Christmas shopping and budgeting have always been a nightmare for me. I have to admit that I was blessed as a child to have more presents under our tree than I should have. I feel it fair to say that my brother and I were spoiled. I don’t feel like we wanted for much. I have an image of what the underneath of our tree looked like and unfortunately that image haunted me for years when I first became a parent. I tried to replicate my memories and I over spoiled my oldest daughter. I got better as the years went on, but it is hard to back off the number of presents when you start out big. Now with four children it is even harder. The gifts are more elaborate than what we had a kids, and certainly more expensive. And when your children have two families and are getting twice as much is it even harder to feel right with excess. When my husband and I got together the discussion of Christmas budgets and spending on the children was a long one. I had been excessive, he hadn’t. We had to find a common ground that made sense for our new family. We set our budgets and have done well over the last three years to stick to those and give our children a nice holiday. Our oldest daughter who is now married and has a family of her own is easy. She likes money. We gave her a family budget and she tells me what to buy for them out of that money. Than can use is for a big family gift or individual gifts, whatever the needs are for her family. They are getting ready for a Disney Trip in the spring so this years’ Christmas budget will go towards things they need for their trip.
For the three younger children who are 15, 10 and 9 it is almost harder in way. My Mom always asked my brother and I if we wanted the same amount of gifts or the same amount of money spent on us. I think we often went with money, but honestly I don’t remember. Once your children are old enough to understand the full concept of what parents go through for Christmas it is easy to handle it this way. But when your children are younger and there is still mystery to all that it is hard. We try very hard to do the same amount of gifts with the value of those gifts being similar and within their individual budgets. They older they get the more expensive the gifts become though and sometimes it is harder to match the monetary value from the 9 year old to the 15 year old. The blessing is they don’t know that. They each open one present at a time and start and finish opening gifts at the same time. I think that is all that matters to them.
This year we were really struggling to find gift ideas for the kids. They have a lot of the “big” gifts already like Kindles for the younger two, a cell phone for the 15 year old, last years’ big present was a compound bow for each of them, and one year it was new bedroom sets, comforters, sheets, pillows, wall decals etc. We really try to have one special gift and then the rest of the gifts are whatever feels right for that child. This year it’s not so easy. If you buy all the “big” gifts now at a young age then there is nothing to get them when they are older. After much thought we realized the one thing they all love to do is read. The 15 year old lives with us full time so all of her books are at our house, the younger two don’t have very many because they are split between two homes. We talked about it with the kids and they LOVED the idea of just having a book Christmas. We took them to the book store so they could look over the books and make a wish list. There lists were 24, 28 ad 31 books long, obviously they love to read. We don’t plan to get them that many each, but with the price of books being fairly reasonable compared to video games, electronic devices and other popular gifts, it will be easy to help fill their bookcases. They get money and gift cards from extended family members so they will be able to shop for those types of items after Christmas.
The nice thing about a book Christmas is every book they wanted is available on Amazon and I have been earning Amazon gift cards every day through the different apps and websites I use. My goal was to be able to cover two kids’ Christmas budgets with gift cards, last year I covered one. But, I am confident that I am going to be able to cover all three. I had a record earning month of just over $300 for October. We also have Amazon Prime so I avoid shipping charges and because I don’t need the books in any hurry I am ordering them one at a time as I earn gift cards, and by selecting the no rush shipping option I earn a $1.00 promotional credit that I can use towards movie rentals, music, etc. Bonus!
We also decided to expand our board game inventory. We are trying to make family time a priority. We planned on getting some games as “family gifts”. Currently, Target is having a Buy 2 get 1 free sale on all board games. Yesterday I purchased six games for the price of four. I used some gift cards that I had earned on other purchases at Target and my PayPal account where I have had some deposits from surveys. I’m thinking this Christmas is going to go down in the record books for me as the least out of pocket expense ever. So while, my tablets and old cell phones are running videos next to me, I can smile knowing I am contributing. And of course, my husband is tickled pink. Check back on previous blog post to find some of the apps that I have been doing really well with and check them out, you could be earning your first gift card as soon as tomorrow.