Shopping on a Mama Budget

Happy Thankschristmas season. It came a little quicker than I would have liked this year but like clockwork, here we are.  Raise your hand if you have a love hate relationship with the holidays!  Oh ya, mine is way up there.  I like the backside of the holidays with spending time but I hate that feeling of pressure to make sure you see everyone and the need for it to always feel perfect.  I hate gifts because I feel like my kids have enough, some days too much, and I hate, hate, hate asking for things.  I never know what to ask for because I hate feeling greedy and asking for something too expensive but I don’t want to insult someone by asking for something too cheap.  I know there is a hate for gift cards but if you are like me its a safer feeling. You can ask for a specific store you love and it is either just enough or a good start to what you want and you can pick it out without putting someone out.  I hate that feeling that I never get to spend long enough with everyone or even see them.  I should be grateful but the whole thing gives me anxiety. I know that I am lucky and blessed to have such a problem, but lord help me it gets expensive.  Our yearly Christmas gift list consists of, in relation to the kids:

1 Great Great Grandpa

5 Great Grandparents

6 Grandparents

16 Aunts and Uncles-(Our Brothers and sisters/Inlaws)

6 Nieces

3 Nephews (cousins)

Then between Nate and I we have 18 Aunts and Uncles

Our own kids, each other

And a partridge in a pear tree

Add in Teachers, Babysitters, God Parents, God Children, Secret Santa’s at Work and friends, Ya, my checkbook hurts too

So, my most common question after the phrase “Jesus” is “How do you pay for it all?”  We get creative, make boundaries, save and shop throughout the year and keep realistic.  I love sharing my tips though because let’s face it, everyone tries to save money when they can.

Get Creative:  They have everything, they don’t really need anything.  What do you get that Great Great, or Great Grandparent who has everything and then some?  We go with the arts and crafts.  First and foremost, if they haven’t given you a need or a want, they will probably love the company the most.  This generation grew up with spending lots of quality time with each other, back when the days felt longer, the holidays were filled with laughter and joy, not fighting over politics and Facebook posts.  Which leads me to my reminder, put your phone away, spend you time with them while you still can.  This year I will be sure wishing Grandmas Davis was here for one more holiday season.  Back to crafts.  Think about the person you are getting it for, don’t get crafty just to craft.  Think about where they may put it, what would they get to use it for and did you get it for them last year?  Some of my favorites are homemade coffee mugs.  picture frames, ornaments, photo albums (yes, they still have this ability to print off physical pictures and put them into an album), and well that’s all I’m sharing for now so I don’t give away this years presents.  Pinterest has a lot of great ideas and easy instructions and if you are on a super tight budget, you can make these from things found even at the dollar tree.  So for about $10 and a few hours on the weekend, you could have all your adults done.

Make boundaries and Be Realistic:  Think back to what was the hot toy last year.  If I remember right it was for a hatching egg that parents were wrestling for.  Where is that had to have egg, the thing inside?  Do not have parent guilt if you cannot afford the latest and greatest, I would put money on less than 5% of all of those things sold are still played with on a daily basis and that was upwards of a $50 toy!!  TOY!!!!!!! Just 1 thing for $50.  If you can afford this by all means but if you are a mom and dad or even grandparent riding the struggle bus, do not break your bank buying these must have’s. I promise, your children will not need therapy because you didn’t.  Look at what you can afford and spend it wisely.  We have a minimum 29 adults giving them gifts.  That is at least 58 things we now have find space for in our house. To us, we would rather our kids look at Christmas as a blessing but not a grand prize game.  We tell them that Santa cannot make every toy out there because so many store already sell them so he looks for special presents for them. We do not give expensive or larger gifts from Santa because our kids are younger. They don’t know the difference between bragging and telling someone what they got.  I never want my kids to make another kid feel like they were bad because Santa didn’t bring them as much because their parents couldn’t afford it.  Santa usually brings board games, a new special shirt, a smaller toys and trinkets, or a less expensive version of what they tell him they wanted.  We also look at how many people get the kids presents and do not go wild on gifts because they will already get so much so that helps too.  We ask for family usable gifts as well.  We have done a year pass to a Zoo, which is fantastic.  All you have to do is plan a picnic and go.  Yes there are a lot of free zoo’s nearby but this is a different one to change it up.  We have a pass to a local museum for a years worth of pass.  In 2 visits, the cost has been paid for, for a family of 4.  Again, nice rainy day trip, pack your own lunch and go.  It’s educational, it gets them out of the house and if it far enough away, it ensures a nap so you can jam out to your mom music while they sleep!! Win win.  If your pass is like ours, it also includes hundreds of places throughout the country and the state that we can go to with discounted or free entry!  SCORE NUMBER 2.  Get out of the house.  Go learn and explore.  No toys to step on.  Invite your grandparents or siblings/Aunts, uncles along and make a day of it.  Get out there and spend it together.

