Here are some unconventional holiday shopping tips for parents on a budget.
Usually we discourage procrastination, but it actually might come in handy when it comes to holiday shopping for your kids. Since Black Friday sales have come and gone, many retailers will lower prices on toys and clothes for children right before Christmas. So it might make sense to wait to shop — especially if you aren't looking for the "hot" toys that tend to sell out. When shopping online, wait until Free Shipping Day, which is Monday, December 17 this year. More than a thousand online merchants offer free shipping plus other discounts on this day. Plus, they'll still deliver by Christmas Eve.
"If you're new to Christmas with kids, I'll let you in on a little secret: The preschool crowd doesn't know a new toy from a used one," says writer, mother and penny-pincher, Ashley Grimaldo. "You'll need to assemble all bikes, doll houses and train tables the night before anyway, so just find the beloved, sought-after toy and buy it for less than half the cost on Craigslist from someone across town. Princess will love it just as much."
In addition to Craigslist and eBay, check your local thrift stores, consignment shops and other resale stores. Also check out Freecycle, where many people list gently-used items that they are giving away.
"It goes without saying that most children in the U.S. have too much stuff to start with," explains Grimaldo. "Add 18 Christmas and birthday extravaganzas to the mix and you've got a packrat on your hands. Have your children select at least three or four playthings they don't use anymore and try to get cash for them at a children's resale store. Use the cash to buy one or two new gifts."
Change things up on Christmas this year. Instead of all the focus being on unwrapping presents and finding out who received which gifts, start some different holiday traditions. Begin by going to church on Christmas morning or serving a special family breakfast before opening the gifts. Also, spend Christmas Eve volunteering as a family at the homeless shelter or local soup kitchen. Then, enjoy the evening watching classic Christmas movies together.
Take away the emphasis on gifts and material things, and put it back on the family activities and giving spirit of the holidays. Your kids will be happier and your wallet won't be any lighter.
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