Yes, most of America is madly stuffing stockings and wrapping Christmas presents, but before the after-Christmas sales launch, you might want to consider the other gifts you’ll need to buy this year: birthday presents for all your kids’ friends.
With both girls enrolled in school (1st grade and Montessori preschool), the birthday party invitations are rolling in like never before. I’m fortunate that Z and A are well-liked children with a lot of friends in their classes, in the neighborhood–and, in Z’s case–from her days at Montessori school. It all adds up to a lot of invites, a fair amount of car pool negotiations and a lot of birthday presents.
Although I’m sure purchasing a well-considered, beautifully wrapped gift from Oak Park’s own Geppetto’s (voted best toy store in Chicago) might help me win mother of the year, I don’t have the time, money or inclination to do so every week. And yes, there is a birthday party nearly every weekend. Sometimes two.
So I’ve been stocking and restocking the gift closet, using the 33, 40 and 50% off coupons Borders sends to its Rewards members to buy Klutz books, Alex craft kits and Pop Bottle Science kits from the well-stocked toy selection in the children’s department on State Street, a block from my office.
Other gift closet stocking strategies include checking Kids Woot! for attractive deals and buying 3 or more of a particularly appealing toy. In the past, I’ve purchased gardening kits, car games and Disney MP3 players from Woot–all of which seemed like much more expensive gifts than they really were.
And on the last day of my free Amazon Prime trial, I choose a couple of art sets that were marked down for Christmas and hit the buy button. One was specifically selected for a little girl who is turning 7 in January, but if one 7 year old girl’s likely to like it, why not buy it for a few 7 year old girls?
For the younger set, I keep my eyes out for deals on Play-Doh and Playmobil sets at Target and scoop up a couple whenever the price dips into the $5-8 range.
My goal in keeping a gift closet is to give gifts in the $12-20 range without spending more than $10 a pop. I further save by forgoing cards and wrapping gifts in recycled gift bags or brown craft paper that the kids can decorate and personalize. While I’m sure I could save a lot more by declining more invitations, I see how much my children enjoy their friends’ parties and how much it means to those children to have them there. And as long as I can keep the cost of the gifts down, I’m getting a decent deal on 2 hours of entertainment and a snack.
Flickr photo by mahalie. Used under Creative Commons license.