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Holiday cheer, the cheap way

Most of us may still be consuming the last reminders of Halloween -- miniature-sized Snickers, itty-bitty bags of Skittles -- during our afternoon (and morning, and evening, and midnight) snacks. But if TV commercials, Friday's release of "Disney's A Christmas Carol" and the recent release of the Toys "R" Us Big Toy Book are any indication, the holiday season is more or less upon us.

With its arrival comes this survey conducted by Consumer Reports, which finds that one-third of adults plan to spend less money on holiday gifts this year than they did in 2008. Two-thirds of the 1,000 people questioned also said they intend to trim holiday expenses on a broader scale, including cut backs on travel and decorations.

And worst of all -- at least if you're Jerry Seinfeld and you've just received a label maker from Tim Whatley -- is the fact that more grown-ups say they are actively re-gifting: 36 percent, up from 31 in a similar survey last year.

So here's the question for all you parents: Do you plan to spend less or give fewer holiday gifts this year to your children? I mean, everyone always waltzes into the holidays planning to be frugal, then ends up overspending, especially on their children.

In a related question: Would you ever re-gift an item to one of your kids? Say, hide a toy he or she got last year, than break it out again in the hope that the child either won't remember getting the same Wii game 365 days ago, or will blame the error on that forgetful old coot, Santa Claus?

Personally, I'd like to say that I'm going to be more prudent about the money I spend this year. But in the spirit of yuletide candor, I have to be honest: I won't. I'll likely spend too much cash on items that my son and other relatives don't need, or worse, that I could have purchased at more reasonable prices elsewhere if I hadn't put off shopping until Dec. 23 at 10:30 p.m. Hopefully, though, some of you readers are a bit more sensible than I am.

If you can stop digging through the dregs of your daughter's trick-or-treat bag and pause for a moment to contemplate the holidays, feel free to share your plans for making this season enjoyable without breaking your budget.

Jen Chaney oversees movie coverage for the Post's Web site, contributes to the Babble's Strollerderby blog and would be happy to accept a re-gifted iPhone from any of her nearest and dearest loved ones.

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    By Jen Chaney |  November 5, 2009; 8:18 AM ET  | Category:  Family Finances
    Previous: Why I fear the first bra | Next: How to get your kids to bond with your parents (even if your bond isn't so strong)


    So, the CR survey asked the questions, gave the results...and you want to do what, replicate that survey?

    We already know the outcome.

    p.s. Humbug.

    Posted by: 06902 | November 5, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

    I'm using having a baby as an excuse to stop exchanging gifts with people I have been wanting to stop exchanging gifts for years with. Though actually we save money in an envelope all year for Christmas. Saying I am saving money for the baby just sounds nicer than saying I don't want to exchange with you anymore.

    Posted by: sunflower571 | November 5, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

    Actually, she asked you "to share your plans for making this season enjoyable without breaking your budget." She did NOT ask whether you planned to spend less, but rather what your particular plans are. Reading comprehension is your friend.

    I try to shop throughout the year mostly because I freak out if it gets to be November and I am not pretty much done Christmas shopping. I still have a few things to get for this year, but I know what and where to get them, so there's no stress. I am spending more or less the same as last year (I think) and we will be decorating the same. We don't spend much on gift type items - toys and such - during the rest of the year, so I guess that is how we deal with the expense.

    I will be "regifting" one item to my son that he got last year, but was really too young for. Santa will also be giving some gently used toys this year (nice to have a coworker with a kid one year older than mine!).

    Posted by: VaLGaL | November 5, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

    We do a planned savings for Christmas expenses. I don't think we will spend less than we have in the past. I think it will be about the same.

    I have already finished all the nieces and nephews and our god son. I do have to finish up our god daughter.

    Luckily we have stopped exchanging most adult gifts(Yeah, no more Sage green stuff). My FIL and MIL still insist on exchanging adult gifts. But we have stopped with family friends and siblings. So we all just buy each other's kids something. We are pretty open about what to get the kids. Usually I ask the parents if they want clothes, books, toys, or a gift card and I buy whatever they want. My kids get a lot of toys from us, Santa, grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles. So most family friends give clothes or books.

