What to do when you can’t afford gifts
I wrote this article for those on limited budgets about inexpensive gifts for children last year and thought I’d repost it here as many readers thought it was helpful.
I hope these ideas help. Whatever you do, make Christmas special–it doesn’t take a lot of money to do so. Circumstances may make it hard, but love goes a long way.
If you love your children, and they know it, you’re not a failure. So please don’t berate yourself if you can’t afford lavish gifts this year. If your children are loved, clean, warm, and fed, they have far more than many do. If you’re trying to take care of them, they are blessed as many parents just don’t care. Let them know they’re special. Tell them you love them. Spend time with them.
Take the kids to see the Christmas lights at the park, go to area church plays and musicals, rent Christmas movies from the library, make special cookies with them, pop some corn, make decorations together for the tree–paper angels, snowflakes, chains, or whatever you dream up. Pile up in front of the TV with pillows and blankets for some special time. Tell them some Christmas stories.
Your children’s best holiday memories will not be about the material gifts they received but of times spent with you. Just love your kids. That is the best gift of all.
Now for some inexpensive gift ideas.
Inexpensive Christmas Gifts for Children
I read a message online from a lady who has ten grandchildren and couldn’t afford to buy them Christmas gifts as she was living on a small monthly disability check. She was so upset, wondering what to do.
I feel for her as I’ve been there so I thought I’d share some inexpensive and homemade gift ideas with you. Even with little money, you can still make Christmas special. Sometimes you just have to get creative or do a little leg work to find something affordable.
Other than homemade gifts, the most inexpensive gifts can often be found at discount stores and second hand stores, including the Goodwill or Salvation Army.
You may be surprised at what you’d find at second hand stores. They’re a wonderful source for inexpensive treasures. And kids don’t care that their gifts are second hand.
At the Goodwill you can find toys, books, and clothes. At some locations, they have special sales during certain days of the week when you can pick up sweaters and jeans for .99 a piece. Go there with a list of sizes for the kids on your shopping list.
And if you have several kids to get for, the Dollar Tree might be a low-cost option. Everything is only a dollar, and you can buy toys by the case on their website.
That said, if you know how to sew or are skilled at another craft, making a gift could also be an inexpensive option.
Dolls and Stuffed Toys
One year my husband had lost his job, and we had no money for my son’s birthday. Luckily, I had a lot of craft supplies on hand. So I made him several stuffed animals out of cotton fabric and old clothes—a rabbit, a pig, a kitty, elephant, bear, dog, and others. There were about twelve stuffed animals in all. And I wrapped each one separately to make it seem like he was getting a lot. We also got him a few inexpensive gifts—plastic toy soldiers, books, bubbles, toy cars, and clay dough. In all, we spent under $10.00 on his birthday that year.
The hand-made animal characters were about 12 inches tall with a simple rag doll body, but each had a unique head. I used buttons for the eyes and stitched on each mouth. I made clothes for each. I named each one and created a story around them to make them special. He loved them and had a wonderful birthday.
Rag dolls would be another great idea and would be so simple to make.
However, this gift idea would be a lot of work if there are several children on your list. You would need to start making the dolls way in advance. In addition, this gift would also appeal only to younger children—eight and under.
Other homemade gift ideas:
Homemade Super Hero Mask and Cap
A super hero gift would be great for young boys and girls. Children love to dress up in costumes. You could make it out of old fabric or check out the remnants at a sewing shop.
I can personally attest to children’s love for this type of gift as I made something similar for my son when he was about six-years-old. He was into Simon Belmont, a vampire slaying character from a video game. He craved his own Simon armor, which was a metallic-looking tunic. But we could find nothing like that for him in stores. So I made Simon’s armor out of a small and inexpensive remnant of shiny silver fabric I found at Wal-Mart. I bought the same amount of white cotton fabric and some white ties for the sides—the type on the spool that you can buy by the yard.
In all, the materials to make the tunic were under $10.00. And I stitched it all by hand as I didn’t have a sewing machine, but it didn’t take long. I completed the tunic in a single evening.
