideas will be greatly appreciated.

What can I do next?

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A couple years ago for Christmas, my husband and I had money really tight. We had one son who was 1 1/2. Thankfully he didn't understand the concept of Christmas yet. We did want him to get a little something though. We started yard-saleing. There are all sorts of toys and clothes at yard sales. We got him five books or so for 25 cents each, a winnie the pooh bear for 25 cents, and an elmo remote for $2.00. I don't think I got any clothes for him because he was getting that from grandparents. For his birthday though I did clothes. I actually went to the Goodwill. I don't know if you have one near you, but the one we had was super cheap with clothes in very good condition. I was able to get him two pair of pants, two shorts, a button up shirt, a vest, and a tuxedo jacket and a play rotary phone all for under $10. I know you said you don't have any money, but most people don't think 25 cents is any money. I thought I would write in and give my suggestion just in case you ever have a few cents lying around.

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Sell their old stuff on craigslist that they do not play with anymore and look for things they want that is in like new condition on craigslist and buy those things. And accept some donations. Please don't give them nothing but notes for Christmas. Every child should get something special. It does not have to be an extravaganza and I do think many people spend way beyond their means and live on credit which is so dumb but please make it happen for them. You have time and can make it special.

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Instead of focusing on what you can't give them, maybe focus on what you CAN do. It might be fun to volunteer together with them to help people in need on or around the holiday.

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There is a reason that charities are available...for things just like this. Don't feel bad! People can help you give them a christmas. It doesn't have to be toys, they can request books, games, or clothes. Go for it!

Make memories with your boys by taking them to functions around your town. A christmas parade? A tree lighting ceremony? Look in the paper to find the free activities that will make all 3 of you feel special!

7 moms found this helpful

take the charity gifts.....that's what they're there for. Next year, donate in your sons' names & return the "charity".

I like your ideas, but I do feel they need something new to open......

& one more thought: if the boys have a lot, try selling some of their stuff on ebay or craigslist.....& then use that $$ to buy them gifts.

6 moms found this helpful

You can still sign up for an adopt a family program. They will ask for a list of things they do need. They may not need toys but one or two new toys would be really nice, but also books, movie passes or tickets to an event. Even some new clothes or school supplies would be nice for them. A gift for Mom will also be included.
I divorced my ex when my kids were little 5 and 3 yrs old and on Christmas morning, our first, the kids opened their presents and were all excited then asked me about my presents and I explained that I didn't have any presents under the tree that year. They both cried. They were heartbroken that Momma didn't have a gift to open. From that year on I always made sure I had a gift under the tree. I would buy myself something I wanted, earrings, necklace, one year an LP (before CDs) and I knew no one else would get this item for me. It was always labeled for R. from Santa.

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Accept the charity. Really, there are many of us out there who want to help families like yours. Our kids' school has adopted a school in a poorer area and we have a list of kids' ages and clothing sizes so we can buy things for the children. I'm taking our kids to buy something tomorrow -- one toy and one clothing item for each child we've selected (multiple people will select each child). Believe me, we get more out of giving than you will get out of receiving. I look forward to donating every year.

Your kids may not really need new toys, but having something new to open at Christmas is fun. And you can always mention items you'd prefer instead when you sign up with a charity. Many do "giving trees" listing specific items a child needs.

Sign up for assistance, but also follow through with your own idea of offering your time. I think that's a wonderful combination!

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Look at Salvation Army. My daughter has helped moms like you find wonderful gifts for the kids for three years. She always comes home glowing and telling me how she got this or that for this child and how they found the perfect whatever for that child.
The volunteers will walk around with you and help you with your list.
There is no shame.
Like Mona said people want to help you at Christmas, that's what Christmas is about.

4 moms found this helpful

I do think you should do a charity, also. Your list can be small, and it can be things they need. (Books, clothing, school supplies, etc.) I had a few Christmas' where I did not have a real open to gift, and it was quite hard as a child. It also brought my parents great joy, to see us so surprised. Sure, there will always be people worse off. That doesn't mean your children and YOU are deserving. All children and families deserve to have fun on Christmas!!

I do think your idea is wonderful, also. If you do find a way to get them tangible things to open, I really think you should do that too! Children value nothing more then time with their parents, or free time to have fun, and I think you really have a great idea.

