According to John Mruz, president of Juggling Duck Organizers which produces organizer systems to help families manage their finances, the first step is all about quantity. "Surround the one
or two major gifts you might buy with a whole bunch of little items that gives the kids something to open," he says. "When kids wake up and see the presents around the tree, they are
not thinking about how much was spent, they are thinking in order, (1) which of those gifts are mine, (2) I wonder if I got my (insert #1 gift list item: Video game, Bike, etc), and (3) I
can't wait to start ripping open the packages. In fact, most young kids (under age of 10), have no real concept of money. Christmas morning for them is as much about
"presentation" as it is about Santa's (limited) holiday shopping budget."
Marcia Layton Turner, author of 14 business and consumer books and founder of OrganizeYourCouponsNow.com to help people save money, reminds us of simple ways to stay on a budget. Whether you
check freecycle.org for items people are getting rid of, surfing craigslist.org or shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops, you can get creative on a budget. "If you live near a toy manufacturer, see if they have a warehouse sale (such as American Girl has annually in Wisconsin) or mill store. Some companies, such as Fisher-Price here in Western New York, sell some of their products for less on-site."
Mruz also suggests improving the visual appeal by taking small expensive items like video games and
wrapping them in a bigger box. "Make the box size commensurate with the price of the gift. Better yet, if an expensive toy comes with a lot of pieces, why not wrap up some of the pieces separately? He explains, "For example, Thomas the Tank Engine train sets comes with 4-5 engines. Wrap each of them up and give them as separate gifts."
Another idea is stocking up on stocking stuffers the inexpensive way. And by that we mean the Dollar Store. "Seriously, you can find some real gems there," says Layton Turner. What's on her shopping list? Coloring books and kids books, craft supplies, writing utensils, placemats, mittens and scarves, bouncy balls and puzzles.
Plus, it's always a good idea to stuff those stockings with healthy treats. She adds, "My parents always put a big orange in the bottom of our stocking, which is healthy, inexpensive and takes up some space. You can fill in with little candies from the bulk food section, too."
Another concept is realizing children would much rather have your time and attention than expensive gifts (because, let's face it they're likely to be amused by the expensive gift's box for hours!). Layton Turner notes, "One very inexpensive gift is the coupon book, which many young kids make for their parents. (My son gave me a coupon for him "to be quiet when I need him to.") But parents could also create a booklet, and there are free templates available online for this purpose. You could give your child: a free movie night in, complete with a movie of their choice, popcorn, drinks, and pajamas; an evening of sledding and hot cocoa; a walk in the park; one book read at bedtime or 20 minutes of story time a night."
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