    I think some of the other expenses like the food, decorations, holiday pictures and stuff are hard to control. They just sort of add up out of no where. I always try to limit holiday pictures but always end up buying too many.

    Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

    Oh I have regifted gifts that never got open to my kids. This happened when they were pretty small. So I don't think they noticed.

    One thing to do is to shop sales all year round. Like by the time the kids reach a certain age, you can pretty much guess their size a year later. So buy end of the year clothing for next year.

    Also at least for my daughter, she has some general interests that don't change from year to year. So I can get some of those items during the year when they are on sale.

    Santa always brings crayons, markers, and art supplies that were purchased during the back to school sales. When I am shopping for school, I threw in a few extras for Christmas stocking stuffers.

    Lastly, I know some people think it is lame but we make some gifts. My daughter loves her dolls and I always have a few home made outfits and doll blankets and sleeping bags made by Christmas.

    Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

    A) Not lame at all foamgnome. And frankly, those are likely to be the things your daughter saves for her daughters. Someday.

    B) I often regift adult items. I don't need any more candles. I don't need another calendar. I don't need (fill in the blank) a lot of the things I have been given. And many are generic enough to give our office admin, throw into the white elephant gift at the office party, etc.

    C) My biggest issue this year is what/how much to give the daycare teachers. There are 2 leads in my daughter's room, plus 4-6 others who are there for most or part of the day. My daugher has been there since August, so it's not a full year. I know the leads get bigger gift(cards), but how much for the other caregivers? And how much if they're assigned to the infant room all day, or just for a few hours? And what about the front desk staff? This is all new to me, and I don't know how to make everyone feel appreciated, which they are, without going overboard or broke.

    Posted by: JHBVA | November 5, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

    "She did NOT ask whether you planned to spend less, but rather what your particular plans are. Reading comprehension is your friend." - ValGal

    Sigh. Not to get into a protracted argument over anyone's particular reading comprehension skills, but I found this quote from the OP particularly troublesome to your assertion:

    "So here's the question for all you parents: Do you plan to spend less or give fewer holiday gifts this year to your children?"

    Your obvious fault aside, asking whether one plans to spend less is not materially different from asking what one's particular spending plans are. E.g. "Did you vote for Deeds?" or "Who did you vote for?". Same dif.

    Posted by: 06902 | November 5, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

    JHBVA: What about making baked goods, such as cookies, brownies, or minature loafs of quickbreads for the rest of the daycare staff to share? You can put it in a nice tin with the recipe attached. Or you could do something like coffee and cinnamon rolls or bring in a box of bagels for breakfast one morning. Also you can give a Christmas card addressed to the whole staff wishing them happy holidays. No need to individually get a gift for everyone to show that you appreciate what they do.

    Posted by: Merdi | November 5, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

    ) I often regift adult items. I don't need any more candles. I don't need another calendar. I don't need (fill in the blank) a lot of the things I have been given. And many are generic enough to give our office admin, throw into the white elephant gift at the office party, etc

    Exactly! This is why I am trying to cut down on the adults I exchange with. Getting gifts for kids is more fun anyway. And does anyone have a family where everyone gets each other gift cards? It's nice to be able to buy what you want but last year when I saw the adults in the family all exchanging gift cards I thought what is the point?

    Question to you parents-Do you like it when your kids get savings bonds? I think I asked this before but would appreciate some feedback.

    Posted by: sunflower571 | November 5, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

    I know one family where the re-gifting is a tradition. It was an 8 track tape and it's been baked into cakes, wrapped around poles and rewound onto thread spools. They draw straws to see who'll be getting it each year.

    I announce my gift budget so everyone has a clear expectation about what they can reasonably expect to get.

    I'm big on the anticipation of gifts so I like to go all out with the wrappings.

    We often travel to Grandma's at Christmas and that alone is a budget buster. The airlines seem to have forgotten that oil prices are down and we're in a recession!

    Posted by: RedBird27 | November 5, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

    My parents somehow never got rid of most of my childhood toys- they are still in the basement. There are stuffed animals there that are still practically new, and I have no trouble re-gifting them to my kids.