3 moms found this helpful

Try and sell a few things on Craigslist (like old toys). Use that money to buy things at goodwill. I buy stuff there all the time. I understand that you don't want free toys, but consider signing them up for clothing needs. I'm sure they are growing boys and might need a few more winter clothes. I also recommend spending a few hours volunteering with them. Maybe go for a drive in the car with them to see Xmas lights and sing Christmas songs. Watch Christmas movies (you tube has movies posted by different people so it is free), play the games they already have.

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Personally, if you aren't going to be able to give them any toys, I would request help from a charity. There are many powerful and good lessons to learn when life is tough, but Christmas isn't the time. As they are older and understand more (or maybe even now with your oldest), you can use it as a lesson in how important charity is. How if someone else hadn't been generous, your Christmas would have been a lot different. It just may make a wonderful impact on their lives.

As for what you can give them, I think you've come up with wonderful ideas. Maybe coupons for you to make their favorite dinner, a snowball fight, and skip school for a pj and movie day (if you can get the day off, I'd let them play hookey for a day as a special treat under the circumstances). Merry Christmas! Your boys sound like they have a wonderful mother!

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Every single child deserves something to unwrap on Christmas morning.
I would try to secure at least one gift for each child even if it means charity. It isn't about you, it's about them and I assure you the people contributing those toys want kids like yours to have a gift to open, that's the reason they contribute.
What about a stocking with some little things like candy, pencils for school, socks, new toothbrushes etc. If you stick to things you have to purchase anyway but just save them for Christmas morning you will not be spending any extra money. I would also check craig's list free section or thrift store's. I buy books from our Goodwill for my girls all the time. Great titles, some brand new, for .50 each, we always find something interesting.
I also think you should consider signing up as a family to adopt. What if you received practical things like clothes, shoes, books, and Christmas dinner? Your boys would enjoy a nice Christmas and you would have some of those expenses paid for things that they really need, don't you deserve a little piece of mind for the holidays?

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i totally agree that just b/c others are worse off doesn't mean you don't need it too.
i work for a social service agency & my older clients always say, "i don't wanna take from anyone else". i tell them, "the other people need it too, but so do you. you're not taking from anyone else". that's the whole purpose of these charities! seriously. i'm a single mom too & had some gifts donated to me fr the women's center. otherwise...yup, i'd be looking at the same situation. it's hard mama but it'll be okay. you're a strong mama to keep pushing through this. hard times are not for all times. :) keep your chin up & go sign up for one of those charities!

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If you can't buy them a few gifts for Christmas, I would seek help from a charity. Your boys have a wonderful, hard-working mom from whom they are learning many life lessons. However, this is a chance for them to experience Christmas joy by receiving help from people who want them to have a special day. This is also a great lesson. I have a friend that said she recieved help for a few Christmas and it made all the difference to her children. Now that she is in a better position she gives WAY MORE then she ever recieved to these types of programs. I think you can even find programs that let you request specific gifts. I do love the idea you had with the notes, you should do both (charity for a few toys and the notes).

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Please do a charity. Call the salvation army and sign up. Call you local Dept of Job and Family Services to see what others there are. My sisters church does a nice one where the kids get a coat,and two toys for there age. Your kids will be horribly dissapointed and broken hearted with nothing under the tree. Even your 11yo who knows it's tough will be so sad and always remember this Christmas. Also does your 7yo believe in Santa? If so what will you say to him about that. Will you shock him with the news and disapoint him with no gives or make him think Santa is a big jerk and only gives to some kids? I don't mean to make you feel bad but you are hurting and people like you are what those charities are for. I would swallow my pride if I were in your shoes,I know Christmas isn't only about gifts but in this society it unfortunatly is. Think about the embarressment your kids will suffer when they go back to school and tell there friends they got nothing( they willl not consider a game with you a gift. I am sure they are not ungrateful spoiled children but if my friend just told me all the sweet stuff she got , I would be mortified to say I got a note from my mom to play a game)

Or what you could do is if they need things like a new pair of shoes or pants or jammies you could buy those and save them for christmas. I would go with a charity though. Good luck and I am sorry you are going through this.

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Honestly my first thought was how disappointed they'd be when they saw the boxes and thought they were getting gifts to only open them to find a piece of paper.

I had that happen one time, before my sister became a Jehovah's Witness. She always filled stockings, put each and every gift in a box, so if she got you a set of makeup the lipstick would be wrapped,each eye shadow would be wrapped, etc..I loved opening her gifts. I opened one box and there was nothing inside. I started crying and she told me to read the piece of paper in the box. It was a gift certificate for McDonalds, I had never heard of it...I am kind of dating myself. But to me that was the worst gift ever. I still remember it 40-45 years later.

