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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gifts for Kids.

If your kids are like my kids, it seems they get invited to at least one birthday party a month. Now, I remember going to birthday parties when I was young and gifts from friends were not typically big affairs. (I can remember one party where everyone was in awe of... a fuzzy pen. Which I think probably cost about $1.) Now we go to some parties where the other kids are bringing large gifts that cost $30 or more- gifts that when I was a child would've been considered the "big birthday wish gift" from mom and dad.

I suppose we could do the same, rush out and buy my son's friend the Pirates of the Caribbean Lego Ship for $40. But then we wouldn't be able to eat for a week, so that wouldn't exactly be a wise decision, eh? (More in full post.)

I actually treat kids gifts in much the same way I do for adults. I assemble gift baskets or bags of treats, a combination of purchased items and homemade things.

Here are some gifts we've given lately. (And no, sorry! I don't have pictures!)

For a young girl turning 9 whose mother told me, "She wants to learn to crochet like your daughter, but I don't know how myself so I can't teach her." - I bought a blue plastic, two-handled basket from Dollar Tree that she can use to tote her new supplies. ($1). I got out several bright colored yarn skeins I have purchased from various garage sales and made 6 round rolls of roughly the same size. (At most this was 30 cents.) From the Super Wal-Mart I purchased a crochet hook pack for about $3.50. Sorry, I'm being a bit lazy here. I could go grab my budget book and pull out the actual receipt, but I do remember the total with tax was just under that price. I then printed out THIS PAGE with a little handwritten note at the top encouraging her to practice and in her birthday card, which my daughter made, I included a "coupon" for 3 crocheting "private lessons" at my house to learn basic stitches and eventually use the yarn I gave her to make a scarf. We finished this gift basket off by my daughter adding a crocheted belt she made for her friend in her friend's favorite color. My daughter came home from the birthday party and said, "Mom, now all my friends want to know how to crochet." so I took that to mean the gift was well-received. :)

For the just-turning-five daughter of a homeschooling family, we made a "My Rainy Day Basket". The basket was a plain pink basket bought after Easter for 25 cents. In it we put several bags of homemade playdough (Sidebar: If you ever make homemade playdough and want really bright colors, generic kool-aid drink mix packs - usually cost 10 cents each - work really well, mixed in with the dough.); a package of plastic cookie cutters from Dollar Tree to play with the playdough; a flexible cutting board to play with the playdough on (Which - I don't know how much these really cost, but we found a pack of five of them for $1 at a local flea market and they work great as play mats or painting mats.); plus we added a "personalized" coloring book, which was created by me printing several free coloring pages off the internet, making a cover with her name printed on it in large letters, and I bound it by using a comb binder machine*, and a box of crayons purchased last summer during the big back-to-school sales. (25 cents) We finished this basket with a boxed puzzle, also purchased from Dollar Tree.

For a 11-year-old boy, we recently created a "Bag or Tricks" gift. He loves magic tricks and so using free internet sources, my son and I printed him a magic trick booklet and then got the supplies he needed. (These were just simple things like rope, a deck of cards, an empty bottle, some coins - none "tricked" out, like a two-headed coin or anything, just regular household items.) We put this all in a plain brown paper bag and stapled it shut and my son wrote "For Brian's Eyes Only - Top Secret!" on it. This was apparently the hit of the party, according to Brian's mom. She said it sat on the table with the other gifts and it was obvious the boys all REALLY wanted to know what was inside, and once he finally opened it, that's all the kids wanted to do - practice and learn the tricks - for the rest of the party.

As you can see, our gifts are very simple and old-fashioned. Generally, they cost around $5 to put together. Anytime my children get a birthday party invitation, if I don't know the child well enough already, I call up the mom and quiz her on her child's interests. Once I know that, I can start brainstorming ideas.

A few other hints:

Personalized gifts always seem to be winners. I once made a set of hair ribbons for a young girl out of solid colored grosgrain ribbon where I wrote her name on each end with a fabric pen. She loved them.

Get creative with the packaging. I guess you can see from all my gift posts, I rarely actually use wrapping paper. It seems like such a waste. It serves one purpose, then gets thrown away. THIS PATTERN shows you how to make a simple draw-string backpack that's a cute gift all in itself and can be used to hold other gifts.

Look online for instructions to make other gifts. Try googling something like "make your own toys" for more ideas. And you might even find some fun things to make for your own children.

*A long time ago I bought a comb binding machine at a church rummage sale and it has been a great thing to have on hand. I've used to to make coloring books for kids and "publish" books my children have written and illustrated as gifts to adult family members. I also use it to make a "best of" sort of portfolio of my kids' work samples each school year, just to keep for myself. I don't think I would ever say they are worth the $40 or more new, but you might want to consider purchasing one if you ever come across it used like I did. Or perhaps you might have 4 or 5 friends who'd be willing to all chip in and buy one and then share it. :)

ETA - Er... that was "wise decision" not "wish decision", though - Hee.


Anonymous mrs dani said...

Something I do is I will wait until a big sale at my local Christian book store and with the coupons they send me in the mail, is stock up on Veggietale and other Christian dvds. i will get these $20 dvds for around $4.50 and keep them on hand for gifts. Sometimes I will add a bag of microwave popcorn.

June 28, 2007 at 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Birdie said...

Great ideas! Thanks for taking the time to share them.

June 28, 2007 at 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Abbi said...

I love your ideas! We try to either make the gifts we give or find things that are inexpensive. I have done some of the combining of various inexpensive things and I really enjoyed reading all the new ideas from you. One of my big things about giving gifts is to try to make it something they will really use-not just more clutter for their house. My latest gift that I did for a bridal shower and a wedding gift was a First Aid Kit. The cost can add up but places like Dollar Tree carry a lot of the stuff you need. The other thing I do to keep the cost of gifts down is having 2 boxes in my closet where I put things that I find on clearance or things I make ahead to use as gifts. It saves tons of time and money.

June 28, 2007 at 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

I just wanted to add this idea since we were on the subject of gifts..You can find so many new things at garage sales and used stores or as you mentioned the dollar stores. Sometimes I get books etc that I can pass on too. It is amazing how many things you can accumulate for your future presents box. When I see a woman in church or we know that needs some cheering up I select some of them in a pretty hand decorated bag and give it to her.... without them knowing it is from me if possible. If you know the lady and have time you can usually find some things "just for her" easily. My sister has for years given presents to a widowed woman and her children who homeschools school, supplies and other goodies....the woman to this day still does not know she is the giver. It is sooo fun...I don't know who enjoys it more the giver or the one who got it!

June 30, 2007 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What fantastic ideas everyone. I'm in the UK and although we dont have the advantage of the Dollar Tree, we do have Poundland which is quite similar. The present ideas are great. I find that kids are pretty easy to please but I do struggle when tasked with constructing a present for say one of my brothers. Anyone got any ideas for men - no socks or ties please :) Emma

October 1, 2010 at 12:09 PM  

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