    We generally only do one or two gifts per kid anyway. I like to get new stuff as it seems developmentally appropriate (ie, a tricycle when kid is ready to ride one, etc) rather than have everything arrive all at once. My mother's group also does a toy exchange once or twice a year so people can swap things that their kids no longer play with.

    We don't do much gift exchanging with adults anymore. Everyone ends up with stuff they don't really need, or we end up exchanging giftcards and what the point of that? We give gifts to both sets of parents but that's about it.

    To tell the truth, I find the holidays much more enjoyable when we focus less on picking out the perfect gift for everyone, and more on just having a good time.

    Posted by: floof | November 5, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

    About gifts to teachers--get together w other parents& chip in some money.

    Posted by: liziko | November 5, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

    "The airlines seem to have forgotten that oil prices are down and we're in a recession!"

    yeah, oil prices ($75) are "down" to 17% ABOVE their average over last 5 years. The nerve of those airlines...

    p.s. recession is over, and Obama is "saving" jobs left and right, haven't you heard?

    Posted by: 06902 | November 5, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

    The first thing I did was to open my first ever holiday savings account. Yes, it is for next year but I did it! Budget for 2010 is set!

    As for this year, we are trying to find smaller, more personal gifts (i.e. spending more time discovering what small item(s) might be most appreciated by the individual in question (e.g. new humming bird feeder to replace an old beat up one)).

    We are also making and baking more too this year.

    Posted by: ishgebibble | November 5, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

    Something my cousin does (well, she used to do -- not sure if she does anymore but I assume so) with her only son was have him pick out 3-5 toys, books, etc he had that he was no longer reading, using, or playing with, and they donated them. Then he'd get 3-5 new items for Christmas, and the next year they'd donate other items again. The kid always knew what to expect come Christmas morning and there was never really a "ONLY X number this year? But I got 10 MORE last year!" moment.

    I know that's not a budget tip, but I always thought it was a nice way to show a kid that not all kids can get new things each year -- and that it's not necessary to get tons of new toys, etc every Christmas because he outgrows or gets bored with some pretty quickly.

    Now that our other cousins have three kids (one of their own, and just adopted two younger ones from Haiti within the past year and a half) I suspect a lot of his old toys, videos, books and the like are going to the new cousins. Family re-gifting can be good -- especially in this case, even though it's particular, when the two youngest cousins still aren't used to having things like toys of their own.

    Posted by: dajack02 | November 5, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

    I resolve to scale back on Christmas each year, and to try to enjoy what we do decide to do more. Buying into the commercial hype is not worth it. We set limits on decorations and don't do extensive baking anymore. As children have gotten older, their gifts have gotten more expensive - Wii, handheld computer games, etc. It's just not possible to fill a stocking and have a big pile of gifts under the tree at that rate. Buying and stashing gifts throughout the year does seem to help. We do a gift exchange among the adults with a set limit and everyone is happy with that. As nieces and nephews get older, we tend to give them simpler gifts, or cash.

    We did give our son a Nintendo Game Cube a few years ago that was a hand-me-down from an older cousin. He never knew the difference! Now that he knows that truth about Santa Claus, he's very open to saving his old toys and passing them along to other family members and friends (but not regifting them as new.) I know other parents who find 'nearly new' stuff on e-bay or Craig's List or even yard sales.

    I remember the daycare days when my kids had 6-8 teachers! I like the idea of chipping in with other parents to get them each one big gift card or item.

    Posted by: HuckleberryFriend | November 5, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

    We love savings bonds for our kids, it is the preferred gift.

    We will scale down this year, as we did last year, mainly because our kids are older and they understand the concept of Xmas better. It's not all receiving anymore. I also explained to my MIL and parents that we will be getting some potraits of the kids done and that is their gift. MIL finally agreed to stop shopping this year and give Gift cert to restaurants or other venues that we can not afford. My parents gave up on shopping years ago, each kids get $$ for college and a small gift.

    I'd much rather relax and spend time with the family - eating, drinking and being merry - rather than running around the mall and worrying about how many gifts each member of our family gets. I want no gifts this year, but I do want to bake and maybe see a movie with the kids. Low key is my hope.