Please consider signing them up at the local Salvation Army or local food bank. Even if the just get clothes they will have something wonderful to open.

We didn't make it in to sign the kids up a week ago, I went by last week and they said it was just too late. I don't know what we'll do this year. The little guy needs a new bike, the one he has was too small when he got it last Christmas but Walmart wouldn't let us exchange it, they said once a bike goes out the doors it is non returnable. It still had the plastic on the wheels. He looks like a big grown man riding a tiny bike when he rides it.

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Find a charity so they'll at least get one gift they will like.

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sign up for charities. people want to help your kids.

2 moms found this helpful

When my DH was a single dad with no money he bought one small gift per kid. I would get them something small (our local thrift store and library book sale often sell books and CDs for less than a dollar) and the rest do like you thought of already - coupons for your time or a later bedtime or whatever they might like. Your time is more valuable than toys. I'd also encourage them to make whatever they give. Last year we did a recycled Christmas. Nothing could be new. It had to be found.

One night you could drive a long way home and look at lights.

You could also make a simple, specific request on your local Freecycle list. Maybe someone has one of whatever you might want/need for the boys already and is willing to part with it. Wouldn't hurt to ask.

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I think you should look into some charitable giving, but whether you do or not, check out Good Will and Salvation Army stores. You can find a few things for literally a dollar or two a piece to wrap up for them ( and feel free to use newspaper or grocery sacks for wrapoing - they don't care). Check into some things like we have here where disadvantaged parents can shop for gifts people donate, but they all cost a dollar or five. Focus them on some fun free stuff in your community like tree lightings or driving around to look at lights or just wandering around Christmas bazaares. Bake some
cookies with them! You can make it fun and special without $$. And remember - a few $1 Hot Wheels and a box of $2 candy canes in an old wool sock can make most boys pretty happy on Christmas morning!
Especially if you get some hot chocolate!

I just want to add that every year we adopt two families from a local preschool. I see plenty of parents driving up there in expensive cars who could afford their kids gifts if they weren't fixated on themselves (NOT saying this is you at all!) but the point I'm making is that this is the one time of year I don't care! Kids deserve a fun Christmas, and people love to give this time of year, so don't feel bad about signing your kids up for a charity! I would do it in a heartbeat! I admire the reason you don't want to, but it's OK! Someday you'll be in the position to pay that favor back. And you will because just by posting this you show that you care!

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Have you ever watched the movie 'A Christmas in Caanan?' Their Christmas is just like what you are describing.

One thing we did last year was we got together with 3 friends. Each kid picked a book or toy that they currently had that they thought their friend would like. They then wrapped it up. We then had a party and the kids exchanged the wrapped gifts. It was then up to the parents whether they were allowed to open the gifts then or wait until Christmas morning.

Last year my sis sold some old CDs and video games on Craigslist. She made $60. She then used it on Black Friday deals for things that were $5-10.

My hubby LOVES a certain kind of canned link sausages (think Vienna but different) I sneak a can into his stocking each year.

One year I wrapped up a 12 pk of Mountain Dew for my brother.

One year my brother (then 11y) had $20 to buy 5 gifts. We went shopping at Target. He picked out a gift for everyone but me. They were simple things - a decor pillow for mom, a CD for sis 1, a shirt for Dad, etc. He had $5 left. He then saw a hot wheels toy that he really wanted. Can I get it? Its your money, knowing that meant i wouldn't get a gift. (which was okay. I was 26y but still hurt a bit, but it was HIS money to spend). As he bought it he realized it meant he only had $2 left to buy my gift. Oh. He was upset.Why didn't you remind me I didn't have something for you? It was your money, you're allowed to buy what you want. I told him not to worry he would think of something, and if not, that was okay too. On Christmas morning there was a gift to me from him. When I unwrapped it it was a tiny little lighthouse lamp topper/finial about 2 inches tall. (i collect lighthouses) Wow! What an awesome surpise!! I looked at him he was grinning ear to ear. What? Where in the world did you find this. Turns out he'd been upset that I wouldn't get a gift and that if he hadn't gotten that toy he could've gotten me something. He and my Mom were at the same store looking for curtains when he spotted this little lighthouse lamp topper. Did my mom think I would like it? It's a lighthouse, of course she will! It cost $1.75. He still had his $2 and was able to buy it himself! I looked from where I was sitting (in the lighthouse room) to the floor lamp near me, stood up, unscrewed the gold finial and put the little lighthouse in its place. 11 years later, its STILL on that lamp, and I think of my brother each time I glance that way.

