Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
Just like last year, we wanted to share what we are personally doing and giving this year. We share this for a few reasons:
- To get to know us even more (we don’t like being just known as a computer screen 😉
- To see the progression that our family is making in our own financial lives to become more and more financially disciplined and challenged in being better than before, and
- To inspire, encourage and generate more ideas in your own families finances both in the present and in the future.
First, we have been sharing with you our story of how we got so deeply in debt and in the new year we will start sharing how we got out (which includes our successes, failures, struggles, savviness, weaknesses, strengths, ideas and hard work). But with what we have told you so far and what we plan to tell you about in the future, one thing remains ever true in our lives…… our weakness and temptation with attempting to justify expenses, make more purchases than necessary or making non-budgeted purchases, etc. The Christmas season is no exception to testing this temptation that grew out of our past financial woes and burdens.
Because of these temptations and our past, we require ourselves to have a strict financial plan at the beginning of each New Year to start planning for a budgeted and sane Christmas. We will be talking about this more in depth when the new year begins so that your family can join us and start off with a healthier financial year. But in brief, we determine a budget and contribute to our Christmas/complete holiday season (i.e. Thanksgiving to New Year) and set a little money aside each month.
This allows two main things to take place:
- Keeps us out of debt and prevents us from overspending and
- Allows us to have the designated funds available even early on in the year to catch deals that will allow us to “spread” more of those designated holiday funds!
But one thing that we have learned the last few years of sticking with this budget plan is that even with a small budgeted amount of money…you can go overboard with STUFF! Especially when we are hunting for deals like crazy!
So we still have the same budget we’ve had for the last few years for the holiday season, but we had decided early in the year that we want to cut back on “stuff,” buy less items for our children and make them better quality. We came to this realization on Christmas 2009 when it was the first full-year we stuck to our budget (remember that although we have been The Thrifty Couple for over 7 years, it has been (and still is) a learning and growing process and many different stages to grow into) and ended up with soooo much stuff!
Sure, we didn’t overspend, we didn’t go deeper into debt (it was in 2010 we paid off our debt), BUT WE OVERBOUGHT! We realized that we were not teaching our children true financial responsibility, contentment or even the true meaning of Christmas if we only focused on “look how much stuff we got for this small budget.” They were spoiled – we had done it in previous years and we had done it again. They didn’t learn anything from our “smart buying and budget stretching” if it ALL ended up under the tree and in their arms. We also thought about this from the perspective of our own struggles of wanting “stuff” earlier on in our marriage and how this could possibly be setting them up for the same attitude when they are adults and preparing them to experience many of the same financial woes that we experienced because of their desire for stuff. We wanted to change those thoughts now.
With those thoughts then, over the last couple of years we’ve had the same Christmas budget (even though we have an extra child this year ;)) and a different plan and goal. We will only be buying them a few items and 1-2 toys each. We wanted to get them higher quality for a great deal and the rest of the money would be used to bless others – not for more “stuff!”
There are 3 main themes to our Christmas buying this year:
- Quality over Quantity,
- Kohls Deals and
- Daily Deal Sites galore!
Here’s what we ended up with for each of our Children:
We have a 6-month old boy, 3 year old girl, 5 year old boy, 7 year old girl and 8 year old girl. They all received a spinbrush and PJs on our Christmas Eve to kick off the festivities.
First, our 7 and 8 year old girl – they are practically twins, so we usually buy similar things for them!
- The Chronicles of Narnia from Christian Book Distributors for our 8 year old – (awesome story, she started reading these books this November from the library and then we saw this deal on CBD.com and knowing that she was enjoying them and there were 4 other kids so far behind her that probably will too, we decided to get this deal. A few days later when she had her nose stuck in one of the borrowed books, she came up to us and said “I don’t care if I only get these books for my own for Christmas so I can read them over and over again. I would be perfectly happy and thankful! We both looked at each other and we’re so thankful we had that insight because she got them for Christmas!
- The Little House on the Prairie Book Set for our 7-year old from CBD on the same order and similar sale as The Chronicles of Narnia (we received FREE shipping because the order was then over $35).
- Personalized Shirts for our 7 and 8 year old made to order to match personalized skirts that they made earlier in the year from Fashion Playtes. THIS IS A REALLY COOL AND FUN ONE! Earlier this year, we picked up a couple of Fashion Playtes.com vouchers for 50% off through the daily deal site called FamilyFinds.com. We then went on and our two eldest daughters were able to customize and design their very own long skirts (we LOVE the Amanda Style as it is very comfortable, long, modest, and feminine – things our girls and us love!). They are great quality and so we were excited to get these vouchers and they had fun with it. Here’s a couple of the skirts they made:
The top skirt is really beautiful, but it is an odd color – Geranium. We were able to get plain shirts for cheap at stores around here to match all of their other skirts in many different colors, but the top one, we could only find black that would work. So – through the daily deal site Mamapedia, we were able to get another voucher at 50% off. I then went into the FashionPlaytes site and designed two of these shirts that they are getting to match their beautiful skirt!
