Reader testimonial from Tami
We are a family of 4 — me, my husband, and 2 kids (ages 13 and 7.5).
Recently, our income dropped significantly… and because of this, we made a few changes to how we do Christmas gifts. These simple changes helped eliminate the stress on our budget, reduce the amount of clutter in my kid’s rooms, and increase our time together as a family!
I created a “box of fun” for each child.
It took me all of 2013 to put these boxes together because I stretched the budget a little every month in order to buy all the gift cards, but it was so much fun and the kids loved it! This box has something fun for every month of the year in 2014:
- January = $20 gift card for movies (for one child) — enough for 2 visits
- February = $20 gift card for movies (for the other child) — enough for 2 visits
- March = two $50 gift cards for a year-round sports park membership that offers snow tubing, go-karts, miniature golf, etc. I used income tax refund money to pay for this — which is why I was able to spend $100 this month.
- April = $25 gift card for Barnes & Noble
- May = $25-gift card for Barnes & Noble.
- June = $20 gift card for a pedicure (for the girl)
- July = $20 gift card for iTunes (for the boy)
- August = $25 gift card for a pizza/arcade place
- September = $25 gift card for a pizza/arcade place
- October = $25 gift card for Sky Zone (trampoline place) — enough for 2 visits
- November = $25 gift card for Sky Zone — enough for 2 visits
- December = I bought “Santa gifts” (3 each)
This amounted to enough gift cards to give us 8 or 9 family activities throughout the year with the stipulation is that they can only use 1 gift in a month.
We realized that by doing this, we would still need to pay for my husband and me to do the activities, however, when buying some of these gift cards for the kids, we also earned free gift cards for ourselves. In addition, when our family asked my husband and I what we wanted for Christmas, we requested gift cards to some of the same places — so that will help with the budget as well!
I also made up a coupon book for my kids and put that in the box, too.
For example, they both love baking and cooking with mom, so I made a few coupons for cooking a meal with me. They are able to pick a recipe, make a shopping list for that meal, and then help cook it.
Another one was for date night/day with mom and one with dad. We figure this is when they could use their movie gift cards.
Another one was for game night, movie, and popcorn at home, a family activity of their choice (such as going on a bike ride), etc. All simple things that they love to do and are essentially free for us.
We told them they could use 1 to 2 of these coupons per month.
In the end, we have the perfect reason to have our “family time” and most of it is already paid for, so we cannot use the excuse that there is no money in the budget.
I plan on doing the same thing in 2014, and have already adjusted our budget to cover the cost of buying a gift card once a month.
The best part about this was the fact that my kids seemed to love the “box of fun” and it was the first thing they mentioned whenever someone asked them what they got for Christmas. It really made me feel like I made the right choice by deciding not to give them just “stuff” for Christmas.