    Posted by: cheekymonkey | November 5, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

    We throw a big party for family and friends as our "gift" to them and their gift to us.
    We'll spend less for our kids, but some of that will be on things they need (because at this age unwrapping a present is more fun than the actual present). And since our kids don't quite understand the concept of gifts of time or family gifts, there's always something very special for each one. Fortunately "very special" and "super expensive" rarely go hand in hand.
    MIL & FIL announced no more adult presents hard on the heels of our gift of a donation in their name last year (did not know what else to get them, thought it was a lovely gesture, got hit hard in the head with just how short we fell).
    For teachers and daycare we fall back on gift cards, hoping we hit on something they'll use.

    Posted by: StrollerMomma | November 5, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

    If it is still available, I highly recommend Unplug the Christmas Machine. It was a book that came out when our sons were young and we incorporated many of the ideas in that book in our lives. My favorite suggestion was to stretch out the holiday with traditions on other days in December and even early January--trip to see holiday decorations and a stop for hot chocolate, ice skating, choosing a card from the "sharing tree" (shopping for someone else's, more in need, list), cookie baking. It's so nice not to slam it all into one day and abruptly halt on the 25th. It's all about the time to enjoy and the traditions you build. Presents can be very small and inexpensive and still be effective.

    Posted by: crs1 | November 5, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

    I try not to emphasize presents. I buy a few presents for the kids. We celebrate Hanukkah - so the kids sort of started to expect 8 presents. So, well, we collect the presents from the family and use some of ours, then some of theirs during those eight nights. If we don't have enough, we don't have enough. I'm hoping that the holiday will be what they remember, rather than the presents (no small feat). I try to go to discount places, even the dollar store, cause, well, who can afford all the stuff they want? When they don't really need it or play with it for long anyway.
    I'll have to try clothes...

    Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

    crs - We do have our "traditions" outside the actual day of Xmas and it is some of our favorite memories. The book sounds great.

    Posted by: cheekymonkey | November 5, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

    atlmom -- so anything happening about Columbia? (I missed first part of week, so sorry if it's old news).

    We do a some of a bunch of things. With my SILs, each kid draws one cousin's name each year. Since it's Hanukkah, they really want to keep it different from Christmas (not just "Christmas Lite"), so the cost is intentionally kept very low ($10), the kids pay out of their own money, and the focus is really on the party and the family (and the latkes).

    With my family, we're lucky to have two sets of grandparents, so we don't have to buy much for the kids. For my parents, both sets approved the contribution-in-your-name thing. They give us a contribution to a 529 plan (best possible thing we could get -- at least based on the last statements. . . ). And then we all do stocking stuffers, which are basically special food treats (like I'll splurge and buy my mom toffee from Williams-Sonoma or something, because she'd never buy it for herself, no matter how much she loves it).

    I don't skimp on daycare, teachers, etc. Yes, it annoys me to spend like half of my Christmas budget on people who aren't even family. But their efforts make a big difference to our family, and they get paid [bleep] for it. So that's one of the last places I'm going to cut back.

    The one thing we cannot do is hand-me-downs. DD may have missed half her last English test because she forgot that subjects are nouns, but dang if she can't identify Every. Single. Toy. She. Has. Ever. Seen. Anywhere. We would be busted so fast your head would spin.

    Posted by: laura33 | November 5, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

    For Yule, we always go out to some special musical event. Since it falls on a Monday this year, I'm having a hard time finding much. So, we'll probably end up spending too much on tickets to whatever-it-is. We also give the boys something nice/wonderful, and books always.

    Christmas is spent with the extended family, who are all Christians. We get something nice for the nieces and nephews, but just small tokens for the adults - for example my mother and I both drink tea, so I'll usually get her some new herb/flavored tea that I've found.

    Posted by: SueMc | November 5, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

    Savings bonds for kids are GREAT gifts, if they're young enough - say 12 or younger. It's quite likely that they'll be cashed in around age 18-21 (either to pay for college or other expenses), so that gives them some time to mature/earn interest.

