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Readers Question: Practical Christmas Gift Ideas!

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A reader emailed with this great question:

“With the holidays coming, can you or your readers please share some practical gift ideas that really get their kids excited? I really don’t want a houseful of toys this year, and would like to find some practical things that the kids can really appreciate?”

This is such a great topic to discuss! In the past, I’ve felt like some of the Christmas gifts I’ve purchased turn into junk right after being opened! My thinking is, even if you can snag a toy for next to nothing, it’s still NOT a good deal if it will be another item collecting dust!

With Christmas around the corner, lets help one another out with practical gift ideas! This will be a great topic to discuss. I’d also be interested to hear how many presents you purchase for each of your kids and what you think is a fair amount. And finally, if you have any frugal Christmas gift-giving traditions, I’m sure we’d all enjoy hearing about those too.


Collin founded Hip2Save in 2008 and has over 10 years experience as a deals and lifestyle editor, strategist, and creative copywriter. She is debt-free and has been featured in Parents Magazine, Today.com and MSNBC. Connect with Collin on LinkedIn


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Comments 166

  1. Anonymous

    Earlier this year, my sisters and I sewed the quilt top from the “Quilt Block of the Month” from Joann Fabrics. Then we sent it to my moms church and they are going to finish it for us by adding the middle and back and hand quilting the whole thing. It will be special for my mom because all four of her daughters helped make it along with her church who shes been a member of for at least 30 years.

  2. News From the Inside

    We are a three present per child family too. We have five children from 1-9 years old. They know the presents are from us. We do not do Santa because we knew from the start that we would not be able to afford a lot of presents and did not want our children to think Santa loved them less then other kids because their friends got a lot more toys.

    We love to give books, art supplies, and Adventures in Odyssey. The girls love to get fun girly stuff that I get cheap throughout the year too. Sometimes I’ll make a little basket of that stuff as one of the gifts for them. Even little girls love nailpolish and lotions.

    We also do Operation Christmas Child with Samaritians Purse. They ship shoeboxes of Christmas gifts overseas. The kids love making up the shoeboxes with the cheap finds I’ve collected over the year for this purpose. Toiletries (which I’m sure we all have plenty of) and small toys are lovingly packed with lots of discussions about where the children live who might get our boxes and what they might be like. I love to watch my children be more concerned about other children’s Christmases then their own.

    My mother is a junkaholic and always gives them too much stuff that they don’t want. She believes quantity is more important then quality. My father however, gives me $50 for each child and tells me he doesn’t care what I do with it as long as I don’t just save it for college or something. With the children’s input we used that money to buy a Wii last year and other years have gone to an indoor water park in January (when it is really cheap).

    Toys break but family memories are what lasts.

  3. Jeannette

    One year for Christmas my parents got a refrigerator box and a set of paints for each of us and we played with them until the boxes were destroyed. We loved it and very cheap. Also I saw that someone does coupons for their kids, we use to give coupons to our parents, like one extra chore or something like that.

  4. Rebecca G

    We started a tradition in my family about 15 years ago that on Thanksgiving all the adult names go in a hat and we each draw one name (it can’t be our spouse). Whoever you draw is who you buy for Christmas ($20-30 limit). We all buy for the kids (nieces/nephews) and that is our gift exchange for Christmas evening.

    In my own family for Christmas morning, my kids (I have 3) each get quite a few gifts from mom & dad, each other, Santa & stockings, but I really plan ahead for Black Friday. Last year I was able to get all of my Christmas shopping done for my kids, plus extended family for less than $200. It takes a lot of work planning and I’m exhausted by 9:00 in the morning (in line starting at 3 AM), but it is wonderful being able to make a nice Christmas for my kids on an otherwise shoestring budget.

  5. Jessica P.

    Black Friday is a good time to buy big ticket items for christmas (last year my parents bought themselves a flat screen tv. my chore was that I had to wait in line for the deal on Black Friday!)
    My mom and I will also make “stocking stuffers” where we’ll make these elf shoes and fill them with lots of candy and then hand them out to the little kids of the extended family.
    Also, for my significant other’s side of the family, we both make his favorite granola and muddy buddies to give to them.
    For his mom we buy her something related to the house but then also attach a homemade coupon to help her with it (like last year we bought her a rake, and then we gave her some coupons to rake the yard).

    Sometimes, depending on the sales at our fabric stores, we’ll also buy collegiate fabric and sew pillow cases (really easy to make fyi!) for the kids who are going to be in college the upcoming year.

  6. Julia

    My Mom spoiled us growing up. She now spoils my children, but I am doing my best to undo that.

    At our house we have bday’s and Christmas close together, so I collect things all year long for both.

    We don’t need clothes for Christmas, because I just did a back to school clothing swap at our church and my kids got all the like new clothes, shoes and coats they needed. We helped over 100 families and all extras were donated. Next step is a Christmas toy trade so, I am sure I will get them a couple of things from that. Most importantly, they will be giving a lot of stuff in the trade.

    All year, I have been collecting freebies for them, I have a Hannah Montana poster, a free HM jewelry box from JC Penny’s that I got duriing a $10 off $10 promo and pajamas from a simular promo, free books and coloring books and dvds.

    I have also been going to yard sales all summer to get bday gifts and Christmas. As a rule, I never buy brand new unless it is someone else’s impulse purchase that was never opened at a garage sale. I bought a new in box guitar and barbies and books and dvd’s and back packs and a never opened Hannah Montana computer game. I haggled on the price of all of these itemss. It helps the environment to recycle and it helps my kids to not have those expectations that they have to have brand new in the box trendy items. When they started getting the “iwantit” syndrome from commercials on tv, my response was if we have a coupon for it, we will talk about it. That ended the i want it talk.

    I plan on ordering FREE personalized Thank you cards off of Vista print for my 5 yr old and 6 yr old, because they have biirthday’s close to Christmas and they need to start sending out Thank you’s.

    I also plan on printing some paper doll sets for all of my girl’s. That will just cost ink and it will bring tons of joy. http://marilee.us/paperdolls2.html#Printchildren

  7. Anonymous

    I must admit that, in the past, we have gone way overboard for our children for Christmas (they would get 3 presents from Santa and about 15 presents under the tree from us plus stockings)!!! That’s just how I was raised and am having a hard time with it…I have learned a LOT since couponing though and it’s GREAT!

    I’ve picked up items here and there for stocking stuffers (the $1 bins at Target, the $1 store, etc…)

    My children (7 and 4) are getting a Xbox this year from “Santa”, we are buying that 2nd hand from someone. We are getting it 1/2 price and it comes with about 5 games. They are each asking for bikes (from Santa) and are getting a swingset too (from us).

    They will have a couple to open under the tree, PJ’s to open on Christmas Eve and then stockings.

    LOVED the calendar/coupon idea!!!

  8. Anonymous

    I am a fan of crafting-type gifts, games, or building sets and other things that can be used for imaginative play (kitchen stuff, train set, etc). We too are careful about how much we give/get for our 21 month old, partly to teach him that he doesn’t need a lot of things, and partly because we live in a house with no basement. Not a lot of room to store random toys!

  9. Shian

    My son loves McDonalds, but I don’t take him there very often at all. For Christmas, I get him a $10 or $15 gift card. He can choose when to use it for a special date with Mom and Dad. He loves it!

  10. J

    So many great ideas to read over. I am considering doing “gift certficates” for “lunch w/mommy” or “lunch w/daddy” for our kids.

    Another great idea… a friend recieved a gift certificate for milk & bread delivery from a local dairy for a year from her parents for Chiristmas. Kids LOVE THE MILK TRUCK !! ):

  11. Anonymous

    Our extended family had so much fun last year playing this bingo game that everyone wants to make it a tradition. I take all those little freebies and cheapies I collect throughout the year, wrap them, then use them for bingo prizes. Once a person has won two-three prizes, they must sit out until everyone else has also won two or three prizes. This way everyone’s wins and everyone has FUN!

  12. Anonymous

    Last year the adults in my family got restaurant.com gift certificates from us. They were $25 gifts for only two bucks!
    I use them and recommend them highly.

  13. Anonymous

    I found a really cute coupon book for kids at Walgreens a while back (it is Hallmark brand so I’m sure you could find it elsewhere too). My kids LOVE it! I noticed some of the comments from others about coupons for Christmas and I think most kids would love this. The coupon book has some really cute ideas that I may not have thought of on my own.

    This year we are redecorating the kids’ rooms and giving them some fun decorations for their rooms as Christmas gifts. Their decor was no longer age appropriate so this is something we would have spent money on anyway. I like giving them things that we would have bought anyway but that they still get excited about like new pj’s, clothes, fun toothbrushes, etc…This gives them lots of things to open but doesn’t cost us extra money in the long run.

    Also last year we bought my daughter a digital camera (black friday deal!) and asked some friends and family to get her scrapbooking stuff. We showed her how to put the pictures from her camera on the computer and help her upload them to Walgreens or Walmart so she can use them to scrapbook with. She loved this.

  14. Anonymous

    I purchase items on clearance at Walgreens for stockings like stickers, balls (left over from summer sales) and pens, pencils, color books, paper. I also look for plastic animals from the craft store or Fred Meyer for about $1 for my 1 yr old. I stock up at Target if they have their 50% off colored dots dollar section. The stuff is easy to store for a few months and I am able to buy many items for less than the dollar store price. Walgreens has had great markdowns in their toy section and I have picked up several toys for charity for 75% off. We live on a budget so this enables us to donate but not break the bank! They mark down some good stuff, not necessarity just the store brand stuff!

  15. Anonymous

    A friend gave me this idea: Buy clearance halloween costumes and make a “dress-up trunk” for your child! She did it for her daughter- with princess costumes. I did it for my son- with super hero costumes and Disney characters like Buzz Lightyear! The kids LOVED it!

  16. dubby99

    It’s not cheap but it is worth that emotional expression when someone you love opens a book about them. maker a Storybook with Heritage Makers is a great way to write your stories down and give them to family for christmas. We have lots of great gift ideas and if you would like to host a party I can show you some of these great ideas. you can also visit my web site and start making projects today. http://www.debbstories.com

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