Holidays Approaching--how to Pay for Them?

Updated on October 07, 2008
J.M. asks from Minneapolis, MN
51 answers

We cut out credit card use back in March, and have been chipping away at credit card debt since then. We have two small kids who are already talking about Christmas (the toy ads are starting), but I could use some tips for Christmas spending without credit cards!

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S.C.

answers from Minneapolis on

J.-

We do the same thing that several people have mentioned, and that is the 3 gift rule for the 3 wise men. Then also this year my family has decided to "go green", so all gifts to my family members are either to be made, from a garage sale or thrift store, or Used. So, for example, my mom and I are going to a community ed class, where we will be making spa gifts for 2 people, so I will give my mom and sister that, and it only cost me $14 for the class. We bought my dad two DVD's from a garage sale, and now I only have to worry about my brother and his fiancee. Good luck, you can do it!!!

S.-
Mother to three beautiful girls ages 7,6 and 4, and a beautiful baby on the way :)

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M.W.

answers from Madison on

A lot of places have lay away options. You can put the items aside and pay them off over the next couple of months.

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C.O.

answers from Minneapolis on

My oldest just had his 6th birthday. I didn't want a dozen new toys all over, so he donated the gifts from his birthday party (we told the guests this would be happening ahead of time) and we spent less than $30 getting him some books and a few things he REALLY wanted. It was the best birthday! He truly appreciated his gifts, was happy to help other kids, and we didn't add much to the floor clutter.
I think we're going to go the same route for Christmas. Set a dollar amount to get something really special for each child and stick to it.

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R.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

I've talked about this with some of my friends. Not only is it a money issue, but how many toys does a child need??!! Our children are somewhat younger than yours, but here are some ideas we had:

- Hide away some of their current toys and rediscover them at xmas

- Try a toy swap with some of your friends (kind of like a private toy garage sale)

- It takes time, but thrift stores are amazing. My mother-in-law goes thrift store/Goodwill shopping once a week and finds brand new clothes, shoes and toys for the kids. Once she found a bunch of old prom dresses that we altered into dress-up clothes for my daughter's birthday.

- My mother-in-law always gets the kids more than we or Santa does (she can afford it, we can't). Last year I was really honest with her and asked if there were any of her gifts that could be opened xmas morning...and if they could be from Santa. I was nervous about asking, but she thought it was a great idea.

Best of luck! I'll be reading the responses you get for new ideas for our family!

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S.G.

answers from Rapid City on

I always had my kids give me a long list of what they wanted for christmas with the understanding that we would give Santa the list and he could pick what to give them off the list. I told them sometimes Santa's elves don't get enough of one of the toys made for all the kids who want them. It also gave me a lot of choices, some expensive and some not. We always bought with cash. We used credit cards for big items like when we needed new appliances and that still adds up so now we make sure we can pay them off each month... of course now the kids are all grown.

Do filler items like puzzels and books to make it look like they have more presents. My kids got three presents from Santa and three from us. When they got older and the toys got more expensive it was cut down to three presents from us and of course by then they didn't believe in Santa so I didn't worry about it. I also made it fun by wrapping the presents in different wrapping paper or different ribbons for each child and not putting tags on it, it kept them from guess the presents when they are peeking. One year I took three identical boxes that cases of paper towels come in and wrapped each present and put their right names on those, but then put a varitety of those wrapped presents into the boxes, wrapped the big boxes up and put the wrong name on each of the big box. When they opened the presents they had to hand out the presents to who they belonged to. It was fun like this that they remember more then how much we spent each year or even what we got them.

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C.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi J.,

First, I applaud you on your lack of credit cards! My husband and I are on the same "debt-free" journey.

I can tell you what my family does. Maybe some of these tips will work for you....

Several years ago, I told my extended family and friends that I would no longer be exchanging gifts with them anymore. You know what--not one person complained, and most were relieved! Our culture can be so consumer-driven at Christmas time, and the commericals and ads make you feel like you have to buy for EVERYONE: coworkers, your kids' teachers, your mailman, your 2nd cousin Bob... Yes, some of these people do still buy me small gifts. I smile and write "thank you" notes, but I don't fall into the "guilt trap" of feeling like I have to reciprocate.