    As the kids get older, we cut down on the NUMBER of gifts, but not necessarily the price. College students get something appropriate for them - new printer; TV for the dorm room; new iPod; etc. Sort of expensive, but useful. Then they get a bunch of little stocking stuffers so there are lots of packages to open.

    Gifts for teachers - the girls still at home usually bake stuff for their teachers. Middle DD has been giving homemade cookies and brownies to the teachers who are writing her college letters of recommendation, as a way of thanking them. The house has smelled good all week! She'll do the same for holidays. Youngest DD wants to start doing that, too.

    Swapping gifts with other adult family members - not so much; just grandparents for the most part.

    Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | November 5, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

    We have just one child, and she is the only gradchild so it is hard to keep Christmas (and her b-day) in hand. Mainly I try to give quality, substantive items instead of random cute junk. Which means fewer items, though they cost more per item. Also, we have a charitable gift rule. Everyone must give a charitable gift in the name of each other family member. Last year I had a tree planted for everyone (I think it was and this year am giving shares of goats, llamas, and rabbits through Heifer International.

    As for events, there are so many free holiday concerts in the DC area and we try to hit as many as we can, from the sing-along at Wolf Trap, to chamber music at churches. The light display at the Mormon Temple is free, the White House Tree is free and I'm sure there is much more.

    Posted by: conchfc | November 5, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

    I actually am a big baker, and have already brought in treats for my daughter's teachers. I plan to bring in a big tray of cookies for her room, and one for the entire staff to share. (My co-workersmay be the ones who get short shrift this year, since they're used to a bounty of cookies around the holidays, and between having a baby, and bringing some of the cookies into daycare, we'll all gain less weight here at work.) But it's really hard to do a "class gift" at the daycare level, at least for the infants. I don't see the other parents much, there isn't a class mother, etc. Not like once the kids get to school. I figured gift cards to Target work - whether they buy something practical, or use the gift card towards a new cd/video game/whatever, no one can't use a Target gift card.

    Posted by: JHBVA | November 5, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

    I recall a friend of mine whose daughter demanded that there be 20 presents under the tree (yes she was the only child). My friend scrimped, saved, and worked OT just to accommodate. Of course I thought she was crazy at the time (and still do).

    My husband and I have NEVER been lavish or overspent for the holidays or birthdays. Mainly because we like to do other things during the year (however, Dan Snyder has ruined that gift this year -- THANKS DAN!!!!). When it comes to our child who is now 4.5, we have decided that he will get 4 gifts from us and Santa. And one or more of those gifts may or may not be overages from one set of grandparents who definitely overspend on other occasions. As a matter of fact, I even put away a couple of boxes with several items in it because there was just too much. I've asked that this type of gifting be curbed because he's coming to expect it.
    When son was 2 they asked if they could buy a red flyer tricycle. We said no, he's not big enough for it and we have no room for it right now. Well, not only did the tricycle show up, but one of those RV style red plastic wagons with cup holders in it also came through the door!!!!

    Now, they still over spend on him but don't give him as much at Christmas but then they pull out a wrapped gift every time he visits!!! C'MON, it's getting annoying already!!!! I wish they would just put that money towards college!!

    Why DO people go overboard in gift giving? Is it to make themselves feel good or do they think that the person will "like/love" them more? Why are we creating a society of materialistic offspring?

    We have forgotten the "reason for the season" and it isn't to see how many gifts we should be buying or how many people on our list we feel we need to buy for and most certainly not about how many gifts we receive!!!

    Posted by: tecatesdream | November 5, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

    Why DO people go overboard in gift giving?

    Posted by: tecatesdream | November 5, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

    Dunno. It's been going on in the USA since the 19th century...

    Posted by: jezebel3 | November 5, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

    Posted by: tecatesdream
    I don't know your family but I don't think their intent is to be malicious. Although if a parent definitely said No to a gift, I would definitely go out and get it.

    I think American's have or think they have a lot of disposable cash. And whether we like to admit it, the real dollar value of toys and clothes has gone down in a generation thanks to China and other second and third world countries.

    I also think some grandparents can't help themselves. They have such a love and joy for the child. And some grandparents frankly want to be fun. It is not a lot of fun to give savings bonds, clothes, and groceries as a gift to young children. I think they think they earned the right to be the fun person in a child's life.