If you want to know how I did it, here’s some simple instructions.
There are many other homemade gift ideas on Pinterest from simple to intricate. Homemade Gifts for Children
If you’re looking for an inexpensive, non-homemade gift for children, here are some shopping ideas:
Gifts under $10.00
Crayons and Coloring Books
Young children always love these. Great for kids 8 and under.
Scented pencils or pens
Children love pencils, pens, and art supplies. This gift will be a bigger hit if the ink is scented as children enjoy scents. You might find gifts in this category that are great for children up to the pre-teen age.
You can often find inexpensive books for children of all ages at discount or second-hand stores.
Barrettes or or hair items.
You can pick these up at discount stores for a low price. Girls of all ages love these gifts.
Lip balm and other cosmetic items
Great gifts that you can pick up at discount stores for girls of all ages. But also consider Avon.com for holiday lip balm, bubble bath, and hand cream for as low as .79. I even saw their coconut bath paint on sale for .89. If you know someone who works at Avon, you may get additional bargains. Here’s the link: Avon Stocking Stuffers
What kid doesn’t love blowing bubbles? A good gift to add to a basket or bag of other small gifts
Silly drinking straws
Kids love swirly twirly straws. There are even some that wrap around the head.
Both boys and girls enjoy special scented soaps. When I did a web search, I saw some cute turtle shaped soap for boys. I recall that my boys loved Mutant Ninja Turtle soap–the rage back in the mid-80s.
Not only an inexpensive gift, but also a great way for a family to get together and connect on those cold winter nights.
All girls love perfume. I remember how much I used to enjoy Love’s Baby Soft when I was a young teen. My friends all loved it too.
Hat and Gloves
Maybe not fun but useful. I was always glad to get hats and gloves at Christmas as well as socks as my mother couldn’t afford to buy these things for me.
Kids seem to have a fascination with colorful and oddly styled socks.
An inexpensive gift that children adore. You can even hunt around online and find a recipe for a homemade version. I used to make clay for my kids that they could shape and bake. I wish I still had the recipe to share with you.
A pack of 36 illustrated cards that you and the children use to create a story. What a way to spend quality time together while fostering your child’s creativity.
Kids’ Tattoo Set and Body Paint
Don’t worry, these aren’t permanent and kids love them. There are all kinds of them. Do a web search or check amazon or Ebay. You might also find them at discount stores.
Stencil and Pen kits
Do a Google search. I found many under $10.00. Here’s an example of a cool stencil kit.
Kid’s stamp kit
I found several online for $10.00- $15.00. Kids of all ages would treasure these. Stamp Kit
I found this 120 piece art kit on Amazon. You might find something similar in a discount store. Any kid would love this art kit, and it’s under $12.00. I hunted on Ebay and couldn’t find a lower price.
For the younger boys, you can often find cool toy trucks for a low price at discount stores.
Every kid loves games–even more so if you play the game with them, the classics such as cards, checkers, and bingo included. Shop around for the lowest prices.
You could combine some of these gift ideas to make a basket or a themed gift. Here are a couple of examples.
You could make each child a “Winter Fun” gift. You may want to include a snowman kit: hat, scarf, and gloves from the Dollar Store, carrot, raisins for the eyes and mouth, hot chocolate mix, a mug from the dollar store, peppermint sticks to swizzle in the hot chocolate, microwave popcorn or cookie mix (you can make the cookie mix yourself), and a jigsaw puzzle.
Include children’s story books, a small stuffed animal (you can get this at a discount or second hand store), a small throw or blanket, a small flashlight for reading (you can find these in packs of three for under $10.00). For books, you can ask your local school if any of the teachers participate in book clubs and order from the pamphlets at reduced prices. They have a great selection that kids love, and they will be glad for the business because they get credit to use towards books for the classroom. Also, keep your eyes open for bargain books at local bookstores.
Remember that love goes a long way and is the most precious gift of all. Above all else, spend some quality time with the kids this holiday season and create warm Christmas memories that they will always treasure.
Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season,
Photo courtesy of PublicDomain Photos.