The only people we buy Christmas gifts for are our parents, and our nieces and nephews that are under 18. We have a budget for each person, and we stick to it. I don't buy for my siblings anymore. I make a donation to my favorite animal shelter in their names. My husband does still buy for his own siblings, but they are very modest gifts, in the $15-$20 range.

This will be our son's first Christmas, and he will be getting plenty of presents from his grandparents and aunts and uncles. Instead of getting him a gift, my husband and I are putting money into the savings account we have set up for him. He's too young to understand gift giving this year, but when the time comes, we will give him 1 or 2 gifts. If there is a big ticket item he wants, we may go in on something with his grandparents.

I know it is hard when you may have family members and friends who are getting their kids hundreds of dollars worth of gifts, but really, what are they teaching their kids? To love material goods? To get everything they want, when they want? To not understand the value of money?

Most younger kids could not even tell you what they received last Christmas, or which gift came from whom--something to think about.

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A.B.

answers from Omaha on

A few years ago we also cut up our credit cards and are now debt-free except our house. I applaude you for taking the journey. In our budget we have a catagory titled "gifts". Every month we put a set amount in that catagory. We use it for all of our gift purchases (weddings, baby showers, birthdays, Christmas, etc.).

That first year of trying to get out of debt we limited our Christmas spending to $500 total - we have a large family and extended family. I went shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving and got some great deals - $2 movies, $10 Mega Block packs, coloring books from dollar stores, $10 sweatshirts or hoodies for the men. Michaels Craft Store always has 40% off a single item. I use that a lot to by craft projects for my children. My sister-in-law also did this and her limit was $200. Everyone got presents - a lot of them (for adults)were baked goods with pretty bows.

The key is to be creative, have a list of who you are spending money on and an amount limit. Our limits are $10 for children ($50-100 for our own children), $20-30 for parents and adults. I usually spend under the amount because I am always looking for a deal.

If you are used to spending a lot on gifts then you need to change your thinking. Everyone has far more toys and stuff than anyone needs. I know for my own household that too much is a curse. If I have to keep picking something up or my children are crying when they have to clean up their rooms then that is an indication that they have too much.

I love Christmas and presents like everyone else but that should not be the sole focus. I hope this helps.

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K.H.

answers from Minneapolis on

well sounds like your best bet-is to start hitting the sales now-also-go to family dollar stores-same toys-way cheaper prices-i start xmas shopping-the day after xmas-all thru the year-i keep a huge tote in the closet-all gifts go in there-so come this time of year-its more fun an relaxing....good luck....

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H.J.

answers from Milwaukee on

We have cut back on Christmas considerably ever since we had our daughter and I quit my job to stay home with her.

As far as extened family goes: nieces and nephews have a $20 limit; all other kids under 18 have a $10 limit. Once they are over 18, they don't need anything anymore.

For our own daughter, we don't get her much, maybe three presents. (Her grandparents can have fun spoiling her). Santa is limited to three small gifts in her stocking; this way, Santa doesn't become the focus of the holiday. We chose to stick to three gifts, because that is how many gifts the wise men gave to Baby Jesus.

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L.M.

