How to Pay Off Debt With Kids - Part 4 - Frugal but Nice Holiday

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This is part 4 of “How to Pay off Debt With Kids” we’re focusing on how to save on kids’ activities this week – (You can find the Introduction on this series HERE,  Part 1 Here , Part 2 Here and Part 3 Here) a 4-part series that encourages and guides you to believe you CAN pay off debt, even when you have kids! It provides practical tips, and includes a Free workbook, to guide you in changing your money mindset, beliefs and behaviors to create lasting change! You can get the Free Workbook by filling out the form below!

My hope is that this series has given you time and space to pause and think about what values are important to you and your family. To teach you some ways to alter your mindset around money and believe in your worth – without guilt or comparisons! But also, to give you some super practical ways to cut out mindless spending on your kids so you can put all that extra cash down on your debt!

Today I want to talk about how to have a frugal but nice holiday or birthday celebration with kids. We have four sweet peas so that means:

  1. We have four birthday parties (actually three because Kid #2 still shares a party with Kid #4 – we’ll see how long we can get away with that!) AND

  2. We have four kids that we get to shower with presents come Christmas time. (This doesn’t even include nieces and nephews  – but I’ll talk about that later!)

  3. Oh, AND we have four kids (did I mention this already?!) who have friends’ birthday parties they want to go to. Usually the kids want to give their friends a gift.

As you can see, gifts multiply like Gremlins around here. It would be easy to get swept into the frenzy of obligation and expectation. To give the newest, bestest, biggest thing. Or, more likely, to give into the dinner cooking, dish cleaning, budget meeting, bedtime routining, friends in needing, job doing and marriage making by turning to Amazon’s One-Click for a time-efficient and thoughtless answer. Oh, yes, that One-Click sounds nice more often than not. But…

BUT… THE ONE-CLICK IS NOT WHO WE ARE, NOT WHO WE WANT TO BE AND NOT WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS.

So, instead, we turn, and return (again and again) to conversations about alternative ways of gifting. Our hope is to remain aware and intentional. Our hope is to live within our financial and time allowances, knowing that there is liberty in the boundaries of living within our means.

(I actually just wrote a guest post about having an intentional Christmas for my friend Carly. Check it out here!)

And, above all, our hope is to be aligned with our values:

  1. SIMPLICITY – Do NOT get sucked into the consumeristic world. To help our children form a different association with holidays and birthdays than the average American child.

  2. CREATIVITY – thinking outside the box and finding alternative ways to celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of each child on their birthdays.

  3. COMMUNITY – to create connections between our kids and their friends as well as their immediate community and ultimately to the world during celebrations. We’re hoping to give our kids a sense of how all of humanity is connected. And how that connection has nothing to do with the stuff or things that try to fill the gap.

THE ONE-CLICK IS NOT WHO YOU ARE EITHER. IT’S NOT WHO YOU WANT TO BE. IT’S NOT WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS FROM YOU, EITHER. SO, HERE GOES. SEVEN WAYS TO HAVE A CHEAP BUT AWESOME HOLIDAY OR BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!

BUY GIFTS DURING SALES.

While I would NEVER advocate for anyone to go to the stores during Black Friday sales (who wants to be trampled by another mama and fight over a cheap plastic toy – seriously my worst nightmare), I WOULD advocate for you to spend an hour or two online and do some shopping. 

A lot of people don’t know but all those stores having crazy Black Friday sales IN the store, will have many things on sale ONLINE as well. I always get prepared (you can use Ruth’s FREE Holiday Planner to get organized) before Black Friday and then do most of my shopping during this weekend. The sales usually extend all weekend and into Cyber Monday (which is the Monday following Black Friday). Also, don’t forget about Amazon – they will have some awesome deals going on all weekend!

PSST: I realize I just said don’t be that one-click girl, but sometimes making large purchases during crazy sales is the best use of our time and resources! Be intentional.

HAVE A CASH ONLY BIRTHDAY.

Have the gift givers only give cash to the birthday child. I will admit we’ve tried this and it doesn’t go over very well with grandparents. They REALLY want to buy and give a special gift to their grandchild. All that to say, it may be difficult to get buy in from family members! This mostly relieves stress and the horrible “opening of presents chaos” that I hate so much. But, it does allow a great opportunity for teaching about Save, Give and Spend. Then helping the child pick out a gift (they’ll actually play with and won’t end up in a heap on their bedroom floor) with their spend money.

