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Christmas Time is Here

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Disclaimer: This post does contain a couple of affiliate links.  I wanted to share these ideas with you and decided there was no harm if I let you know up front that they were affiliate links.

Having a frugal Christmas is not hard for me.  Okay, I take that back because of course I want to see the look of complete and utter joy and shock on my kiddos faces when they open presents.  But let’s face it…One, we really don’t NEED a single thing; Two, there are so many other things I NEED to do with my money right now (ie debt;) Three, we don’t have ANY free space.

Therefore, my temptation to “shop til you drop” is extremely limited and my desires for my kids Christmas gifts are pretty limited as well.  Over the last few years, I have really steered clear of “stuff” and focused instead on making sure that each child got one thing from each of these categories:

  • Something to wear – this is one that kids would normally frown at, at least in my mind, but since my twins buy their own clothes, they love when mom kicks in and helps them out.  We are not a name brand kind of family but this gift is either something they really need or something they really want, so sometimes socks and underwear and sometimes a new pair of tennis shoes.
  • Something that makes them happy – my kids submit lists to me every year and over the years they know that mom is not going to be trendy toys or anything she would consider “junk.”  (I stopped buying video games, system two years ago so they don’t put those on their list at all.) I encourage them to put things on their list that they will really enjoy having and calling their own.  So to give you an example of this years lists, here are a couple of things that they listed: Loot Crate subscription, a $50 bill, a bottle of grape juice all to myself, art supplies and the best one in my book “a baby duck that I can imprint on.”  Go figure!
  • Something they need – let’s face it, we can always find things our kids need, and in our case, with homeschooling there are always things that are needs that can be made a bit special by making them a gift.  Most years they twins get a box full of personal hygiene stuff.  At first it was because they lost it so often and now it’s because I know they would rather spend their money on other things, so if they are responsible and keep up with the stuff, it frees up their personal money for other things throughout the year.  Sometimes it’s art supplies, gift card to a specific place for an upcoming event, etc.
  • An experience – my kids have never been “toy” players.  Anything they got, when the novelty wore off 5 minutes later, the toy was literally just a waste, so we stopped toys probably 4-5 years ago.  Instead they get experiences…camp money (summer camp,) classes or something associated with that (sewing machine and patterns,) girls day out (hand written gift certificate for lunch out, window shopping and pedicures.)  Whatever it is, this is typically their favorite gift.  And I’ve found, especially with summer camps that if you register at this time of year, you typically get a “double discount.”  My dad is paying the deposit for each child to attend a week of summer camp this year as a Christmas gift for them so not only do I get the double discount, but I don’t have to pay the registration fee which is applied to their tuition and gives me months to pay for camp (line item Kids Activities.)

Because we are so limited in space this year which has really affected our crafting and science space I was struggling to find that “wow” gift for the little ones, and then after hearing from my oldest that he would like the Loot Crate subscription (second year he’s asked for that) I began thinking there might be something like this for the littles.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Tinker subscriptions – they describe it as a “Laboratory for Hands-on experiments delivered every month.”  How cool is that!  This is our first year trying it, but since Little Gymnast LOVES science I though this was the perfect way to surprise him and it’s the gift that keeps on giving since he will get one every month.  (We started with a three month subscription to try it out.)
  • Doodle subscriptions – they describe it as “Ready, Set, Make – fresh new DIY projects to make stuff that you’ll love.”  What a perfect gift for the budding DIY’er or artist.  Princess is getting a 3 month subscription to this which I hope will complement her current obsession with nail art and marker drawings.

This year I will round out the gifts with a magazine subscription for each child, cheap and educational – woohoo and probably a gift card to some entertainment…movie theatre or trampoline playground.  Great for winter entertainment when we just need a break from the apartment.

In the meantime, we have put up a six foot plastic crafting table in our living room and Santa’s Workshop is in full affect.  They have purchased supplies with their own money and are sculpting and painting, screwing together and hiding as they make their gifts for each other and our extended family.  Little Gymnast even bought a gingerbread house kit and has finally mastered putting them together…well, until he ran out of frosting from licking it off his fingers.

It truly is a wonderful time of the year!  Do you have any frugal gift ideas to share or a way you kept your family Christmas reasonable?


Barter Win – Homeschool Tuition

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Sorry, I was MIA last week.  I woke up last Wednesday just simply overwhelmed at the amount of work I/we still had to get done and facing working both jobs plus approximately 3 hours in the car with kid chauffeuring duties.  I made an executive decision and called in to my part time job and then got all the kids up super early and got down to business.  That day turned the corner for me in terms of this move and now I’m in a much better place mentally!  There is definitely something to be said for “mental health” days, that’s for sure.

So moving past that I wanted to tell about a recent financial win.  As I have mentioned I barter for almost all of my kids activities.  But one thing I’ve never been able to to barter for was our homeschool co op tuition, and this year with four kids going it was over $2000.  Ugh!  This is the first year that I’ve had all four homeschooling year round so the first time for this large of a bill.  Not to mention the older two are taking more advanced, thus more expensive courses.

Typically my little one’s dad comes up with at least 1/2 of theirs, but this year he is in a transition phase and is short on money.  He did help but nearly so much as he normally does.  (Note: We do not have a formal financial arrangement of any kind.  I tell him when the kids need things and if he can, and most of the time he can, he helps out.  I have no complaints at all about his contribution and while it is not viewed as the traditional child support arrangement it works for us and takes the financial stress out of an already stressful relationship.)

So I was facing a really large bill at an already stressful time.  (This tuition is lumped into the monthly line item of my budget of Kid’s Activities in case you were wondering.)  Ok, so what to do.  Well, as you know, we are minimizing like no body’s business over here.  Our garage sale was an overwhelming success and I have been advertising on Facebook and Craigslist, etc.  So my win…

One of the teachers who teaches three of my children year long just so happened to need a couple of pieces of furniture that I had…and voila, like that a barter deal was worked out, my furniture for a full years tuition for 3 children, 1 class each…SCORE!  For those who want numbers this equates to about $600 in tuition.  SCORE!