answers from Minneapolis on

My husband is a school teacher and I am a SAHM so you know we do not make much money:) But he has since college, worked at Green Mill on his Saturdays. He is a football coach so does not work there in the fall, but restarts as soon as his schedule lightens up every year. That money he has made there is always "extra" money for us that we spend that cash and nothing more on all our gifts. The only time we ever spendt more on someone was last year. We bought my dad a snowblower from Menards and put it on our Menards card, but it was 6 months no interest, and we always make sure we pay those off before the 6 months is over.
I also sell Mary Kay, and will give Mary Kay products to the people on our list who love my products. My godmother and I always exchange gifts to each other, and she is one of my best customers so I know what she likes and it is easy to give to her. Plus, anything I use or give as gifts is a tax deduction from my inventory. One other thing I do, I get invited to so many different home shows like Pampered Chef, Lia Sophia, Tastefully simple, and I always want to buy something at least to help the hostess reach her goal. So instead of buying for myself, I think ahead to who's b-day is coming up and buy something as a gift. I know when I go, I am going to spend probably $30, so I just pick out a gift and then I have had a great time, got a gift done, and helped out the hostess in one shot.
A lot of people I know also will get temporary jobs at Kohl's or Target so that they can make a little extra for the holidays and get employee discounts as well on their purchases.
Oh, and last year I got most of my shopping done without spending too much just by going to the Albertville outlet mall Thanksgiving night. They open at Midnight and the sales are usually 75% off for the early birds. It was great! Eddie Bauer outlet was the best as I got my husband, his dad, my brother, and brother in law nice outfits and only spendt a total of $80, oh and with that $80 I had also got myself some flannel jeans to wear as it was freezing that night:) Happy shopping!

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S.R.

answers from Appleton on

This is less expensive for us, yet gives the kids the true meaning of Christmas...

I told my kids that Jesus only received 3 gifts for his birth. I told them that we should never want more than him, so we only get 3 gifts - no more. We also make a cake together and sing Happy Birthday to him. Right now my kids are little and I am able to get the 3 gifts for them, but as they get older I expect they will want more expensive gifts. When that time comes - I will probably get one gift and two smaller gifts such as socks or the such (things they need anyway and I would eventually buy). That would still be the 3 gifts, and hopefully still less expensive.

Good job not using the cards anymore. We too did that one year quite awhile back... UUGH - never again!

I'm excited to read the other ideas you receive. I'm always open for other ideas. I like the idea of going the night before for all the bargains. The nice thing about that would be... you don't have to worry about where to hide the gifts in the house :) My son is now 8 and the last couple years have been hard. I now hide their gifts at my mom's house!
~SR

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D.G.

answers from Omaha on

i have done this myself i only have one child at the time she is 7 but i let her choose 5 toys she really likes and then i focus on purchasing them for her and know the children want every kind of toy they see, i told mine that i need her to make a list of some toys she wants and of course theres about 30 toys on her list but i help her narrow it down, and i only let her pik 5 because her b-day is in nov so she gets plenty of stuff then as well and once she gets all the stuff from her b-day and then on top of x-mas she dont remember the other stuff that was not purchased on the list( smile), anyway thats what i have been doing and saving the credit cards for our vacation it seems to work out fine as well as save money children dont play with all the stuuf they have anyway atleast mine dont, she always play with the stuff i purchased 3yrs ago (smile)

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L.M.

answers from Rapid City on

I try to buy one thing from each paycheck from August through the first part of December. My last paycheck before Christmas I use to buy stocking stuffers. I hide the stuff either under blankets in the trunk of my car or in mysterious places in the garage or shed. :)

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S.H.

answers from Green Bay on

Hi J.,
We've decided to make a number of our gifts. I know it's hard when your kids see all these things though.
Blessings,
S.
PS: we also try to plan ahead so we have money saved, didn't turn out to be quite as much though.
Homeschool mom and reliable homebusiness owner

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L.H.

answers from Milwaukee on

I actually shop all year round to help. I look for deals and clearance items that my kids like. It's easier to do when their little, but gets harder to do all year round when their teens. Just because of how they change and grow. Start now and hide them. Children do not need much to make them happy they just need to like what they get. Happy shopping.

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D.G.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi J. - I save for Christmas all year long. It may be a little late for you now, but starting January 1 put aside dollars in a savings account. I determined how much it usually costs us for gift giving, divided it by 12 and save equal amounts every month. Many banks, perhaps your own, don't require a minimum balance and are free. I know TCF does. I have an auto transfer from my checking account to my savings account that happens every month. I've trained myself not to touch this money and when Christmas happens, it's covered in cash! I do this for some other major expenses as well such as car insurance, vacations, etc.

Hope this helps,

D.