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I say make sure you do whatever other traditions you have done in the past. I will also suggest having the family work in a soup kitchen or something like that so they can see what worse looks like and they can see how to help others. I would also suggest this could be a good time to start new traditions and get back to the spiritual meaning of the holiday(s) if you celebrate them in such a manner. I think there are lots of ways you can approach this and I am interested to see what the other moms think. Oh by the way, be prepared for the "Santa will bring me a toy!" statement from the little one who may not understand that YOU are Santa.

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There have been a couple Christmases when we had to just fill the stockings with a few items, but we all loved opening our boxes of "coupons." Make sure your boys also do it. We all made 3 coupons for each other that had something that we would do for each other. Keep it fun and don't look or sound depressed when you explain what you are going to do. You and your older son can help the younger one with the coupons for the other person.

Be sure to spend a lot of time with them doing Christmas things. Drive around looking at those homes with the radio synced Christmas lights and come home for hot chocolate. Make cookies, soft pretzels, or whatever you can find that uses cheap ingredients (many recipes online). Decorate the house with homemade decorations. Watch the Christmas movies as they come up with some popcorn and hot apple cider. Play games with Christmas music in the background. Time like that is way more memorable.

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***Added: Amazon wish lists are really great. You can choose stuff that doesn't cost much and then relatives/friends can order things to be sent if you tell them about the list.

We have a local independent thrift store near us that I have given HUNDREDS of things to over the years we've lived here. One day they had the perfect bike for my daughter. It was only 25$, but I didn't have my wallet with me, I was just dropping stuff off (AND it was a tight month, so I wasn't shopping). For the heck of it I found the manager, who knew me from when I dropped off our jogging stroller and a bunch of other stuff. I asked if it could be a trade for the load I was leaving. He let me take it! Search your thrift stores, you may be able to find some decent stuff, or a manager who will let you trade some stuff.

Also if you're creative, maybe you can have an "experience" for Christmas rather than the tree and gifts being the main draw. Like a family plan to wake up and drive to "X" and the treats can be some fancy snacks along the way (that you baked and wrapped) or something. Make a memory. Honestly, I've never bought any Christmas presents. My kids are younger, and the tree is packed with stuff from relatives. Can you reach out to family and just make sure a few things come in the mail?

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A couple years ago for Christmas, my husband and I had money really tight. We had one son who was 1 1/2. Thankfully he didn't understand the concept of Christmas yet. We did want him to get a little something though. We started yard-saleing. There are all sorts of toys and clothes at yard sales. We got him five books or so for 25 cents each, a winnie the pooh bear for 25 cents, and an elmo remote for $2.00. I don't think I got any clothes for him because he was getting that from grandparents. For his birthday though I did clothes. I actually went to the Goodwill. I don't know if you have one near you, but the one we had was super cheap with clothes in very good condition. I was able to get him two pair of pants, two shorts, a button up shirt, a vest, and a tuxedo jacket and a play rotary phone all for under $10. I know you said you don't have any money, but most people don't think 25 cents is any money. I thought I would write in and give my suggestion just in case you ever have a few cents lying around.

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I think your idea of spending time with them is EXCELLENT. They will appreciate it sooooo much more than any toy. Also, you could focus on GIVING instead of getting this year. And by "giving", I mean volunteer at a local food pantry or homeless shelter or soup kitchen or something. I think they would learn a lot.

Also, you could always learn how to crochet (it's really really easy and there are awesome tutorials on youtube!) and you could make them each a hat or scarf. You can make 2 hats out of a skein that costs less than $3 at Walmart. :-) I just made my 7 year old nephew a hat and he absolutely LOVED it.

In my opinion, Christmas should not be about toys. It's about so much more than that. This year is a great opportunity for you to teach your sons the true meaning of Christmas! :-) Good luck!!!!

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Some charities allow you to make a list of needed or wished for items. I'm not sure which ones, though, but I know that a few years ago my son's class was given a Christmas wish list for a couple of children and each parent in the class would buy one item on the list. You may want to do some research, but I don't think all charities just give toys.

