Saturday, December 5, 2015

Guru Jane: Small Christmas

 "Cigar smoking woman in Cuba" by Tibor Végh - Kuba 996.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Dear Guru Jane,

My heart is breaking! I'm a mom of 3 kids, and we're definitely a paycheck to paycheck family. I try every year to save throughout the year so we will have a bit extra in December, but yet again, there was an emergency and we had to use that money to fix the car in October. My kids understand how things are, and are such good sports, but I still hate it! I just don't know what to do. How do I give my kids a nice Christmas on an almost $0 budget?

Sad Santa

Dear Sad Santa,

I think you hit on a problem that so many of us have or had at some point in time. While I wish we could wave a magic wand and money would appear, that's just not going to happen. So besides telling you to play the lottery (just kidding), here are my thoughts and my own cheap Christmas plans.

For your kids this Christmas make memories! I know it seems lame, and you have probably heard it before, but special memories will last way beyond the Christmas season. These memories will be the things you talk about at the Christmas dinner table when they are grown and have families of their own.

Here are some ideas:

Inexpensive stores: The dollar type stores are one of my favorite places, because even when I feel like I have no money, I have a couple of extra bucks for something fun there. If you don't have decorations, go there or hit up a Goodwill (second-hand store). Used stuff is still good, and sometimes super cool and retro! Plus the kids will have fun with you (depending on their ages) sifting through stuff and finding treasures. These stores are also great for small craft items, card games, and one of my kids favorites glow sticks. Get a few glow sticks and have glow in the dark night. Everyone gets a glow stick then go play tag (inside or outside), play hide and seek, or bath time for the little ones with glow sticks is an adventure.

Inexpensive gifts: Tell everyone this year you are each making presents for each other, or have everyone make an ornament for the tree and label it with the year. Now you have a memory that gets brought out and talked about every Christmas. We laugh every year when we look through my parents tree and talk about each ornament, most of which were made by us. It is an awesome way to start the season, and our kids get a kick out of the stories too! A tradition that is passed on.

Inexpensive activities/memories: Game night is one of my other favorites, and my kids have always loved it too! Grab your games, grab a $5 pizza (you have to eat anyway) and play! Keep score, laugh, compete in a positive way, and again, make memories! Get a Mad libs book (dollar store) work together and then just laugh at the silly stories you create.

Use your phone for positive time together. Take a ton of pictures of you guys doing fun things. Make an in-home photo booth. Turn it into a competition to see who can find the silliest things in the house to use; wigs, hats, glasses, old Halloween costumes, silly necklaces. Get stuff out and then take silly pictures together. Have a few of those pictures printed up, and (dollar store again) get a frame so you can see them all year long. This is a great way to have fun and make a memory.

One of the biggest things I think everyone of us can give our kids this year is a phone free day. I know I plan on it! Turn off the phones for the day (or a few hours), everyone, you and the kids. Go for a walk, watch a movie, play a game, just turn off the phones, really be together without the interruptions from the outside world.

Soap box time!: We have turned Christmas into a commercial driven "give me, give me" fest. It doesn't have to be that way. Make Christmas (or any holiday you celebrate this time of year) what you want it to be. Go look at the lights (free), go to church (free), drink hot chocolate and watch holiday movies ($2), play games (free), color ($2), volunteer your time to help others (free), tell bad jokes (might cost you your sense of humor), but most important just spend time together. I would bet money your kids want you more than they want anything else, even if they won't admit it (talking about the teenagers there). Be a family this holiday season and the rest will come!

Christmas doesn't have to be about the gifts, and if you want to get gifts find deals. Just love your kids and make them laugh!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Guru Jane

Inexpensive shopping:
Craigslist - toys, furniture, etc.
Ebay - books!
Second hand stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc) - almost new brand name clothes
Dollar stores - crafts, games, decorations
Dollar area at Target - crafts, games, decorations
Garage sales - you name it!

Low price gift ideas:
Small and homemade
More homemade
Things to do
Gifts and activities
Arts, crafts, and games
Plus don't forget Pintrest for all of the above.

Have fun!

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