5 Tips to Picking Great Kid Gifts on a Budget

By Alicia Rivera

The Holidays are approaching and although most parents would love to grant their child’s every wish, the reality is that most families are tightening their economic belts and are stretching their dollars as far as they can already. That doesn’t mean you can’t still grant some holiday wishes if you prioritize, plan ahead, and use a little creativity.

Have Your Child Make a Wish List

If your children are young, and if Santa is part of your holiday traditions, have them write a letter to Santa. Have them cut out pictures of their 2 or 3 “must have” items. This helps when they want something that Santa has never heard of. (I had no clue what a “My Meeba” was when my daughter asked for one earlier this month.)

Use this wish list to zero in on those gifts your child wants most. If they insist on mailing it to the north pole, make a copy for yourself first; when no one is watching of course.

Make Your Own List of Your Child’s Favorite Hobbies, Toys, and Things to Do

No one knows your child better than you do, but by making a list you can zero in on subtle things that can translate into great, inexpensive gift choices. For example, my 6 year old sons loves Dr. Seuss books. He loves the silly rhymes but he has that whole collection. However, that made me think that he would also enjoy reading children’s poetry written by other authors. Our local book warehouse store sells a great collection of children’s poetry books at big discounts.

Try to keep a running list of things that your child mentions.

About two months ago my daughter came home from school raving about the polymer clay her teacher had given them that afternoon. I happened to make note of it as her birthday was approaching. A few blocks of the clay in a variety of colors (that I managed to find on sale), plus some plastic sculpting tools made for a very inexpensive birthday gift that she absolutely loved. I thought ahead and bought extra clay that I have stashed away ready to put in her Christmas stocking.

Does your child like to help you in the kitchen?

Why not pick up a childs apron and a great kids cook book? They can be found on sale in almost any book store and can be a very exciting and personal gift for an aspiring young chef. Get them their own measuring spoons and brightly colored oven mitts and toss those in the box too.

If your family enjoys family game night consider purchasing board games and labeling them to “The whole family”. This adds gifts that everyone can enjoy and even open together.

Search for Big Ticket Items Early

Lots of kids these days want expensive electronics. Video games, iPods, hand held games and other pricey items can really make parents feel under the gun at holiday time. Especially when money is tight. If you’re being asked for several big ticket items the first thing to do is be realistic. Determine which items you can buy, taking into consideration your budget and those things that seem really important to your kids. Remember, there is no rule that says kids have to get every single thing they ask for, so be selective and don’t get yourself in a financial bind.

Browse through store fliers for holiday bargains keeping mind that some stores offer Layaway.

You make a small down payment on the things you want to purchase. While the store holds your items, you make weekly payments over a set amount of time until you’ve paid the balance in full. There may be a small surcharge for using this service so make sure you take that into consideration when working within your budget.

If you find you need to use your credit card, have a plan in place for how and when you’re going to pay it off and try to do it within 60 days of making the purchases. Otherwise any money you’ve saved will be offset by high interest charges.

Network with Family and Friends to Find Deals

If there are grandparents, aunts, uncles, extended family or friends that usually buy gifts for your children, let them know what kinds of things your children are asking for. Most people will appreciate this kind of information as they will spend money on a gift they know is really wanted and will be used.

This will also take some of the burden off you to make all those holiday wishes come true. If you’re buying a game system, let grandparents and relatives know what games would be compatible as well as even less expensive accessories and where they can be found at rock bottom prices.

Also use your network of family and friends to find the best prices on those big ticket items.

Send out an email asking everyone to keep an eye out for your item while they’re out doing their own shopping and to let you know if they find a deal. Offer to do the same for them. My sister-in-law lives about an hour away from us. I let her know which items I’m looking for and she will look for bargains in her area. If she sees something at a good price she gives me a call. Sometimes you can even arrange to have someone pick up an item for you and settle up with them when you meet to get the item.

Use the Internet

With retailers needing to compete more than ever the internet can be where you find rock bottom prices. Price changes on the net can be fast and furious but can get you big discounts and free shipping. Use sites like pricegrabber.com and smarter.com to find the things you need and compare prices across many different retailers in your area.

Don’t forget to be creative with inexpensive stocking stuffers, handmade items, or even tins of favorite sweet treats to add to the holiday fun and keep your spending under control. Most important, don’t stress this year over what may or may not be in that holiday gift pile. Be realistic with your budget. Be creative with your ideas, and use every resource available to get the lowest prices possible and everyone, including you, will have a great time this year.

Alicia Rivera is a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) of three lively kids. An entrepreneur who designs her own line of handcrafted jewelry, Alicia has also created a growing and ever-changing online resource for moms who want to learn frugal ways to nurture the fun-loving rhythm of their families.

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