Well, I do know where you are coming from. I am a single mom of two, and we have had some tight Christmases (and it looks like we will this Christmas as well). When my kids were little and money was tight, I would try to do things to get them in the spirit of Christmas, like emphasizing giving instead of just receiving. We would make ornaments and/or cookies and give them to friends and family. We would always have a lot of fun making them, and the kids would get a kick out of everyone ooooing and ahhhing over the gifts they made.

As far as gifts for them, I would get creative. I would make a coupon book of different things that I knew that they would like: 30 minutes of T.V., staying up past bedtime, everyone watch a dvd of their choice, etc. I would also buy them each $10-20 (depending on how much or little I could do) of dollar store gifts--like candy, sidewalk chalk, toy cars, plastic jewelry--and wrap them up individually. They were small gifts, but to them, unwrapping 10-20 gifts felt like a lot. My kids are older now, so I can't get away with that. We have begun celebrating other holidays along with Christmas--Hanukkah and Kwanza. I love Hanukkah because I can still get away with giving the small gifts--make-up for my daughter, a book for my son, or other small gifts during the eight days of Hanukkah. And then we still do Christmas activities together to get in the Christmas spirit. I am lucky that my family helps with the gift giving and so the kids can still get something they really want for Christmas.

Hang in there. I know that it is an awful feeling knowing that you can't give your kids all you want to give them. Holidays are harder for parents than for the kids. Believe it or not, they do and will appreciate the small things that you do to make Christmas wonderful for them, whether you have the money or not. I think a lot of it has to do with the parents' attitude; if you are upbeat and excited, it infects them, but if you are depressed and worried, they will be anxious too.

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I'm sorry, but I really feel that kids deserve the magic of Christmas. A 7 year old doesn't really understand the value of many items, he does understand Santa brings gifts, so spend a few dollars at the dollar store. I'm sure you can manage to save 50 cents a week for the next 7 weeks.

If you don't have any extra money for Christmas, you can give them items that you would need to purchase anyway. Put a toothbrush, socks, gloves, or a pack of gum in a stocking.

I don't understand the "toys and charity". For the past 6 years my daughters and I have helped with our local Salvation Army toy drive, there are many items that aren't toys that are given for gifts. You could ask for a dvd, books, art suplies, or articles of clothing OR consider just asking for a food donation and the money you save on food can be used to buy a few small items.

I like the idea of notes/coupons, but disagree with the giving of time as this is something you would normally do. If you make the notes/coupons for something special that you don't normally do, like an outing that would work.

I'm sure you'll come up with something.

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I have been watching different food in the stores... Kellogs just had a Cars 2 promo where if you got their stuff you could earn free items - which is how I got some stuff for my kids... who doesn't eat cereal. Plus, I have the Pamper & Huggies points from diapering 2 little ones to get a few gifts. Coke points still are out there also - but we don't really drink much Coke.

I know it may sound bad, but the free stuff maybe all that is under the tree... my unemployment runs out the last week of Nov, so my last check with finish covering the Dec house payment & who knows how the rest of the bills will get paid. So, I do understand - slim pickings this year.

I usually do surveys all year to help with Christmas, but with no income starting in December I can't use that money for Christmas... I am putting it aside to help with Jan house payment. I have to keep the house... and I don't know how else to - my unemployment is all the income we have & I haven't been able to find work eventhough I have been looking.

My kids do understand things are tough... they are 7, 6 , and 4 and the 15 mo old doen't know what Christmas is yet and neither will the baby. Kids understand more then you think they do.

Good luck!

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Sell their old stuff on craigslist that they do not play with anymore and look for things they want that is in like new condition on craigslist and buy those things. And accept some donations. Please don't give them nothing but notes for Christmas. Every child should get something special. It does not have to be an extravaganza and I do think many people spend way beyond their means and live on credit which is so dumb but please make it happen for them. You have time and can make it special.

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Money was always tight for my family growing up. And my parents just weren't very celebratory. So it wasn't a big deal.

My husband's parents on the other hand went overboard and still do.

So I see both sides.

Most years we celebrate with my in-laws and the gifts are abundant. As grateful as I am for it, I also sort of despise it. I feel that we are possibly setting our kids up for dissapointment in the future...and having a warped perception of what the holiday is about.

