A Zero-Budget Christmas:
Kids’ Edition, Part 1
Welcome back to the fourth post in our special series A Zero-Budget Christmas! If you’re just joining us, you can find the very first post here.
Today, we’re talking about how to shop for kids when money is tight.
Since all of our children were born during our thirteen years of “skinny Christmases,” I know how agonizing it can be to watch the Christmas season swoop in and to have no idea how you’re going to make any magic happen on a zero-budget.
The next two posts are intended to help you provide a great Christmas for the ones who have your heart: your children.
Consider the ages of your children.
My daughter was less than four months old on her first Christmas. She had no idea what was going on, and yet I had a deep desire to buy presents for her. We had no money for extras that year, but I felt unloving, even negligent, to fail to purchase a gift for her.
Moms, we have a soft spot for our babies, and that is right and good, but we need to realize that it is not unloving to wait to buy gifts for our children until they are old enough to receive them with understanding. That just makes sense.
At four months old, my daughter was happy to look at the Christmas lights and gnaw on her fist. So even though it was hard for me, we saved our money and didn’t purchase any gifts for her that year, or the next. And she never knew the difference.
If you cannot bear the idea of not buying your child a present, remember this: very young children are delighted with one or two new toys (and by new, I mean new to them; more on that later in the series) and overwhelmed by much more. Don’t give them more than they can handle just because our culture says you should.
Elementary-aged children have more specific desires than toddlers, but their gifts are generally cheaper than those of older teens. Companies often run great specials during the holidays on toys for this age group because they hope that once you’re in the store for the cheap Barbie, you’ll pick up an Xbox too.
If you are careful not to fall for the bait, you can take advantage of the deals and give yourself more money to work with when finding gifts for the hardest age group of all: older kids and teenagers who have very specific hobbies or interests. Parse your money out wisely by spending little to nothing on the youngest (we’ll talk about how to do that next time) so you have more for the oldest.
Don’t do it all!
The first Christmas after my twins were born was one of our leanest. I had five kids ages six and under. Three were in diapers.
One day, our pastor’s wife pulled up and unannounced, “Don’t let the kids come out here!” Her trunk was full of toys and clothes for the kids that she had been squirreling away whenever she found a good deal. That year, Christmas was from Mrs. Cara, and I will never forget it.
Mama, it’s okay to let someone else steal your thunder on Christmas morning. I know you wish you could do more for your kids. But instead of feeling guilty or inadequate, turn your eyes up to God who sometimes uses other people to bless us, and be grateful for them.
Even if you don’t have a Mrs. Cara in your life, keep in mind that your children will often receive gifts from family members and friends. You may realize that one or two presents from you is more than enough to round things out. Or, you can supplement with more practical items that are easier on the budget.
This one might ruffle some feathers, but I believe it’s important.
One of the lies parents believe is that we must spend the same amount of money on each of our kids in order to be “fair” and avoid any smack of favoritism. This idea can lead us to spend more than we should in an attempt to keep things even.
The truth is, we should not feel obligated to treat our children the same. They are not the same. Even my twins are not the same, and I would be foolish to try to parent them in an identical way!
I would also be foolish to try to buy gifts for them in the same way. At different ages and seasons, children will have different needs and interests. Sometimes, gifts for one will be more expensive than others. Other times, a child might get more presents than another because he has needs or unique interests the others just don’t have. That’s okay!
We make it a habit in our home to rejoice with those who rejoice–even if that person got a really great gift and we didn’t. We try not to compare our blessings with theirs. Having a bit of an unequal Christmas gives us plenty of opportunities to practice that in a loving setting.
Now, we don’t purposely exasperate our children. Our kids always feel abundantly loved and cared about at Christmas. (I asked them).
But the fact remains, sometimes Christmas is not “fair.” Life is not fair.
Even our heavenly Father does not treat all of his children the same. We are unique, special individuals, and that means that sometimes, another one of his kids gets more than us. Don’t be afraid of that—like everything else God does, it is for our own eternal good.
Being “unfair” can be very good for you and your kids as well as long as you communicate how entirely loved and valued they are. And that has nothing to do with the amount of money spent or the number of gifts under the tree.
In fact, that has nothing to do with money at all.
*To begin reading A Zero-Budget Christmas from the beginning, start here.
**During this series, affiliate links may be included for your convenience. Thank you for supporting this ministry!