I wish I could say that the holidays are all joy and cheer for me. The truth is that I, and a number of other parents I’ve spoken with, feel immense pressure this time of year to come up with great Christmas gift ideas for kids. If I’m not careful, I can let that pressure suck the spirit out of the season as well as drain my motivation to stay on budget.
I know for us personally, it’s the one area where we really have to discipline ourselves budget-wise. Whereas we’re awesome about staying on budget for giving gifts to the adults in our lives, when it comes to kids, especially our own, we find it quite easy to convince ourselves it’s okay to be over budget “just a bit.”
Because of that, we’ve implemented some “rules” if you will, about how we can be more productive and thoughtful about the gifts we give to the children in our lives, and still stay on budget. Here are some thoughts on creative gift ideas for kids:
1. Be Creative When Working to Stay on Budget
Start making your gift idea list early in the year, and then shop the clearance sales to get the best deals on things the kids in your life want or need. For instance, we were at Target this summer when the kids found these super cute 4th of July flip flops in the clearance bin. Yes, they were only $2.36 each, but we’re on a serious mission to get out of debt, so I said “no” to the purchase.
However, when I was back the next week, the same flip flops were still there, for $1.18! I picked them up and they’re now wrapped up as Christmas gifts for our two younger girls, in sizes that will fit perfectly by next summer. By planning ahead and keeping a list handy, you’ll be able to stretch your dollars further, and take the time needed to get stuff they love instead of just “stuff” for the sake of getting something. You can also find ways to make extra cash before Christmas so as to help stretch that budget further or have funds to supplement your budget in other ways.
2. Buy Experiences, not Just Things
There are so many great Christmas gift ideas for kids that involve experiences instead of things. One family I know gives their annual summer vacation as part of the kids’ Christmas gifts each year. This allows them to have their money do “double duty,” and the kids LOVE opening the boxes that contain the surprise info about where the family will go the following summer.
Another idea? Give the gift of a day or an experience together. Buy tickets to an amateur showing of The Nutcracker for your kid who loves the ballet. Give a date to a fancy restaurant for lunch to the kid who loves to cook. Buy tickets to the local farm team for your kid who loves baseball. Buy a game that your whole family can play together. Think in terms of each child’s interests and talents, and then find creative and inexpensive ways to turn those interests into a gift that will be an experience and not just a material item.
3. Some of the Best Ideas for Kids Can Be Necessity Items
Some families are staunchly against giving necessities as Christmas gifts, but if done right, they can really provide some great Christmas gift ideas for kids. If your kid needs socks, maybe instead of giving them tube socks for Christmas, find some colorful and fun socks.
Last year we gave our oldest daughter some much-needed winter boots for Christmas. We found some super cute (and warm) boots, and she still got a sparkle in her eyes when we pulled them out for her to use again this year. Giving necessity items for gifts can be fun and exciting if it’s done with thought and creativity.
4. Be Thoughtful about the Toys You Buy
Great Christmas gift ideas for kids can include toys, but I would encourage you to be thoughtful about it. If they’ve already got five remote-controlled cars, do they really need another one? There are ways to get new toys for gifts without increasing the amount of “stuff” in the house.
For instance, we’ve got friends whose kids want the newest version of gaming systems, the PS4, for Christmas. Mom and dad agreed, on the condition that the PS3 and all of the games that go with it be sold, and the profits go toward the purchase of the PS4 and some games. The kids get the newest system, yet no additional “stuff” is added to the house.
Another thought? Encourage your kids to give away or sell gently used toys they no longer play with. Sell them on the gratification that comes from helping others, or on the cash that comes from selling toys they no longer use, in order to get them eager to clear the toy bin out and make room for new stuff.
Gift giving can be so much more meaningful when a little thought and creativity goes into the gift-giving process, as opposed to just buying what’s on “the list” or what fits into the budget at the time.
What are some of the best Christmas gift ideas for kids that you’ve come up with in holidays gone by? What advice do you have to parents trying to shop for Christmas on a budget?