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C.

answers from Milwaukee on

I have been shopping without credit cards for years. It is not hard. I do shop all year round for not only the kids, but the grandkids, relatives and friends. I pick things up on sale all the time. That way, your not spending one big chunk of money at one time. It's just a little here and a little there. Like right now I have Gymbucks to spend at Gymboree from when I bought a Birthday gift over the summer. I will use that this week on an outfit and put it away for Christmas for my grandaughter.....little things like that help. I also try to make a few things like embroidered bath towels or frame special pictures....Use your creative side, there are a lot of little things that can be made that people appreciate, even kids! My grandma used to bake my favorite cookies and put them in a special (pretty) tin, and give them to just me (when I was little)for Christmas and she would knit me a pair of mittens. I loved it cuz they were just for me ;) And I knew that she had made them just for me....
Best wishes to you and remember, once you get used to shopping without credit, it's a piece of cake. You will develop your own tricks of the trade :) CK

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A.

answers from Minneapolis on

1. Set a limit on what's a reasonable number of gifts.
2. Plan your list well in advance - know what you want to get.
3. Find items that are meaningful to your children, but not necessarily expensive.
4. Start shopping now - look for bargains. Build the expenses into your monthly budget rather than having a big splurge in December.

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T.L.

answers from Rochester on

Good job on the credit card debt! It's hard to pay it off but so worth it. I would slowly start buying items now - work it into your grocery and discretionary budgets and buy a little each week.

On January 1, set a budget for each person that you buy for for Christmas and birthday presents. Divide the total by the number of pay periods in your year, and start putting that amount automatically into a savings account. Then you won't have to worry about it next year!

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T.C.

answers from Minneapolis on

One more thought for everyone in the Apple Valley area: Home Crafters Gallery (NW corner of 42 & Cedar)sells 3 'Lil Kinz (little Webkinz) in a bag for $12. The bags are stapled shut, but if you have kids who are into them, it's a great buy for Christmas & even birthdays for some of their friends.

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A.

answers from Minneapolis on

Good job on the credit card payments - you'll feel great when it's all gone! My kids are younger (3 and 1) and we've started small with gifts so they don't have huge expectations. We try to focus more on the reason for Christmas and all the celebrations and traditions instead of the "stuff" of Christmas. I know it's hard when the ads and all the other kids are putting the pressure on. That being said - maybe a couple of gifts under the tree (things they really want, are in your price range, and will last for awhile) are good. As a kid I was always more excited about my stocking - all the little things that were unexpected and it felt like I received more than what I actually had. Stocking stuffers can be picked up at the dollar store (I like Dollar Tree) and the dollar section of Target. You have almost 3 full months to add Christmas gift savings to your budget, I know times are tough but you might be able to squeeze some savings in. Just remember that the toys and stuff only last for a little bit, the memories of time as a family and celebrations last a lifetime! (And come January when the credit card bill comes due and you see no new charges you won't have any buyer's remorse!)

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M.M.

answers from Milwaukee on

How about selling old toys on ebay and then using the money in your paypal acct to buy new ones?

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J.B.

answers from Cedar Rapids on

I'm sure you have got a lot of respones already. But my family have the same problem. We first set a limit on each kid. Then we start early in the year and both me and my husband put ten dollars away in a savings account out of each pay check. But this year was worst than most. So we started putting stuff on layways already to be able to pay and they are out of kids sight for a while. In stead of tring to hide them in the house. Or you can do what we did one year we made christmas gifts for each other. Of course santa clause gave them what they asked for, we only ask santa for one big thing or two smaller things. As with most kids they may ask for more than you can chew so direct them to something you can afford. If they have problems understanding why they don't get what they got the year before. Try getting them in to donating to the less unfortant kids. Or visit childrens hospital and sing carols or read books. Christmas is more about family than gifts. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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J.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi J.
One good tip I tell you is to find something that makes extra income for you and it doesnt involve working 25 hours a week away from home. I own a business with MaryKay and I love to be able to work from my home 4-5 hours a WEEK and it nets me about $100-200 a week...its fun to have that coming in and know that I have not spent 25hours at a part time job.

If your interested in learning more about how I am working to pay for my holidays...I would be glad to sit down and talk to you...we could even get together for a relaxing facial and holiday makeover or just coffee or tea. Email me as this is the best way to get a hold of me.