    One approach might be to try to curb or tailor their generosity. So instead of slamming the door and saying no, maybe saying I think the tricycle would be an awesome gift at age 3. Let's wait till then. Or he/she really likes to go to those live kid's shows and the tickets are quite pricey. How about treating us to a show once a year instead of a big wagon. Or for an older child, maybe paying for some lessons in an activity you can't afford; like music or horse back riding.

    Best of luck. I also have a FIL who chooses the most obnoxious loudest toys on purpose and thinks art supplies are a parent's responsibility.

    Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

    edit, I would NOT get it.

    Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

    I agree with foamgnome. Some people just genuinely enjoy giving gifts. My mom was totally like that with all her grandchildren. Although she was good about checking with us on what she was going to buy and respecting it if we told her not to get something. Yes, it was a bit annoying that she always went way overboard, but now that she's gone we really miss it.

    Then on the other side you have my in-laws who just can't be bothered to buy gifts. They'll ask us what the kids want and we'll tell them some specific things. Then they'll come back and say they have no idea what to get so can we pick up something and they'll pay us for it. Or if they do actually send something themselves, they never wrap it or pay for the gift wrapping and ask us to do it.

    So I'll take the grandparents who go overboard any day.

    Posted by: dennis5 | November 5, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

    Why DO people go overboard in gift giving?

    I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but one of them, especially around the holidays, is that some people simply feel empowered by purchasing items, no matter what they are. Christmas gives them the perfect excuse to do this. It's like any other addiction, complete with the gilt of overspending what they can't afford and in some cases, sabotage the season by spending so much it imposes a financial burden on their families. I guess they call those folks who do this "shopaholics". Some laugh it off as a joke of sorts, others recognize it as a real sickness as they no the damage and suffering it causes. Tisk, tisk, the peryls of a trinket oriented society.

    Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 5, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

    This is a shade off-topic but I would like to encourage a conversation in the next several weeks about when/how children should give holiday gifts. When should children go shopping for Mom, Dad, grandparents, babysitter, others? At what age should they appreciate that the holiday is about more than just RECEIVING? Also, should teenagers be spending money on gifts for their friends and how much should parents be involved (funding, driving, assembling homemade gifts?)?

    Posted by: emmlehr | November 5, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse


    Hope you don't have any family at Fort Hood.

    Posted by: sunflower571 | November 5, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

    Laura: the hiring mgr swore that last friday he would have some answers, then i checked in with HR and the lady said he had some stuff going on and so it would be this friday. So, well, we're waiting.
    It's getting really bad, cause my DH is so miserable where he is and I feel so horrible that he has to go to work every day. he could definitely have it much much worse, but seriously - that's the best you can say, and he's there every day for a while, and it's not like he hates working - he's had jobs he's liked, so it's horrible that he is so miserable. It's been a year, I think that he's been looking, and I'm trying to hold it all together, but it's tough.
    So hopefully one of us will get something in the new year. But that's a little ways away - thankfully with the holiday season, well, little work gets done - it's fun and games for us since we don't celebrate christmas.
    Last year we were on a cruise during hanukkah - so it was all sorts of fun. The couple we went with brought gifts for their kids on the cruise - something that is so not our style. So we lit the menorah with one of the crew who was jewish and he tried to get the kitchen to make something akin to latkes - it was definitely a fun experience.
    Anyway...why do people go overboard? Because they can. When my oldest was little, well, friends who didn't have kids would just 'pick something up' when they would come over - cause toys are SO CHEAP, compared with years ago.

    Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

    atlmom -- sending good thoughts your way (BTDT on the "stuck in miserable job" mode).

    One more thought on why people go overboard: Look at the age group of most of the folks we're talking about. Most of today's grandparents themselves grew up during the Depression/WWII era. Maybe they didn't have anything themselves. And maybe they scrimped and saved their whole lives, so they couldn't give their kids much, either. And now that they're through that, maybe they really enjoy the freedom of being able to splurge on their grandkids in ways they never could before.

