The following is a guest post from Becky at FranticMommy.
Hi all! Christina was kind enough to let me stray from my blog over at FranticMommy to be a guest blogger here today. Fellow Minnesota blogger Christina (a.k.a Northern Cheapskate) is a big part of my weekly read. I like her blog because I am all about saving money and being creative about spending. We are a family of 4 living in under 1000 square foot home. It’s tight, but a new house/house payment is NOT in the budget right now. Even though our income is currently down 40%, thanks to careful and creative spending, we are doing fine.
Now there may be some of you that will see this is a story about Christmas and want to either swat me or hit the back button. But bear with me a minute because I think this will be a good read and something you will be able to relate to.
Let me start from beginning. It’s 2009 (affectionately referred to as Our Bleak Year) and money is tight. Like, REALLY tight. We were brokey, broke, McBroke. It’s August and it’s dawning on me that the holidays are right around the corner and I need to get creative ASAP or Christmas would be pretty lean. Or sponsored by Bank America Visa. And I certainly wasn’t feelin’ creating any new debt.
When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’.
So I formulated a plan. A plan to use what we already had to generate some extra cash. My goal was to pull off a wonderful, generous, and memorable Christmas for our family, but to spend as little out-of-pocket as possible.
Not long ago I read that the average family has $1500-$2000 worth of unused, yet sellable items in their homes. I disagree. I think it’s more. And our family was no different. Closets were bulging, drawers were stuffed and our basement was full of toys that kids had long out grown. Gently used good quality “stuff” equals dollars in this Mommy’s mind.
First order of business was clothing. Like lots of kids, ours had grown quickly and their drawers were filled with nice items that just didn’t fit anymore. Lucky for us, we are blessed with not one but three previously loved consignment stores in our town. One is mainly adult clothing, one is a children’s store that buys outright, and the other is a upscale children’s store that allows Moms to put stuff on consignment. I took a load of the nicer clothes into the upscale consignment place in September, crossed my fingers, and prayed my items would sell. They did and by doing this, I gained $50 in Christmas money.
Then I tackled toys. Dear Lord where did all these toys come from??!! In defense of myself, 90% were items bought at garage sales, but still way too much stuff nonetheless. I found a neat little thrift store not too far from my home, rented a booth for $25 a month, and loaded it up with out-grown used toys. That first month we cleared $120. More than enough to buy some great gifts.
Then I got even more creative and sold some books and adult clothing on eBay (I’ve been selling there for years so I had the advantage of expertise and a high feedback rating). I also love blog giveaways and there’s always a ton of great giveaways occurring at my fellow Mommy Blogger’s sites. I took the time to participate and enter a bunch of giveaways. The reward was at least 6 wonderful items that were used as gifts for assorted family members. Cost? Only my time and effort.
There were other avenues for thrifty gift-giving as well. I picked up 4-5 brand new items at garage sales during the summer. The brand new Spongebob tackle box I got for our 6 year-old for a buck was a huge hit. Do you think he cared it was from a garage sale?? NOPE. Keep an open mind and an open eye at these sales. Garage sales can be a goldmine for a thrifty mommy.
When the dust settled and Christmas was over, I can honestly say we achieved our goal. Total out-of-pocket expenses for gifts for relatives, teachers, daycare lady, our kids, and each other (including “Santa gifts”) in 2009 was just shy of $200. I was pleased. So was hubby. Bank of America Visa was a little pissed though.
I guess the bottom line is; it’s never too early to start preparing for the upcoming gift-giving season. That’s the nice thing about Christmas. It’s predictable. Everyone has 364 days to get ready for it. There no surprises. It doesn’t sneak up unexpectedly and go “BOO”.
You could set your calendar by it.
Being broke is the pits. I don’t have to tell you how the economy has wreaked havoc with our lives because sure it’s hosed yours too. I honestly totally understand how hard it to save when health insurance, car repairs, and doctors bills are always popping up at inopportune times.
But it is possible. It is do-able. And it can be done with money you didn’t even know you had. Start now. Don’t wait. The peace of mind and sense of control is priceless!
Be sure to visit FranticMommy for a regular dose of humor during the trials of parenthood.