I am going to shock you and tell you that we are not wealthy. In fact, according to government standards, we are poverty level. And though we are categorized this way, I often feel like I am the richest person I know because Rick and I have made a conscious decision to put aside our desire for material things in order to pursue the things that are important to us (namely homeschooling and ministry). We could both work high paying jobs and send our children to school, but think of all the time I would miss with my precious ones! Besides, I think I am doing OK with this homeschooling thing. Brian is looking to get his Bachelor’s degree next summer at 19, and Ricky is starting his first college semester this Spring at 16. Being home is paying off in ways that matter more to me than money. God is SO good to us!
Because we have made this financial choice, we usually find ourselves with very little to purchase Christmas presents. It’s gotten to be more difficult in recent years. Last year, when we bought our house, we used almost all of our savings to do so. We are pretty good savers, so we thought we would get by and build the savings up this year. Plus, the boys were both working, and they offered to buy gifts last year. It was such a blessing, and I think they were the happiest of all. You should have seen their faces eager with anticipation waiting for everyone to open their hard earned and carefully chosen presents. They learned the truth of the saying, “Tis better to give than receive.” BUT this year has been full of health issues and other major expenses. At this point in the year, things are even tighter than they were last year. The boys even have their funds tied up with college expenses. So, we have been seeking gift ideas that are ridiculously inexpensive AND long-lasting. Every dollar is precious to us, and if we are going to spend even one, it must be something that will last.
That brings us to this post. Rick and I have come up with six gift ideas that are under $1 that will last beyond Christmas. If you are planning on a bare bones Christmas like us, or you are looking for some inexpensive fillers, this may be exactly what you needed. We will start with the least expensive (ie. free) ones first. Here we go…
Love Letters in the Stocking: Cost- $0
How long will it last? A Lifetime
I admit it. I saw someone post on Facebook. I wish I could remember who posted it and I would give them credit. If it was you, let me know, and I will update this post right away!
UPDATE- Here is the link to the original idea from Cultivating a Home called “My Very Favorite Christmas Tradition.”
We are going to change and expand on the idea by having everyone in the family write a love letter to everyone else in the family. I am seeing the stocking as a kind of post-office box, kind of like when we used to make a shoe box into a container for Valentine’s Day notes when I was in school. Do you still have any of those old Valentine’s Day notes? I do (somewhere). Now, just imagine if your children were to hold onto their letters. Years from now, they will be able to read that Dad was proud of them when they are going through a rough spell. They will be reminded by her own words how much their little sister looks up to them. They will know that big brother will always be there to protect them and that mom loves them unconditionally. The point is, these gifts will last the test of time, and they cost nothing more than the time it takes to write them.
Now, I have teenage boys, so you might be thinking that they might not enjoy this exercise. However, my teenage boys love their parents and their sister. Writing a love letter to each other may be a bit more challenging. It may be something like “I am super impressed with your high video game score,” but they will understand there is love there. Really, I think the older the child is, the more they will appreciate this gift. So, don’t be afraid to ask your teens to do this. You may be surprised at what they come up with.
The plan is that we will take a few minutes and read each letter, thanking the person who wrote them. This will fill our morning with love and appreciation before even one gift is opened.
Coupon for Special Time: Cost- $0
How long will it last? The memory will last a lifetime.
Children, even older children, love special time with their parents. We like to give each child a coupon to spend special time with us individually for Christmas. This way, each child knows that, some time during the year, they can ask to have time with Mom alone or Dad alone, and we can’t say no (except in special cases). This coupon overrides all other commitments. We do try to encourage our children to schedule with us in advance, because we do want to be faithful to the things we commit to. More often than not, they will use the coupon to accomplish something on their to do list with one of us as the driver (this usually happens to dad), but I think they really do enjoy having an excuse to spend special time with each of us alone during the year.
Special time with parents usually turn into memories that last a lifetime. For some reason, activities with Dad seem to be more special. I guess they are with mom all the time around here. I asked Ricky about times he remembered doing things alone with his dad. He said that when he was little, they went to the library or they went to the ball field and played catch. He also said that when he was older, he took his dad out and bought him lunch (Ricky said this with pride in his voice). It doesn’t have to be anything major, it just has to be personal.
Briana always asks me to take her to the mall. I don’t like going to the mall. I avoid it like the plague. Still, I will go with Briana and walk in every store that suits her fancy. I may even buy her a Vanilla Frappe (no coffee) if I can. Which brings me to the an added suggestion if you can afford it. You could attach a small gift card to the coupon. Now, this would obviously bring the cost above $0, but it’s worth mentioning for those who can. A $5 gift card to a restaurant or your local coffee shop will be an added bonus.
An Experience: Cost- $0
How long will it last? The memory will last a lifetime.
Last year, we spent the afternoon at a local park after we opened presents. This year, Rick and I have some ideas I can’t reveal about a place we can go on Christmas Day. Some friends of ours volunteered to make meals on Thanksgiving, and you can do the same on Christmas. There are hiking trails to explore, bike rides to take. The point is, plan an experience for the whole family- something beyond the norm. As I mentioned, volunteering together is an option. Exploring nature is an option. Don’t be afraid to go to the extreme. In fact, the more extreme, the more likely it will be memorable. For instance, if Rick decided to go camping, my children would NEVER forget that because it is completely outside of his box. Of course, he never will, so don’t get too excited, but you get the picture.