Here are some things you could do...
1 - if you want them to have several gifts to open, accept the charity
2 - find a local organization that has items for free. With the economy being so tight there are many people who have started garage giving - they collect items and allow those in need to come and pick through it during certain days and times of the week - you may be able to find some things there to give to your children that would be just as good as store bought
3 - if your parents or other family members usually give you a gift, ask them to use the money for your kids instead
4 - maybe instead of the typical christmas morning, you could show your children the gift of giving this year - volunteer for the christmas breakfast at the soup kitchen. There is nothing like being around those less fortunate than you to change your mindset and make you feel grateful, not matter how few presents are under the tree.
5 - stocking stuffers can go a long way in making fewer gifts feel like more
Dollar store items, hot chocolate, candies, age appropriate inexpensive small toys, riddle books, etc...
6 - if you don't have a tree, you can likely find a free artificial one on Craigslist. If you don't find one earlier, you can always get free ones on Christmas Eve at the tree lots or the grocery stores. For decorations, have the kids make them. Do a homemade tree this year. Memories!
7 - Draw names. Put all three of your names in a hat and draw them out, buy or make a gift for that person only. This way you aren't all trying to get a gift for eachother on limited funds.

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Hi J.
I understand how tough Christmas can be with no money. I am really not sure how I made it all those years. But I somehow would scrape up enough to get the kids something. It may not be much but it was something to unwrap. Walmart has lay away. You can get each kid something and make small weekly payments. If you could lay away $100 worth of stuff for them and make 8 pmts it would be doable.
Or if you really don't think you can do anything go the police department they do blue santa. There are so many churches that can help. You can call Katy Christian Ministries to see if you can sign up with them.
I know Christmas is not supposed to be about receiving but it is so hard for small ones to understand when everyone else around them is getting new stuff.
Good luck and GOD BLESS!
D.

Hi J.,

I agree that you should go to your local Salvation Army or Thrift store and see if you can trade some stuff for some used toys. Or maybe you'll find some used things there that you can afford. Are you members of a Church? You can ask for your children's names to be put on the giving tree. Or like someone else mentioned, the Amazon wish list is great. It might be hard to swallow your pride, but sending an e-mail to your relatives and asking them to purchase a small item from the wish list and mail it to your house wouldn't be too much to ask. Best wishes!

Any little thing they might need anyway you could wrap up (shirts, pants). Stuff stockings with cute underwear (or is that just girls) and oranges and healthy snacks. Put in a library card if they don't have one.
Do some holiday activities like going to church or other free Christmas programs. Emphasize the religious aspect of the holiday, not the commercial one.
String some popcorn and cranberries to decorate your house even if you don't have a tree. Have them draw or paint decorations too.
I might still swallow my pride and sign them up for one gift somewhere.
Take them to volunteer at a soup kitchen to see how well off they are in comparison.
Have a blessed holiday and give thanks for your beautiful boys. I hope your new year is brighter.

I would do something. Save something to take them camping at a nearby state park. Campsites are like $12. I would find some way to make a fun holiday tradition for them. They should not have to sit there and do nothing. Our family does not spend money on gifts but we go hiking together at a state park or do something fun and adventurous. Boys need experiences like this.

Make the holidays more about spending time together. What is their favorite meal or holiday treat? Make cookies together, drive around different neighborhoods and see the holiday lights while listening to Christmas music on the car radio. Go to free Christmas concerts at a local church. If you want to do a gift, get creative and recycle things into marble runs or race tracks for cars.

Possibly, baking each of their favorite cookies or cakes or a special dinner of favorite foods...not necessarily traditional things would be something you could do together and make it fun for all of you.

I skimmed through a few of the posts and one item that did not seem to come up was "Free Cycle". Not sure if you have something like it locally to you, but it is a website that my hubby calls "high-tech garbage picking". LOL. Last year, we scooped up a huge collection of Thomas related items all for free and we wrapped them up and put them under the tree. Little man did not know anything was recycled. We also nabbed a Dora Princess House with a ton of accessories for the oldest girl.

I also am a huge fan of the dollar store. I have also found that if I stretch shopping out (start now), the dollar goes further because I am not caught up with all the other shoppers and gimmicks.

Do a few little things or one big thing and then make the days special in all the other ways suggested (i.e. cookies, meal together, etc.) and don't feel bad or apologize for it. You are doing the best you can and obviously care deeply.

Good luck.
~C.