J. White
[email protected]____.com

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K.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi J.,

I know a mom who gets a weekend, or other part-time job seasonally and uses the money from that job to buy gifts for her kids. Retail places are hiring now for the holiday season, and they usually offer employee discounts to those stores as well.

I know the thought of getting a part-time job while already working and with young kids sounds daunting, but if one of you can do it between the two of you, it will greatly increase your limit on Christmas spending this year.

Otherwise, some of the made-from-home gifts seems like a smart way to go! Now if you can sell the idea to the kids....

Good luck!

K.

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K.W.

answers from Cedar Rapids on

Hello!

The credit union I work for offers something called a "Christmas Club" Account. It's just a savings account that you can put a few dollars in a week throughout the year so that by the time the holidays come around, you have the cash to do your shopping. The nice thing about it is if you have direct deposit from your paycheck, you never even miss the $5 or $10 going in there and it accrues interest, too! Free money for the holidays! I know it's too late for this year, but you may want to check into something like that at your financial institution for the coming years.

Good luck!

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N.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

First of all--way to go on getting rid of credit cards!

We are big day after Thanksgiving sale shoppers in our family. I know stores are crowded, but if you're smart about it you can get your shopping done without spending very much. Do you have any family or friends in town that you can shop with? I go with my mom and my grandma because we put all our purchases together to save more.

And I agree with others here that this is a great time to help your kids understand what Christmas is about. Best of luck!

N.

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D.H.

answers from Milwaukee on

We have 5 children, 2 teenagers who want the big price items like iPods, cell phones, Playstation3, etc. and 3 small children who just want EVERYTHING!! Money is tight these days for everyone. A few things I've done in the past years is to start buying Christmas presents in Summer. Watch for clearance items. Buy a gift or 2 a week so it doesn't seem it hit as hard in the pocket. Check out online autions like Ebay and Craigslist. Sometimes esale shops will have things BRAND NEW with the tags still on! If you have a few extra dollars, buy a small gift. If you are crafty, make things. The tie quilt fleece blankets are always a nice idea, easy & inexpensive. No reason to do all your shopping in December, start now and get alittle at a time.

GOOD LUCK!

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B.B.

answers from Rapid City on

garage sales all year long : O )

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M.F.

answers from St. Cloud on

My suggestion is that you set a limit on each child. Go every payday and make one purchase per payday. Also, set limits for monitary value. We have six grandchildren and the limit is $20.00 per child. We are retired and I am the only one who has any income; my husband is totally, terminally disabled and cannot get any disability because they say I make too much and all I get is Social Security and retirement, plus I am limited in personal care for my husband to 22 hours every 2 weeks at $12.20 an hour and now I have started day care for 2 grandchildren to help out, so money is not easy to come by. You have to call limits.

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J.C.

answers from Des Moines on

We've been without credit cards for more than two years. We have three kids now. Several of my friends do three presents b/c of the three Wise Men. We did this last year and got them one bigger thing, a smaller thing and a practical thing. They get presents from grandparents and other family members. We maybe spent $50-75 a kid. We still have a house full of toys!!

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C.F.

answers from Milwaukee on

For years we had a Christmas club account at our local bank. We would put in $20.00 each check then in November the bank sends you a check to go shopping. We shop the ads and the early bird special like at Farm and Fleet and buy stuff throughout the year. We only buy one big gift and a few small ones for each child. We try to explain its not the amount of gifts they get but what the true meaning of Christmas is.

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K.T.

answers from Minneapolis on

One thing that we like to do is shop at dollar stores for christmas. Especially for our youngest who is 5, he usually breaks his toys anyway. This way we can get a bunch of toys for a small amount of money. Then we purchase one or two more expensive gifts like the gameboy games or something. You can find some good stuff at dollar stores these days that the kids just love. Good luck, and great job with cutting the debt!

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J.D.

answers from Sioux City on

How about the day after Thanksgiving sales. You can save big bucks, and still get some of the stuff they ask for. Also, some times second hand stores do have things that are decent for a lower price. I don't think kids would care if they didn't come in the original boxing. If they want playstations or stuff like that they have second hand gaming stores too.