Save save save: Christmas comes but once a year but guess what, its the same time every year.  If you are like me, you need that savings that is out of sight out of mind.  Check out your bank and see if they offer a Christmas club account.  I love mine and I have a small amount from direct deposit put in every paycheck and I can’t touch it until it is ready.  They mail me a check November 1st and BAM, Christmas shopping money.  I don’t go crazy and I won’t tell you how much I save because well that is our budgeted amount but think about it, if you get paid twice a month, could you have $20 go before it even gets to you every pay check without thinking about it?  Minimum that is $40 a month by November of next year, that is $480 saved for shopping that you didn’t have to budget more for or think about.  Again, getting creative or watching deals, that is quite a bit a money and all you did was go with $20 less every paycheck.  Don’t have access to one, put it in your sock drawer or the freezer, buy a pre-paid visa card and add the money as you have extra to throw on it,

Shop year round: Some of my younger nieces and nephews love playing dress up.  Some of those costumes from Halloween are 50% off the day after Halloween, Go buy the crap out of those sales, you can now get dress up clothes for them for sometimes a couple bucks a piece.  Save more?  Buy them a size bigger and if it gets super tight next year at Halloween again, they can pick from what you have in the dress up box that again you got on clearance.  You can also check Goodwill and Other donation type places as people typically donate their “used” costumes and you can get a good deal.  Those scholastic book sales forms come home every month, teachers are great helpers with this, set a side a few bucks and let them pick out books they love, tell the teacher it is a gift and most will help get it to you without the kids noticing.  The school gets the credit, your kids get something educational and sometimes you can get great deals on books your kids want.  Do you have your smartphone out?  Check out list apps.  My favorite is called Inkpad.  It is a free app and you can make lists, it is available on iOS and Android.  You can even bring up the website.  You save them with a user name and password so you can move them from device to device and not lose it as you go. I keep lots of notes in there but one that I keep is gift ideas.  You are watching a commercial, WOW that is so cool, write it down.  The next time you are at Wal-mart or Target or wherever your favorite shop is, check out the price.  Get an idea for the regular price so when an ad comes out you can see if it is a good deal or not.  it also makes it easier to save.  I also go through that list come birthdays and as I tell someone, I take it off the list to try and save on duplicates.  Does your kid like crafts?  Check out the dollar tree for supplies or “kits”, watch back to school sales for new crayons that you can bring out at Christmas time again and its always exciting and the prices back to school are always great.  Look at end of season sales for things your kids are into, sports as they are ending and going on clearance, think outside the box for non physical gifts as well.  Does your kids have a favorite band, character, place to visit?  Watch Ticketmaster or other ticket sites for the upcoming year.  We love Disney on Ice and some of our kids favorite sports that have events you can pre-buy tickets for.  Special bobble head nights or band after the game.  Things that you can pre-buy tickets for and wrap them up.  Depending on their age, it is always fun to make the chain countdown and look forward to that event and guys what, it doesn’t need batteries, you can hurt your foot stepping on it and the dog won’t chew on it causing a meltdown over your child’s favorite toy.  The thought is, spreading that cost out over the year helps alleviate the pressure of shopping the last 2 months when everyone is losing their minds.

Keep it realistic:  We aren’t going out buying our 6 year old a car, although I’ve tried to convince my husband to keep one of our cars the 10 years until he can drive because it would be great for the kids.  One thing we always do before holidays and birthdays is sit down and have a conversation that we are very blessed but have an abundance of blessings.  We go through our toys and donate the toys we no longer need or play with so that it gives an opportunity to someone else to get to play with them.  We talk about how sometimes mommies and daddies cannot afford brand new toys but they might be able to afford the toys they aren’t using and it would make that child very happy to get it, regardless where they got it from.  The kids love knowing that they are helping another kid be happy and it makes room before it all piles back up from our family sharing the love.  Another thing when picking a gift is if you can’t see yourself helping them figure it out, it’s probably too much.  If you don’t have the time to help put together a 6,000 piece lego set and a full room puzzle, don’t spend the money on it.  I’m sure the box will look great on your shelf and I will be excited to buy it for half that at goodwill when you donate it because never got to it 🙂 save the money.  Think about where you are going to store it.  The other thing to think about is the reality of the item in your life.  Think back to when you were a kid.  What was the great gift you got at 6, 7, 8, and 9.  Can you because, sorry Mom and Dad I love you, but I cannot tell you what I got any of those years.  I know we got something, what, no clue.  I remember some gifts that I got and were amazing but when I have no clue.  What happened to them?  Again, no clue.  Christmas should be memorable for what it is.  Time with your loves, enjoying their company, keeping their blessings in check and knowing that you got to have one more year with them.  Give up that parent guilt that you are not getting all the latest and greatest toys.  So what!?  Kids at school will pick on them?  Who are those kids?  They better not be mine.  You are a great parent based on the love you show your children not by the gifts you shower them with.  Make the memories with their grandparents, Great grand parents, and Great Great grandparents.  Have them talk with them, share stores from when they were kids.  Those are things they will remember their whole lives.

Last but not least, I have lots of sites that I use too, Retailmenot.com, Groupon and Honey.  These are sites that collect coupon codes for online that you can try.  Groupon offers discounted gift certificates and products for great deals.  Honey can actually be a tag that you have in your bar on the webpage.  It will automatically check if a discount is available to get you the best price.  It also has an option to follow the price changes and notify you of something you are watching if it goes lower. I also belong to some  Facebook groups for Black Friday deals and deals throughout the year.  Totally worth looking into.  They will show you how to combined coupons to get the best deal or if something goes on a great discount.  They work their butts off to follow the holiday sales and help you find the best deals.  It’s a lot of work but it can pay off in the end.  Make your year memorable not miserable.  Hope this gives you some ideas and always happy to chat and help brainstorm.  Happy Holidays

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