A lot of schools do something at Christmas for their families who are having difficult times, as well as the local churches and charities. I understand how you feel that some others may have it worse, but keep in mind, even if your kids understand what is going on, having a Christmas without any gifts is pretty hard for them too. I am NOT saying it is all about the presents that you get them. Please do not think that is my intent! Also, the schools do not tell anyone who the recipients are. You just get in touch with the guidance dept, and ask if they are doing any type of angel tree, or other help for families. My guess is they will. (especially in years like this with the economy being so rough) What do you normally do for the holidays? Do you celebrate at home, or with other family members? I would make a list of my kids favorite activities to do with me, and maybe even something with friends, and then try to come up with a free or very inexpensive version of this to "gift" them to open on Christmas. Maybe you could make them so nice gifts? Do they have any electronics and you could make them electronic type cases from old clothes? Could you tie dye some of their fav. Shirts that maybe have gotten stained? (I do this to recycle stained shirts) Make them some candy for their stockings, some are easy and really inexpensive. There is a recipie for Rese's type candy that tastes JUST like the "real" thing that uses a mix of confectioner sugar, grahm cracker crumbs and P Butter for the filling and melted chocolate for the outer part. YUMMY! (the trick is the grahm cracker crumbs in the PB) They taste just like regular reses. Maybe get a couple new games at a local thrift store, and then spend a couple hours on Christmas day playing the games with the kids. Bake WITH the kids. There are many things that you can do with your kids and Christmas is actually about spending time with your family and the people that you love, but again, please do not feel like you can't ask for help from the places that offer it. That's why they are there. There are so many other people who sign up for help from all of the different charities, (more than 1 per year) and who don't really NEED the help. I know some of them from my kids school last year. They were at the store the same year for Christmas buying xboxes, ipods, new cell phones, and many other items, and then in line for toys for tots and the salvation army where they got new bikes for all 4 of their kids! UGH! That makes me so angry!! YOU need to allow these places to help you and to allow you to give your kids a litle something for the holidays. Then, hug them, read to them, watch a movie together, and spend some real good quality time together!! :)

sell some of the old toys on craigslist or ebay to raise money for the new toys

Can you put any money aside to buy a few small gifts? If you can cut out coffee or any non essential items out a week--it adds up and could help you get a nice gift for them. Also, don't feel bad about signing up for gifts from the community etc. Thats what its there for to help you out when you need help. Best wishes~

M

If your kids are not in need of charity maybe taking some of all of your extras (toys, games, clothing) and donate at Christmas time to a shelter. Teaching kids how to give is one of the best gifts you can give them. Do some art projects to have them give as gifts to family members.
They are young still, I'm sure you will find a way to make sure they have a few wrapped presents to open, there's still 2 months to go pretty much.
Teaching them the true meaning behind Christmas also helps with the lean years, it allows them to understand it all much better and put it in perspective.

Well, there are always charities you can reach out to to see if you are able to take advantage of the toy drives and things of the like, otherwise you can try to do some odd jobs to raise money...but if you're looking for actual gift ideas there are lots of homemade heartfelt type things you can do, look on Pinterest.com to get some ideas. One other idea that comes to mind: visit a thrift store--you wouldn't believe the amazing clothes, toys books and games that you can score for under a dollar a piece in some cases that are in super excellent shape.

Can you have a garage sale to make some extra $?
Sell some things on craigslist?

After that I would definitely buy a few things at the Dollar Store and the
thrift store. You don't have to spend much and I think the kids would not
only appreciate it but deserve it.

That way they have something and I really think they should get a little
something.

Wishing you the best and hope you can do it! :)

Best wishes to you and your family!! Things will get better.

I agree with the other posters that are saying to give the gift of your time. Go caroling with them and their friends. Take them to see 'Tuba Christmas' in your area - totally free! Drive around to look at Christmas lights. Take some computer paper and cut out snowflakes with them and then hang them on your windows (we do this every year. There are some great websites to teach you a great way to fold the paper to get amazing looks!) Bake cookies. Make cards to send to family members. If there's a local college nearby, check their calendar to see what free events and shows they may be putting on.

Good luck to you. There are many, many families struggling like you these days. My family included. Don't feel too proud to ask for help.

Sending you sparkling joy and peace for this season!

Certainly I agree with everyone else and focusing on what Christmas is all
about. Everyone has some great ideas, however, they are still kids and as
much as they get the tough times, it is still hard. Do you think you can fill
stockings for them. Do they have grandparents that might give them a gift or two? I have been where you are and some families members helped .
How about when they go to bed Christmas Eve you string popcorn all over the house in a maze, or hang paper decorations all over. And I mean all over so that they are in awe of it. Try to do something to take their mind off
of things. They have you and your love and a home so they are so very lucky. Sometimes a church can help a bit.