    That is TOTALLY my mom -- ok, she's young, not a depression baby, but we were way poor when I was little, and my whole life she's been the most frugal person I ever met. Now she's comfortable. She's still cheap in most things, but finally feeling secure has allowed her to loosen up with the kids. Example: DS just turned 4, and my mom insisted on getting a cake from the local bakery. Yes, the cakes are REALLY good, but they're like $50. And this is the woman who trained me my whole life never to pay retail, never to pay anything when you can do it yourself, and certainly never pay when the kids are to small to even notice the difference. But here was the queen of cheap, not only insisting on a special bakery cake, but even springing for an extra $12 for a Batman cake.

    I had a total "who are you and what have you done with my mother" reaction. But then she said, "THIS is the benefit of saving money all those years -- it is so freeing to be able to order a stupid Batman cake, without even thinking twice about how much it costs!"

    Posted by: laura33 | November 6, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

    I have done well in past years, buying DD only a few presents, and those usually on sale or off of Craig's List.

    This year, I tried to do the "buy things as they go on sale throughout the year," and it has backfired on me. I have waaay more toys than she needs -- I think I'm up to at least 4 presents. And none of it is actually on her Christmas/birthday list.

    For the baby, who will be 10 months at Christmas, I won't be buying anything new. I have a bunch of toys in storage from when DD1 was that age, so I'm going to wrap them up for the baby. She obviously won't know or care, and I'm pretty sure DD1 doesn't remember these particular toys.

    Posted by: newsahm | November 6, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

    I am pretty good about sticking to budget even with the kids. We determine the budget in advance and I keep the receipts. I think last year we bought about 8 gifts for each child plus a stocking. One big gift and then some smaller gifts. This was just about right. The kids were just on the verge of being overwhelmed with the new toys by the time it was all unpacked.

    Last year, I purchased some items from the thrift shop - like a baby carriage and a little baby station. I cleaned them up and added in some homemade bedding and it was a big hit. She didn't seem to notice that it was second hand and didn't remember that she had seen it before. Just one way to stretch the dollars and get toys that we wouldn't normally have been able to afford on our budget.

    Posted by: Billie_R | November 6, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

    Laura33 sounds like my Grandmother. She always says she "is a child of the depression" and got empty tolit paper rolls to play with with when she was younger. My whole life she was against eating out but she has loosened up a little recently and will actually agree to eating out occasionally now. Though taking her to the Cheesecake Factory recently was a really dumb idea...too long of a wait, too many items to choose from. Had to hear, "This is why so many people in America are broke and fat, because they are spending hours waiting waiting to eat here and pay these prices for these bad foods." I should have known better!

    Posted by: sunflower571 | November 6, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

    Like SueMc, we celebrate Yule as our religious holiday. We don't go out anyplace (too expensive), but we get the tree up and decorated that day, we start watching holiday videos, and I make a big steak dinner for us as our feast (that may or may not happen this year depending on whether or not I can get my gallbladder removed in time-no health insurance makes that a bit tough!). For us, Christmas is a secular holiday that's celebrated with family. I emphasize the spirit of goodwill for that day, and the kids and I have fun trying to find just the right present for each family member. Going to yard sales during the summer and shopping carefully help!

    And Foamgnome, I also make a lot of our presents too! My older daughter has four scarves I've knitted for her (she got two each year as a present), and this year I made necklaces for my mom, niece, and sister for their presents. One of my projects this winter is to learn to use my sewing machine, so next year my older daughter can get some new dresses and maybe even a handmade quilt for her bed. She's going through a "Little House On The Prairie" stage where she loves the dresses and things like patchwork quilts, so that'll be a big hit! Not to mention they can be passed down to the next generation....

    Posted by: dragondancer1814 | November 9, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

    How about a better question:

    (1) How much to spend on present for your daycare providers a/k/a preschool teachers (and what about aides) - gift card or cash?

    (2) What to do with all those extra presents your child gets and doesn't need? (hint: toys for tots can always use them)

    (3) Cleaning out your closets to donate clothes to families that really need them (and we all have some brand new never worn items in sizes that kids blew through)

    Posted by: Boraxo1 | November 9, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

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