|My son Max's secondhand Christmas loot.|
Shop on amazon.com.
This is my go-to website. If you buy an item directly from Amazon (other people can sell items on this site), you pay no sales tax. Add more than $25 of eligible items to your cart and check out with their Free Super Saver Shipping and you have purchased gifts sans tax and shipping. Amazon is a great way to find the lowest prices without leaving your home, spending money on gas, and fighting traffic. (Note: I have no affiliation with Amazon. I simply enjoy shopping on this site!)
Do a family gift exchange.
Family gift exchanges are a great way to spend less money because they cut down on the total number of gifts you purchase. For the last several years, we have done this on my side of the family. Each "family" gets a gift. It can sometimes be a challenge to find a gift the entire family will enjoy. For instance, my sister has a family of seven she wants to appease. However, you can come up with fun ideas such as a recently released movie or board games.
Give useful gifts. My husband and I have a hard time thinking of things for one another. The last couple of years, we have decided to do something small, like treat ourselves to a date night at a favorite restaurant, or give one another something we would buy anyway. It is still fun! For instance, my husband is sick of looking at my old socks. This year, I have a feeling my stocking will include some new, cute socks. (Don’t laugh, I am excited!)
Focus on a few specific toys.
Have more toys than Toys “R” Us? You aren’t alone. I realize that when you have children, it is hard to say no to more video games and Little People sets. Instead, pick a few of the toys your child really wants. Focus on getting some of the toys that are educational.
Give quality time.
In addition to more balls, LEGOs, and dolls, think outside of the box. Ask for gift cards for children to use for Gymboree classes or something comparable offered in your town. Classes like Gymboree provide places for children to run, play, and explore in a safe environment. Think of other children’s activities that have a fee, such as the local zoo, a children’s museum, or swim lessons, and ask for donations toward the cost.
Buy used items.
Now I realize I may be able to get away with this suggestion more than many of you, as I am buying for children who do not yet "get" the concept of Christmas and have no list for Santa. My son, at 26 months, will not be expecting anything and will love everything (at least for a few minutes). I am basking in the years before the wish lists are composed of Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones, iPads and iPods, puppies, and more.
This year, I purchased a few of my son's presents secondhand. In reality, you really do not need to buy very many toys brand new at any time of the year. Kids enjoy playing with most toys and usually their fondness does not last long. I have found some great Elmos, toy cars, a child-sized shopping cart, and other items secondhand and spent about one-quarter of what it would cost to buy the items new. Check consignment shops, Craigslist, and even talk to your friends with older children.
Contribute to college funds.
While children probably will not be excited about college savings accounts until they understand the premise, they will be very thankful for it eventually. Four-year tuition and fees for public universities are estimated to cost $95,000 for kids who begin college in 2028. (Cringe!) College savings plans such as the 529 plan help families set aside funds for future college expenses. Many college savings plans even have an e-mail that can be sent to family members to seek donations. This is a great way to get a few extra bucks in lieu of more Hot Wheels or Barbie dolls. If your child decides not to attend college, the plan can be renamed with a new beneficiary.
Do it yourself.
Some gifts you can make at home that cost little but are a big hit include homemade truffles, made-from-scratch cookie kits, and recipe booklets. You can also encourage your children to draw artwork or color a picture and give those to Grandma and Grandpa. Homemade gifts are sweet. Grandparents especially love them.
The possibilities for frugal yet unique gifts are endless. Remember, by making a gift personal and meaningful, you will show your loved ones how much they mean no matter how much money you spend.