My two sons are the same ages. I say put pride aside and sign them up for charity. I would not worry about how little someone else has when your boys are in need. I was poor and yes I understood that we had no money but it did not make it any better especially if younger siblings got something and I did not. He will have to go back to school and listen to all the other kids talk about how great their Christmas was. He needs something. Legos are pretty cheap and provide hours of fun. Layaway is a poor person's best friend. Wal-Mart is doing it right now on Electronics, toys and jewelry. I pray that things get better for you and the boys.

Definitely see if your area has Freecycle! People get rid of toys ALL the time and just want someone to give them to rather than throwing them in the trash. If your area has a group, join it and post the story you told here. (And it's not charity, it's recycling. Give back to the community by posting your own unused items for giveaway.) Check out Craigslist too--there's usually a free section where you can post requests or see what others have posted. I also endorse the idea of thrift stores. Money is tight for us too. Not as tight as it is for you, but not easy. I got most of my 2 year old's gifts at the thrift store this year and last.

I like the idea of doing something together that's extra special. Think about each kid and what he likes. Is there something they're always begging to do but you won't let them, like stay up late watching a movie, eat a meal of nothing but french fries for dinner, etc? You could make up coupons for those mostly-harmless-but-normally-off-limits activities as well as some special activities you can do as a family, and then each boy can redeem them as they choose (with some guidelines you make up and put on the coupon!).

I don't think there's any NEED to give kids toys for Christmas--it's great to teach them that the holiday is about togetherness, not things. However, if you've always given them toys it may indeed be a big disappointment if they don't get even something small this year. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, but be prepared to let your kids express their sadness/frustration/anger/etc and help them deal with it. If you find you want to get a little something, the dollar store is a great idea, as is the dollar spot at Target. Walmart too often has some cheap stocking stuffer type gifts. For less than $5 each you could get a few items. Wrap each one up and they'd still get that fun experience of guessing what's inside and opening it. Favorite snacks are also good, homemade or store bought. Use coupons and smart shopping to get some items for very cheap. (For instance, using coupons you can get candy for close to free at drugstores this time of year, see sites like Money Saving Mom or Krazy Koupon Lady for ideas.) Again, this is a good time for stuff they don't normally get like a favorite cookie, chips, etc. It seems more special this way! To emphasize giving and not receiving, you could do a family craft day where you help each boy make something for the other. Slow the gift opening process down so they savor each gift instead of tearing them all open in 30 seconds. You could also do a scavenger hunt for the gifts. Wrap up boxes with clues, and each clue will lead them to another. My parents did that for my birthday one year. I can't remember the gift I got but I remember the hunt.

Best of luck to you!

How about taking your kids to a shelter to volunteer for the holidays? That way they get to spend time doing something with you and get to give something back. Who knows, it may even become a tradition.

I like the idea of making a stocking for each of them with dollar store items.

Or maybe you could even do a toy swap. Take some of their old toys they don't play with and exchange them with someone else who is in the same situtation. You could create a group and maybe all the moms meet up and bring things that are still in great condition but that their kids don't play with anymore. I know my kids lose interest in things pretty quickly and there are a ton of things they haven't even touched in months and they all look brand new.

Or if you really want to buy them something, then maybe sell their old toys they don't play with on Craig's list or to a resale shop and then use the money earned to buy them something each.

Of course I would still your wonderful idea of making a coupon book to spend time with you. That's a great idea!

I'm sure whatever you do will be great.

Call your local Salvation Army to see if your sons can be put on an "Angel tree" Do not feel bad. It is more rewarding for them to help you, than you know. I wish your family the best this Holiday season.

Instead of focusing on what you can't give them, maybe focus on what you CAN do. It might be fun to volunteer together with them to help people in need on or around the holiday.

Are you creative at all? You can make them some gifts.
Also, I agree with the dollar store idea.
Dollar stores are great! And freecycle! Those are awesome ideas.

make the day majic. drink hot coffee, go to the park and have nature walks, go look at lights, bake cookies, a gingerbread house and let your church know. i am sure that people will want to buy a gift for your sons. do you have family that buys gifts? we did not buy christmas gifts for our kids the first two christmases of there lives because they go so much from every one else! scrudge? idont care we were swamped then there birthdays came in jan and feb...give overboard. not bragging just saying we got away with it like that. you can make it happen while free! if you can buy a yo yo, jax a box of chalk. even simple cheap gifts are sometimes the best. will your 7 yr old still have fun with an empty box??? mine do. God bless.

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