|Gifts are fun!|
When my three siblings and I were kids, we always got cool gifts for Christmas and birthdays— stuffed animals, army men, fun books, sports gear, and other toys that inspired countless hours of fun. Although we got an extra-special gift every once in a while (I remember the year Dad bought us a speaker system for our TV, which was a big deal), the majority of gifts came from Mom, and from each other. Yes, from a very early age we were buying each other presents with our chore money. Here’s how it worked, and how Mom managed to buy us so many great gifts even when finances were tight.
The secret is planning ahead, and my mom did this by hitting up garage sales in the summer. As a kid, I hated our sweaty excursions around the neighborhood, but I did love finding a good deal. As a kid, I could find nice toys for all my siblings for 10¢-25¢ (although I’m sure inflation has pushed that up to 50¢ by now). My mom would do almost all of her Christmas and birthday shopping at these sales, hiding her finds from us as we kept our presents secret from each other. At the end of the trip, she’d gather all the items, label which toy was from which kid (“To: Eric, From: Lisa”), and store all of our presents for each other in a box high up in the closet. In December when she took the toys down and sorted them out to each of us, it was kind of like early Christmas, because none of us remembered what we had bought for each other! Then we wrapped our gifts and gave them to each other.
Mom’s own gifts she kept aside in a designated “gift box”— filled both with items for specific people and generic gifts, like candles and lotions, that she could pull out at a moment’s notice. That way, if one of us kids needed a last-minute gift, Mom could check in her gift box to see if anything fit the bill.
Since I’ve been out on my own, I’ve been following a similar system, although I usually shop at “regular” stores, rather than garage sales, for gifts for my close family (as well as thrift stores— lots of good stuff there!). Still, having a stockpile of nice little presents is a great idea, and I hope to implement the sibling-gift-giving method with my kids someday. When you’re working on a tight budget, a little bit of planning ahead goes a long way!