Five Ways To Optimize Your Christmas Budget
A lot of us are watching the budget very carefully this year. What heartless elf put open enrollment for health insurance right before the holiday season? (If it’s giving you pain, check out what we did.) And rich or poor, if you have a large family (like ours) you naturally look for ways to make the best use of your shopping dollars in every category.
Here are five ways we’ve found to optimize your gift budget:
Things that are both educational and fun. I used to dread the idea of “educational toys” as a child, but there are lots of toys and gifts which teach or encourage learning skills. Scrabble and Bananagrams are not “educational” games, but they encourage spelling skills and vocabulary, right? Strategic games like Risk, Settlers of Cataan, and Ticket to Ride teach some geography along the way. Take a good look and see if there aren’t some hidden lessons in your old favorite games and toys!
Things that are appropriate for multiple ages. Pit is an old classic—Theodore Roosevelt loved it—that doesn’t require advanced reading skill, just alertness and quick decisions! Mille Bournes is one of our family favorites that nearly any child can understand; it’s a French card game which simulates a road rally, with hazards and speed limits to slow down your opponent while you add up the milestones (the bournes) yourself.
Things that encourage interaction. A personal video game is a one-player show. A lot of console-based video games can be played either way. Something as simple as a deck of cards or a checkerboard invites two or more to join in together – and provides fun for multiple people at once.
Things with lasting value. Depending on your kids’ peer group and how much television you allow, you may experience upward peer pressure to shop for the hottest new item in the stores. “New” doesn’t mean “Good” or “Bad,” either one – but there’s value in choosing gifts which have been around a while and show some lasting value. And some of our favorite Christmas gifts have actually come from used book stores, library sales, and Goodwill!
Things which are constructive and creative. We have boys, and we have LEGOs … but I repeat myself. Really, though, things which can be used for different games or re-assembled in different ways have more entertainment value than a toy which only does one thing – and expects the child to sit and watch it. An introduction to a craft or artistic hobby – anything from watercolor kits and calligraphy pens to books on basic carpentry or gardening – can introduce your child to skills which can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. (And make shopping for them even easier in the future!)
A little novelty and excitement is okay – we don’t say, “Never buy into trends!” Some turn out to be the next generation of “classics”! But to make your gift-giving budget go as far and as deep as it can, it’s hard to beat these five patterns when you’re shopping for your family.
Of course, if you’d like some ideas, we have a neat collection of gift ideas on our website HERE – and special deals this week to make the dollars go still farther. Check it out!
Hal and Melanie
Photo credit: Shopping cart by Christy Thompson, FreeImages.com