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L.T.

answers from Sioux Falls on

Hitting the dollar stores is an excellent idea. I've found that even at the ages that my boys are at (teenagers), they still like to go and look at the toys at our dollar store and will almost beg to get something from there. You can also get several coloring book and crayons. If you're a crafty person, there are several sites that gives ideas that you can use with your children using those coloring books including making window clings. There are several sites that also have coloring pages that you can print off, those are good because they can be saved on your computer using note pad or even Microsoft word (used this idea when we got several birthday invites and no money for gift, the child loved them). Your oldest will, if not already, want to start building things. Get him things like the crafting sticks (popcicle sticks), glue and paints and see what he does with them. Your youngest will most likely join in. If they like music you can go to www.music.download.com and download music (free) and put them on CD for them to listen to (love this site, have a ton of music from them and they have all types on that site). This site is very safe and the music is very free. They also have other downloads for your computer that are also free. They are owned by CNET which has been around since the internet first opened up to the public (they are the download site for ZDNET for those who are really computer savey). If you allow your kids to have play-do at home, you can find recipes to make it your self. If you need help in finding anything on the net, just e-mail me at [email protected]____.com and I'll be more than happy to help in anyway that I can. I know what it's like to have little or no money for Christmas and don't know where the gifts will be coming from.

L.

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J.F.

answers from Minneapolis on

1. Way to go with the credit cards! That is HARD work, but worth it.
2. I loved reading what everyone else does, especially limiting the gifts to a set amount and allowing Santa to pick one gift from the list. I know someone who felt pressured to buy a laptop for her daughter because she wanted her to continue believing in Santa and it was one of 3 expensive requests. YIKES!
3. Handmade gifts and photos are great gifts and can easily be less expensive than any store bought whatever (especially for extended family).
4. If you need additional funds, consider selling something you no longer need or want on Craigslist.
5. Consider shopping Craigslist. There are tons of great deals to be found-easily!
Good Luck!

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J.

answers from Minneapolis on

Congratulations on cutting up the cards and paying down debt!

I consider myself a very thrify shopper! I shop year round for clothing for my kids for next year. I find great deals after the holidays for birthday gifts - and sometimes event Christmas gifts for next year.
I do often shop the day after Thanksgiving, but I have to be careful not to buy things just because they are on super sale.

My kids each get about 3-4 gifts and a stockingful of little things. I have preschool boys that love Hotwheel cars and they're only $1! My husband and I both shop for stocking stuffers so he gets to participate in the shopping a bit too. We discuss anything more than $25 for the kids. The always get some clothing for Christmas too.

Before I start shopping for Christmas, I write down who I need to buy for and about how much I will spend on each. Then I can look through my "gift closet" and see what I already have.
I make english toffee for my friends and neighbors.
The kids make a craft for their preschool teachers and I usually include a small gift card for book store or Target.
My sisters, their husbands and my husband and I exchange names as couples so we spend $100 total. We do buy for niece and nephew and two sets of grandparents.

I am a stay at home mom but also have a home party business with Silpada. With the holidays coming up, I knew we could use the extra money so I booked more parties than usual. In the past 3 parties I have made over $1000 in cash. This is usually our entire Christmas budget! I determine my schedule and know I will make an estimated $225 per party I work.

Hosting a party for a type of product you would like to give for the holidays is a great idea. Discovery Toys for children's gifts, Tastefully Simple for food products for family and friends, Silpada Designs jewelry for the women and girls in your life, etc. Your friends will get a chance to do some shopping too in the comfort of your home and you will get FREE products as the hostess.

I keep all my holiday receipts in one envelope so I can check on my spending and see how I did when finished. Might help me to plan for next year too.

Most of all, enjoy the season. Do fun activities (game nights, sledding, making cookies, volunteering) and try to minimize the stress.
Hope these ideas help a bit!
J.