SET AN ACTUAL BUDGET AMOUNT FOR THE CHILD’S BIRTHDAY, OR FOR THE CHILD’S HOLIDAY GIFTS – AND STICK TO IT!

If have $100 to spend on the child’s birthday party, look for ways to make the party special and unique all within about $60 allowing for $40 for the gift. We often have our kids’ parties at our local park – this costs $25 to rent for a few hours, we provide cake and hot dogs and then ask family to bring side dishes, potluck style. They love helping and it makes the day SO much less stressful and definitely less expensive on us.

CREATE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE FOR THE BIRTHDAY CHILD INSTEAD OF A PILE OF GIFTS.

Instead of a birthday present (because they’ll get enough gifts from all their friends and family) you and your spouse could take the child out on a date night – no siblings allowed! Make sure you tell your sweetie how special they are to you and what you LOVE about them. I guarantee that will be a birthday they will remember forever!

CREATE A HOLIDAY TRADITION OF 1-4 GIFTS PER CHILD.

I’ve always wanted to try (but have been unable to do it so far – honestly I LOVE giving my kids gifts – it’s hard to hold myself back) the FOUR gift rule. This year we’re both fully committed. Wanna do it together?

“SOMETHING THEY WANT, SOMETHING THEY NEED, SOMETHING TO WEAR AND SOMETHING TO READ.”

With four kids this can still get pretty expensive. So, maybe the something to read is thrifted. There are TONS of used bookstores out there with a great selection of kids’ books.

Heck, maybe everything is thrifted! There are SO many frugal but nice gifts available used!

Also, these little books on CD remind me of my childhood – our kids LOVE them. And, they average about $5 per book. Awesomeness!

DON’T GO OVERBOARD ON STOCKING STUFFERS.

Seriously. Just don’t. The name Stocking STUFFERS alone just drives me crazy. They’ve created a whole line of “stuff” that can fit inside a stocking. How often does that stuff actually get played with? My kids love going through their stockings on Christmas day but those “stuffers” can really add up! This is an opportunity to speak to your child’s creativity through their stocking! Maybe they REALLY love painting. You could get them a watercolor set, a mini notebook and a sharpie to draw with for their stocking. The goal is to be intentional – not just buy stocking stuffers to stuff the stocking!

THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO REALLY TAKE SOME TIME AND THINK ABOUT WHO YOUR CHILD IS AND WHAT THEY LOVE. SIT DOWN WITH YOUR HOLIDAY PLANNER AND BRAINSTORM INTERESTS YOUR CHILD HAS RIGHT NOW! THESE THOUGHT OUT GIFTS WILL BE SO MUCH MORE SPECIAL TO YOUR CHILD AND YOUR KIDS WILL PLAY WITH THOSE TOYS LONGER AND WITH MORE PASSION. I’M SURE OF IT!

CREATE A GIFT EXCHANGE. 

We started this about six years ago – when the number of nieces and nephews became huge. There are now ten on one side of the family alone. The cousins all exchange names so each cousin has one other cousin they gift to. We’ve also eliminated all gift exchange expectations among the adults. If someone wants to give to someone else they may, but there are no obligations!

These suggestions all allow for your budget to go much further and for frugal but nice gift giving!

THIS IS NOT AS EASY AS I MAKE IT SOUND.

BUT IT’S ALSO MUCH EASIER THAN I COULD EVER EXPRESS.

It’s a choice – one that you make in a moment, and that you make again and again and again. A choice that’s rooted in awareness of your current place and position, and your desire to not remain there. A choice that is layered with the complexities of raising kids in America in these days between consumption and calling.

While those 7 ways to create a frugal but nice holiday or birthday celebration are real and practical and tangible I want to remind you of the choice we need to make every day. Our mindset is the single most valuable resource we have when it comes to sticking to our budgets. A healthy money mindset that is focused on your values will create space for these ideas to become part of your routines.

Not only will these be easy but you won’t feel confined by them. Instead they’ll be freeing. And you’ll feel free to allow them to mold and change as you define your specific values and life goals.

Remember that this takes practice and continued effort. I still fall. You’ll fall. You’ll still have a completely out of control Christmas and be so mad at yourself for overspending come January. We’ve ALL been there. One day at a time. One step at a time.

What step do you choose today?

You’ve got this!

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MoneyOlivia Zurawski