- Learn to Crochet Kits from Klutz activity books for our 7 and 8 year old girls. We bought a voucher from Mamapedia daily deal site for 50% off for use at the Klutz site (great quality teaching books) and we combined that with free shipping and sales they had to maximize this!
- American Girl Doll stickers for our 7 and 8 year old.
- Birthstone earrings for each of them from No More Rack daily deal for just a couple of bucks each.
- They each got a sweater from Target. These were the women’s ones we mentioned, but we just bought XS and S and it should fit them fine (thinking outside of the box ;))
- A beading kit for them to share from Toys R Us on their 50% off sale.
- Paper Doll Sets from Vision Forum sale.
Second, for our 5-year old son
- 1 LEGO set to add to his current collection from Toys Camp. We purchased a voucher at 50% off with our $10 sign-up credit from Plum District Daily deal site and we were able to get this $40 set for $10.
- Three books for our 5-year old son including Dragons: Legends & Lore of Dinosaurs! Alex and I had fun reading this book before wrapping it and we LOVED it. The design and layout is beautiful and it has a lot of fascinating information – our “self proclaimed in-house Dinosaur expert” will be very intrigued by all the great information. We bought it from a small family business called Light of Faith, but Amazon also has a great price (and worth every penny). Amazon also has some sneak peeks inside of this book (while we are on the subject of 5-year old boys and dinosaurs – for Christmas last year, we gave him THIS Dinosaurs For Kids book and he still can sit for a long time reading/looking at it!)
- Loaded Workbench and tools (that he will have to share with his brother when he is old enough ;)) We bought this workbench from HomeSav daily deal site. First, we had a $10 credit for joining, and then we bought a 50% off HomeSav voucher (which already sells items for around 50% off) from Mamapedia, so we ended up getting this workbench for 90% off!
Third, for our 3-year old daughter
- 3 Melissa and Doug Wooden Food sets for our 3-year old – 2 purchased using 50% off vouchers from Totsy and one from the awesome Bloomingdales sale.
- Hand Art Kits from Klutz activity books for our 3-year old girl along with a set of twistable crayons. We bought a voucher from Mamapedia daily deal site for 50% off for use at the Klutz site (great quality teaching books) and we combined that with free shipping and sales they had to maximize this!
- Curious George Books that we bought at Barnes and Noble for $1 each with FREE shipping!
Fourth – the adorable, smiley and just-so-cute 6-month old boy!
- $5 Stuffed Teddy Bear from Toys R Us (which is about 40% larger than him still – so hopefully doesn’t scare him -LOL!)
- Baby Einstein toy
- Dinosaur Pack and Stack (Nesting Blocks with Dino pictures and set of 4-dino board books. He needs to get up to speed to his brother!).
- Lamaze Elephant Car Seat Hanging toy
Fifth – We also got these family gifts:
- Apples To Apples Bible Edition from Christian Liberty Press Sale
- Rory’s Story Cubes
So in the end, we feel like we bought simpler items as well compared to past years (we still know we can become even better about both of these still!), purchased higher quality and got all of it for a steal-of-a-deal by starting in January!
With that all in mind, we had quite a bit of our small budget left to use to “bless” others. In the past years, we usually grab 3-4 Angel Tree kids requests for Christmas. This year, we were able to grab seven kids. In addition, we also know two single moms – one with two kids and one with one child, that we decided to also surprise them with Christmas.
This is a picture of the items we donated this year.
First, the Angel Tree items were mostly all bought for a great deal – but Angel Tree can be a bit of a challenge in the sense that you only have less than a week normally to buy gifts for the kids. They are also specific, so if they are not sale that week, then you have to make due!
So here’s how we fared for the 7 kids from the Angel Tree:
- Child #1 Boy requested a Pillow Pet. JCPenney had the regular large ones on sale for $19.99. We had a $10 off $10 coupon from the mail = final is $9.99
- Child #2 – Ninjago Lego sets. Toys R Us had these for buy one get one 50% off. This was the best deal we could find in the time restraint that we had, in the end, this was a $25 purchase for two sets after the sale.
- Child #3 – 2 year old girl that wanted anything Elmo. Kohls came to the rescue on this one as they had an electronic interactive Ride-On Elmo Car normally $40 on sale for $16.99 and an Elmo Interactive flip phone for $14.99 regular price on sale for $10.49. We then also had a 20% off coupon plus we combined (with other toys we bought to get our total over $30) and also used a $1o off $30. Finally, we had $40 in Kohls cash to spend that we used on this and on other toys for the Angel Tree.