One year, Rick and I didn’t have very many gifts, so we created a treasure hunt. We made a map and hid things everywhere. Rick was super stressed that year about the lack of gifts that year, but the boys (Briana was young) were so excited to hunt for things that they didn’t even notice how many gifts there were. EVERY year (even as they have gotten older) they have asked us to do that again. EVERY year. Seriously. It was a lot of work, so it hasn’t happened, but they both have said they plan to do this for their children. The memory of this experience will definitely lasted a lifetime.
We only have our children for a short time. Life can be monotonous, and children get bored. Mix it up a little, and make it fun. I guarantee you that some experiences mean so much that your children will forget all about anything that was under the tree, and the next year, they will beg for another experience.
Thrift Store Items: Cost $0.13-$0.99
How long will it last? Years
The cost will vary with this one, but you can usually find thrift store items under $1. Sometimes, you can even find new things. This year, I purchased my sister an item from the thrift store. In fact, I purchased several, but they were all in their original packaging, and it was all under $1. You see, she likes to pick up old cross-stitch packages when she is in the thrift stores, and a lot of times, the frame is missing. She gives those cross-stitch items as gifts (you can count this as another thrift store gift idea under $1). Last year, she made me the most beautiful flower cross-stitch, but it didn’t have a frame. When I was looking around at a thrift store this year, I found several packages of unopened cross-stitch frames in different shapes for $0.25 each! I bought all of them (but I did use one to frame last year’s gift), and she is getting them for Christmas. Obviously, she already knows about this. I was so excited when I found them because I knew she was looking for them, I had to call and let her know. Still, new items are easily found for under $1 at the thrift store. My son bought me an unopened Pampered Chef stoneware pan for $1 one time. Once, he also bought me two new Pampered Chef Cookie molds for $0.50 each. Miracles can happen. Look no further than your local thrift store.
Sometimes, you can find things in thrift stores that are better than new. Rick and I have this habit of going to thrift stores when we travel and getting our children crazy local shirts. They look forward to checking out what kind of crazy things we bring home, and they use them for bedtime shirts. Recently, we took a trip to the Chicago area for some ministry training. While there, we picked up shirts for each of the children. They bombarded us when we got home trying to see what we had. You can get a taste of what I am talking about by checking out Briana’s selfie in her “Rockford Ice Hogs” T-shirt. It is worth mentioning that our oldest son, Brian, is less than “crazy,” so we purchased him a tasteful “Illinois” T-shirt. It was still from the thrift store. He still appreciated it, and he still wears it to bed. It’s really the memories that matter.
Don’t think that the thrift store isn’t a place where good gifts can be found. Go and check out the offerings of the thrift stores near you. You may be surprised at what you can find for less than $1. It may be something that your children treasure for years.
Cereal: Cost- Less than $1 for each child
How long will it last? Not long 🙂 BUT their good health from only getting cereal at Christmas will last their whole lives.
If you have seen my “How I Feed My Family of 5 for Less than $100 Every Month” series (you can check out Part 1 here), you know that we give our children cereal every year for Christmas. Seriously. We wrap up a box, and it is put under the tree. For us, cereal is a treat. We don’t eat it year round because I prefer more simple, healthy breakfast foods. On Christmas Day, there is so much going on. I don’t want the hassle of a big breakfast, so we search the grocery store for a favorite and under the tree it goes. If we buy one box on sale, it ends up costing less than $1 for each child. We also have a discount grocery nearby that often sells boxes of cereal for $1 each. If I can find a bargain like that, they may each get their own box. Either way, our children know they are getting cereal for breakfast.
You can change this one up to suit your family. If you don’t normally get a big breakfast, wrap the bacon and eggs in the fridge or the waffles in the freezer. You can wrap the ingredients for biscuits, and make biscuits together as a Christmas Day experience. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something out of the ordinary. That’s what makes it special. Include it as part of your experience. Maybe, for your family, you never get to spend the day at home. Wrap a bunch of food items and spend the day in the kitchen making new recipes from Pinterest and Youtube. I have a ton of great recipes you can try pinned on my boards. You can find them here. As we are at home ALL the time, we like to get out! So, for us, a quick breakfast is a welcome change. Choose a treat that will be special for your family, and it won’t matter how little it costs.
Wendy’s Key Tag- $1 each
How long will it last? A year for your children. Possibly a lifetime for the children it helps.
I am just going to come right out and say that I love Wendy’s (and I am not affiliated with them, I just love them)! The Wendy’s restaurant in our area is led by the most wonderful manager, Marcus. He always takes the time to make sure that customers feel special, and his staff follows his example. We are there regularly. The company also supports causes close to my heart- adoption and foster care. One way they raise funds for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is through the sale of key tags. For only $1, you can purchase a key tag that entitles you to a free Frosty Jr. with every purchase in 2016! 90 cents of each $1 goes directly to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, so this gift keeps on giving!
Last year, we purchased a key tag for only Briana because she is our Frosty machine- big mistake! This year, everyone is getting one. This one may not take up a lot of space under the tree, but it will certainly fill the edges of your heart (and take care of that Frosty-less feeling in your stomach).
Those are our 6 gifts ideas under $1 that will last beyond Christmas. What do you think? Will you be giving any of these gifts? Do you have other gifts ideas under $1 that will last beyond Christmas to share? I would love to hear from you.
I hope you all have been encouraged to have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS without spending too much!