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J.G.

answers from Milwaukee on

Hi J.,

The one thing our parents taught us is that if you can't afford it, don't get it. Go shopping the night before Christmas. You'll find the most bargains. We always got our kids just one larger gift and then some things they needed, like socks, pajamas, outfits.

But, if you are looking to earn some additional residual income for the holidays and to pay down debt. That's what our company focuses on. We have even partnered up with Dave Ramsey and we are registered with the BBB.

This season is meant to be filled with joy, happiness, warmth, love and sharing. Not stress.

God Bless!

For more information please visit: www.200biz.com/yourchoice
Sincerely,
J.

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E.I.

answers from Duluth on

well, i dont know if you are religious, but it might be more important to teach the meaning of Christmas. if not, then read on.

first of all, if you have a large family, or a large network of family and friends, you could do a name swap. even if you have a small family, you could do a double name swap. basically, draw names out of a hat, keep it a secret who you get, and put a price limit on the gifts that are bought. if you want to teach your children about giving, maybe they can get a few less presents than normal, and do things like give presents to toys for tots, or visit a nursing home with some nice baked goods.

remember, gifts are not what its all about, and i and my family do not really like the whole 'selfish gimme gifts' part of Christmas at all. you could also get small inexpensive gifts... or a simple gift card to their favorite toy store so they can shop for themselves! :D

good luck. i hope that you can have a blessed Christmas!

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J.O.

answers from Wausau on

good for you for dealing with your credit card debt!!!! That has to be hard.

Are you more concerned with how to spend less on the kids or are you also buying for extended family members?

We have huge extended families on both sides, and it is tradition on my side of the family to give something to EVERYONE! What I have done in past years is to set a limit on spending per person or per couple and stick to it. I have a 2 yr old son so this year he will be involved in making gifts for everyone.

There is always the homemade route. If you have your kids color a picture or paint a picture, then you buy an inexpensive frame and put the picture in it and label it "From the Smith Family- artwork by Joey". You can get frames that are cute but don't break the bank at Wal-mart or you go to your local dollar stores and see what they have there.

Another option is calendars. Everybody needs a calendar and if you shop around, you can find them for pretty reasonable prices. I have always appreciated getting a calender from my great grandma since I moved out on my own. I would get the smaller ones for kids in addition to a wall calendar for the adults.

I also do a Christmas card with a photo and a Christmas letter in it. Then people feel like they are still getting a gift even when the actual gift is something really small and inexpensive.

Make sure you consider shipping costs ahead of time if you are shipping gifts anywhere. I often get books or other media gifts for people who live far away since as long as I ship them early, I can use media rate shipping which is a lot cheaper. Check at your post office to see what rules are for shipping, as far as size and weight, that may influence what you buy too.

For the kids... if your kids are accustomed to getting a heap of gifts on Christmas, you might need to prepare them that it might be smaller this year. (If you can, have Santa do the same as he always does, and then your own gift(s) to them can be less than usual.) Wrapping each gift individually is another good trick. If you pick up 5 books at a thrift store for example, wrap each one separately, rather than stacked together and wrapped as one gift. You could try doing a theme for each child too. If one likes cars, you could get them car stickers, some hotwheels cars, a car calendar, some pencils with cars on them etc, and wrap each gift separately.

And you could always do fun coupons like "You get to pick what's for dinner for one day each month." and "get out of one bath free" Just think of fun silly stuff write them on strips of paper, punch a hole near one end and thread a ribbon it it. Make sure it's stuff you won't mind doing when they redeem them.

Think outside the box and get creative :) and have fun with it!!!

K.B.

answers from Milwaukee on

I know you have gotten a lot of respones already here is my simple input.

Figure out what you can afford, $5, $10, $15 or whatever per kid. Then you can have the kids make a list and you pick out the item that fits in your budget... if there is nothing on their list then try to come up with something simliar that they have on the list but that is in your price range.

Do not make a big deal about gifts! That is not the point of Christmas. Also the gifts the kids give to you guys (parents) have them make them to show that making something is better then buiying something... or this could be buy something cheaper to paint like a picture frame (this can be done for grandparents, aunts, and uncless too).