- Child #4 – Rubix Cube. We checked locally and they sold for around $10. At the time that we picked up these requests, we checked Amazon and they were having a $4.76 sale on both the original and the Rubix Twist – so we were able to get two different types for the same amount of money.
- Child #5 – 1-year old boy any age appropriate toys. We bought this Playschool Gears set normally $25 on sale for $12.49 at Kohls at the time as well as a rumble truck normally $11.99 on sale for $5.99 at the time. We then also had a 20% off coupon plus we combined (with other toys we bought to get our total over $30) and also used a $1o off $30. Finally, we had $40 in Kohls cash to spend that we used on this and on other toys for the Angel Tree.
- Child #6 – Snow Pants. In our time crunch, we could not find a great deal on these at the time – so we ended up just getting the snow pants with suspenders and bib at Walmart for the regular price of $13.97.
- Child #7 – Two pairs of Airwalk shoes that we paid $4.50 for ($30 before) after sales, coupons and bogo sale at Payless!
In addition, here what we got for the Single Mom and two kids and the third child of the other single mom. Since this was just something we were doing by surprise and specific requests were not needed, we were able to scour our gift bins that we talk about all throughout the year to be able to provide most of the gifts. We have talked about the value of a gift bin many times when you find a super rock bottom deal on anything from apparel, toys, household and more – we encourage you to grab it so that you have a nice gift that doesn’t wreak havoc on your budget.
For the mom
- 2 pairs of Chaps pants (these are normally around $55 and $75 each, but…. believe or not, we were able to get them for only $1 a pair a couple of years ago! Kohls was majorly clearing inventory and they had a bunch of racks with clothing priced at only $1 each item. We grabbed a ton of this clothing for an Ebay business we were running at the time to sell in lots. We have since set aside our Ebay business and now giving those items to those in need. We plan to take the rest of the clothing to church for our friends to go through and the remains will be given to the homeless and women’s shelters.
- A pair of designer sunglasses from a Graveyard mall deal a while back. This was a set of 12 that we have been able to use as gifts!
- A designer watch sold at a rock bottom price from No More Rack (I think we paid around $5 for it).
- A bracelet from ShopLately site that we were able to get for FREE on a past promotion.
- Slippers from an online group buying site that was also FREE.
- A nice hand bag from The Limited that was pennies on the dollar.
For the 7 year old daughter
- One of the $5 Toys R Us Teddy Bears
- A Barbie doll that we paid $5 for from No More Rack (and we saw it in-store for $30 later)
- Dress-up clothes and accessories (can’t remember where – it was in our gift bin too!)
- Pictureka Card game that we got for FREE last year around Christmas (we stocked up on these and have quite a few in the gift bin ;))
For the 1-year old boy
- We actually bought duplicates of the toys we bought for the 1-year old boy on the Angel Tree from Kohls of Playschool Gears set normally $25 on sale for $12.49 at the time as well as a rumble truck normally $11.99 on sale for $5.99 at the time. We then also had a 20% off coupon plus we combined (with other toys we bought to get our total over $30) and also used a $1o off $30. Finally, we had $40 in Kohls cash to spend that we used on this and on other toys for the Angel Tree.
- A Barney Sounds Book
For the 3-year daughter of the other single mom
- The same Barbie Doll as the one mentioned above from No More Rack for $5 (normally $30) (we bought two of these for our gift bin)
- A new pair of jeans from Shopko on sale for $8
- A Barney Sounds book similar to the one for the boy above, but it was a larger one.
As far as gifts for our extended family, we did utilize the Daily Deal sites and Amazon quite a bit and also took advantage of photo deals we could find as these are the most beloved gifts!
So that is what we did this Christmas with our designated budget. As we are celebrating our Christmas today (kids were happy it was 1 day earlier ;), we are enjoying our family time together today and we pray that you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!
We hope you will join us in this upcoming New Year to save even more, give even more and to reform your finances to help you meet your goals for you and your family!
Totally awesome that you are able to donate so much. We donate alot too and I teach my children that it is better to give than receive. I truly love that my children know the real meaning of the season and are very caring and giving. God Bless you and your family.
Thanks for the breakdown and your thoughts about quality over quantity. We also struggle with getting great deals and then having too much stuff. We did better this year, but I have resolved to do more with activities and less with stuff for next year. Thanks for helping me get a jump start on setting goals for next Christmas!
Thanks for sharing this! It is encouraging. I went WAY overboard on gifts this year and want to do better next year. This is inspiring.
May peace, love and prosperity follow you always and forever.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays!