I need free (or nearly so) gift ideas for my kids for Christmas

I’m in a quandary. The business deal that’s, according to the lawyers, “going to be a done deal any day now” has been that way for over a year. We’ve been scraping by on selling our things online and eating lots of beans and rice, cut out cable, down to one (very used) car and I’m poaching my neighbor’s wireless for internet (yes, she knows; she doesn’t care). We haven’t bought new clothes, new stuff for the house, dinners out or *anything *non-essential for over a year. In other words, I’m really really trying to stretch a buck, and it’s enough for day to day living, but…

…I’m sick with the worry that my kids may get nothing at all from us for Christmas. :frowning: My SO and I have already spoken and agreed that we’re not going to exchange gifts, and while sad, that’s okay in the long run; we’re grown-ups, we can handle it. But the kids really deserve something.

Is it too late to ask Salvation Army or someone similar for help? I’ve resisted (partly out of pride, partly because I expect so many people need their help this year, and mostly because those damn lawyers keep telling us to hang on just until the end of the week…every week), and now I fear it may be too late.

Any ideas? She’s 5, he’s 17. I’m fairly craft-wise, and I’m planning on making them both a beaded necklace of some sort so there’s at least something in their stockings, but it seems so meager and hopeless.

What other craft materials do you have at hand?

There are always books of household “coupons”… getting out of chores would be pretty appealing for a teenager. Not so much for the five year old.

Here’s a Google search for “printable presents”, if you have access to a computer printer: http://www.google.com/search?q=printable+presents&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

And a search for “sock animals”, assuming you have spare socks and stuffing around: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?action=tags;sa=showtopics;tag=sock_animal

It’s probabaly not too late to sign up for Salvation Army, Toys for Tots or some similar program. Please do it.

I’d call around to the various charities - Salvation Army, etc. Our local news does Families Helping Families, that sort of thing. It may not be too late. Somebody in the “getting nothing for Christmas” thread told a very moving story about getting the Salvation Army’s help for her kids once - when you have the resources, pay it forward to another needy family.

Thank you! I have some fabric (not really enough for clothing), a sewing machine, some buttons and chenille stems and tempra paints and such. Lots and lots of seed beads and some larger glass and plastic beads, with plenty of wire and findings.

Those sock animals are adorable and within my ability and materials, for sure. And the little one will adore them. I also like the printable coloring book idea - I can print some pages with a theme, maybe work her name and her favorite toys into it somehow, and she’ll love that.

Yeah, the 17 year old is harder. There aren’t a lot of chores in an apartment to begin with, so I’m not sure how a coupon book of “Get out of Taking Out The Trash Tonight” will go over. :stuck_out_tongue: If I had a magic wand, I’d replace the XBOX 360 and the laptop of his that both stopped working this year, but I know I just can’t, and with those in my mind as ideals, everything else seems lame lame lame.

I will find out how to apply to SA for assistance, too. The kids deserve better than I can do alone this year. I’ve always donated when I have extra, now it’s time to accept that I need to be on the other end of things for once.

Have you asked the firm for a small advance on the money promised you?

Many dollar stores have pretty good stocking stuffers - some are 2/$1.

I agree with the posters above, please register with all the service groups in your area.

Remind the kids that being together is the most important part of any holiday.

My grandmother often made each of her grandchildren a quilt for Christmas, using fabric from sources like outgrown clothing and clothing bought cheaply at rummage sales. Even as kids, we loved them. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized she did this in part because she could afford very little. I still have and treasure each of those quilts.

Since you have a sewing machine and small amounts of fabric, head to your library and look for Last Minute Fabric Gifts and Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson.

Or, apply to Salvation Army. If by some miracle your money comes through in time for Christmas, you can always donate everything right back to them.

Hi WhyNot,
I sent you a PM.
For the 17 year old, how about making a promise for a trip? Explore with him the possiblilities for nearly free stays abroad as a volunteer. You’will have another six months to save up for the air fare together, and he may even get an astonishing deal on the plane ticket if he books in advance and is flexible in when he leaves. Besides, it is a very cool present to talk about with friends during the next months. “Have you heard? That cool WhyKid is going to Europe next summer, volunteering with …” .

What Metro area are you in?

If you can afford it, I would consider one main gift - possibly something from a charity - a homemade gift and a nicely stuffed stocking. That way the kids have the fun of unwrapping a bunch of gifts and I bet they will be mighty satisfied.

Both kids could do with some candy, funky socks, a toothbrush, AA batteries, something cheap from Claire’s, dollar-store gloves, maybe some lip balm. Seriously I got this kind of crap in a stocking all the time and I LOVED it.

Dang, too late to edit; for the 5 year-old, let her help you make her pillowcase dresses for her and a doll. If you don’t want to use one of your own, get some fun ones for very cheap at the local Goodwill, Salvation Army. Hell, I can look for some here and send them along if you like.

“The money’s in an escrow account; we can’t touch it until the deal is done.” Most frustrating. If I never have to deal with another lawyer, accountant or the SEC again, it’ll be too soon.

Hmm…she did just outgrow all her clothes, which are in bags for the donation bin at the moment. Maybe I could make a small doll’s quilt out of some of her favorite summer dresses. I’ve never quilted, so it’s probably going to look a little wonky, but that’s a great idea!

Another great idea! That’s why I love this place so much.

With a wonderfully not-kosher idea. Thank you. :wink:

Chicago, north side.

Oh, yes, I love the “lots of little things to unwrap” strategy, especially for the younger. You know what her favorite Christmas gift ever was? A box of Kleenex. She was just under a year old, and a gift that let her keep pulling and pulling and throwing and pulling some more…awesomeness! :smiley:

Does your five year old like a particular animal very much? You could ask a zoo in Chicago if she could have a “backstage visit” with that animal. A friend of mine was really crazy about hippopotamuses. For her stag (bachelor party) before she got married, she went out with some female friends. A friend arranged that she could go backstage with the zoo keepers and feed an hippo some grass. It was the best gift she ever got, she said later.

Do you use FreeCycle? If not, consider joining, and post a “Wanted” with a request for age-appropriate toys, books, and/or gently-used outgrown clothes. Many parents are clearing out outgrown stuff to make room for Santa’s newest offerings. You might be surprised at the response…

Edited to add: If you worry about asking for things without donating, post those outgrown clothes for someone else to use…

An equally awesome idea for a teenaged boy - you might act all cool and shit, but wait until you get three feet away from a tiger! Awesome!

This is an EXCELLENT idea, and I hadn’t even considered the angle of parents clearing things out in anticipation of all the new stuff coming in. I don’t know how the Chicago freecycle community is, but when I lived in Austin I was active (giving and receiving) on their freecycle community and it was terrific.

Does your teenager have any particular hobbies/interests that could nudge our collective creativity? Baseball? Spiders? Music?

If you can do anything with wood there are many traditional games/toys for the little one that are very easy to knock out, even for someone without major wood shop experience.

Some examples:


Shut the Box

Wooden Arch Marble Game

Shove Ha’penny

Also there are lots of classic board games that you can make at home. All you need for these is some magic markers, a piece of tag board, and something to use as markers:

Nine Men’s Morris

Fox & Geese

Parcheesi (where Trouble & Sorry came from)

With marbles you can also just make target with concentric circles on a piece of stiff fabric or throw rug and make each ring a higher point total. Then each person gets five marbles and the high score wins.

For the 17 yr old I would go for gift certificates for things he can get once you are a little more solvent. You could put some holiday themed stuff under there for unwrapping the day of, so there is something of to unwrap and use right away. Does he have a favorite snack? (A tin of Chex mix maybe?)

Another idea would be if he has any device to read ebooks. You could get some from gutenberg.org and burn a CD. There’s some cool stuff out there like Poe, Verne, Wells, Doyle.

If he likes classical music you can get some public domain selections to use either as MP3s or burn to CD. Try http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/public-domain-recordings.html.

Similarly, I checked out Chicago’s Craigslist and they had several posts for free Toys. May be able to find something for the 17 year old too.

fantastic idea. I’ve gotten lots of Legos for The Boy. (and got rid of all his leftover swim diapers/diapers/potty training stuff) I love freecycle