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M.H.

answers from Sioux Falls on

Seriously, I buy throughout the year and I only buy what's
on clearance. And by clearance, I am talking at least 50% off. Just this morning, I went out to Walmart and found GREAT deals for my 1 year old, 5 year old, and 10 year old girls. My kids might get "last years models" but really, they don't know the difference and are thrilled :) End of season sales are the best way to go also... :)

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A.B.

answers from Fargo on

I agree with what others have said. Set a limit on the number and price of gifts and start shopping around now. Look for the sales! Also, start setting aside money monthly for Christmas gifts next year and then you don't have to worry about it when it comes around again. We only spend about $20 per child and get them something they really want that's within that price range. They get enough presents from family, so we don't feel the need to go all out. We focus more on the family time than the presents and the REAL reason for the season.

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D.D.

answers from Sioux Falls on

Many stores have lay-away plans. I find that works best because you get what you and everyone else wants early without worry that they'll be all gone. Lay it away at the courtesy desk and chip away until christmas. This way doesn't hurt so much.

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C.A.

answers from Green Bay on

We usually do one "big" gift from mom and dad, and one "big" gift from Santa. (Big equals a pair of jeans, new shoes, an iPod, or an American Girl Doll....usually a TOTAL of less than $100 per kid) Our girls are now 9 and 12, and they know that Christmas does not mean a gift extravaganza, rather it means celebrating the birth of our savior, family time, snuggling around the fire and singing songs. It's hard to keep the commercialism out of Christmas when we're bombarded by advertising months in advance, but it is possible. Great question, and great solution with your credit card:)

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C.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

I start shopping early. If I see something that the kids would like and have the extra money or if I see something on clearance why wait? I pick it up and put it in a safe hiding spot. That way you don't have to spend a lot of money all at once. It is spread out. My children really don't need anything, so we don't go overboard and try to emphasize giving to others.

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T.N.

answers from Minneapolis on

Make your list and get started now to spread out the $$ over several months.
Shop online for specific items. Price comparing is really easy and you even get product reviews on sites like Amazon.
Make food for people who really don't need a gift (like teachers....)
Make coupons for babysitting for friends with kids and "girlfriend date" coupons for those friends or sisters who will get you a gift. These can be redeemed in January or February.
Have fun!

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R.K.

answers from Appleton on

I know this advice is a little late but banks still have Christman Club accounts. You could start one for next year.
However for this year follow the sales. Buy only sale items and clearance items. Set an amount of the total you will spend and don't go over it. A few years ago a friend of mine and her whole family decided to only shop at Dollar Stores for the adults. It was a fun and no pressure way to not go overboard.
I don't know how you normally do the holidays, I know a lot of people buy tons of stuff for the kids because they feel pressured to buy and buy. Instead buy less for Christmas and spread out the gift giving all year. Also when you see somthing on sale that you know the kids will love buy it hide it in a closet. You would be amazed at how much you can acculate in a year buying a little at a time. When I was a kid my Mom bought me a jacket in January for the next Christmas--she hid it in her bedroom closet for 11 months right there on a hanger in plain sight. I never saw it and was thrilled to get it for Christmas.

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J.Z.

answers from Madison on

Looks like you got a lot of great tips already. This late in the season maybe start buying one object a paycheck or something like that, so you don't spend a huge chunk of money all at once that could throw off your bills. Also maybe your kids could help you make craft presents for relatives who like that kind of thing.

Something we have done twice in a row now is take our daughter to an indoor water park in the WI Dells on Christmas and stay one night. Let her play with her stocking toys there, and open her few presents when we get home. (We only buy her a few but she gets presents in the mail from relatives as well) It is like a present for the whole family.

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H.A.

answers from Waterloo on

If you haven't already started shopping-- start now! That way all the spending won't hit you at once. I actually keep my eyes open all year for great deals. Since your kids are 4 and 7 (so are my boys!) you can still get away with garage sale and Dollar General items.

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G.E.

answers from Des Moines on

Hi J.,
Some stores still do layaway, which is another alternative to the great suggestions already shared. Good for you with the credit cards!
G.

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