This year we actually started planning Christmas gifts in November, which although is probably late for most of you, is actually pretty early for us. Advent is a hectic time for Tom and I can get so swept up in it, that I get lost too. This year, however, we really needed to budget and so we had to plan ahead, and this is what we did...
Well, first we ogled pictures of Zuzu dressing up 'as Baby Moses.'
Plan.Don't roll your eyes! Planning helps. I bought Catholic Icing's Christmas and Advent Planner, which was seriously the best investment EVER. It's an entire binder of printables that helps you be organized and gives you things to do for the season, prayers, etc. She encourages you to pick and choose what works for your family and to NOT try to do it all.
Included in this binder is a gift planning section! It has a section for planning DIY gifts, budgeting, and the gift list itself. We used that and it was very, very helpful to keep us on track so I wasn't scrambling around for the scrap of paper that I wrote my ideas on. For $12, it's a complete lifesaver.
Other life savers: seeing how cute your child would be in winter clothes, but being thankful you don't have to go through the boots-hat-coat-mittens routine every day
Shop around & Stack Discounts/Cash back OffersThe big face-off is between brick and mortar and online: many discounts are only available online and others, only in store. I won't even consider online if I don't get free shipping, which most offer during the holidays anyway. The key to shopping around, though, is considering how you can get money back. For online shopping, you should ALWAYS have an eBates account (gives you money for going through their website to buy things at other websites - Dwija endorsed!!) and check to see if your credit card gives you money back too (Discover does).
I use Google shop to compare prices between big box stores like Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc. Also, since a lot of stores right now are offering $25 off of $200, etc., consider stacking presents at one store so that you can save overall. Even better? Use the website Cash Back Monitor to see where the greatest cash back offers come from, and see if you can get accounts/cards that offer the best ones, just to use for these gifts.
DIY ItDon't shudder with terror - lots of DIYs are perfectly lovely gifts that aren't as time consuming as you'd think.
How about all those people you want to give gifts to, but can't afford to buy for? Like if you have 4 kids and a bajillion teachers? Mix up a big batch of salt scrub and place it in cute glass jars with a tag - a useful gift that's fun to make. I always do cookies for the neighbors - platters from the dollar store, plus some no-frosting Christmas cookies are very lovely and appreciated.
Have you given up sewing homemade gifts? My tried-and-true hand sewn gifts are lap duvets (just big pillow cases! no reason to be intimidated!) and table runners. Really, these are very easy gifts that can be dashed off in an evening - even for people without sewing experience! Although fabric can be expensive, I often look at table cloths/old sheets at Goodwill - some of them have very lovely patterns and are very inexpensive for the amount you need.
Family GiftsWe simply can't afford to give a gift to everyone in our extended families, as much as we'd love to. But we can afford to do family gifts that can be enjoyed by everyone! We usually do a box of citrus (because we're the FL branch of Tom's family), boxes of our favorite chocolates (it's a Christmas tradition to have this around in my family), or a new board game.
If you feel you have to give gifts to individuals, but know you can't afford, just make this year the year to make a new tradition - send a nice Christmas card with your family gift, explaining how much you love everyone and hope this token lets them know you're thinking of them/missing them this Christmas season. Bite the bullet!
The Minnie and Mickey pictured are courtesy of my parents - as is her coat, hat, boots, the dress is from Tom's aunt and uncle, and the tights are from Tom's parents. Suffice it to say, we'd never be able to take care of our child without our families!
Pool Your ResourcesIf there's a big gift you've been eyeing for one of your children or another family member, see if you can get everyone to go in on it. Jen's family all went in on her camera one year, enabling them to get her a great camera and great accessories to go with it (bag, strap, etc.). One year I had everyone go in on an eReader for my mom and a diamond bracelet for my sister - gifts that would've been out of reach for each of us individually, but that worked all of us together.
Don't GiveWe don't give Zuzu presents yet, really. There's not a reason to - her grandparents are very generous, as is the rest of her family, and how many presents does a 2 year old really need before she goes numb with toy overload? I usually buy one or two nice books that I've wanted to add to our collection - ones that I know we'll treasure for years and that are more expensive. Then I call it a day.
Make sure that the present you're considering buying is intentional and meaningful before you go in on it - there's no need to add to the materialist noise if you know it won't really make a difference for your family.
Grandparents spoil her in so many ways - in gifts and time.