I’ve always loved Christmas. It’s easily my favourite holiday of the year. I grew up in a family with 4 kids with a limited budget but my parents always spoiled us. They probably didn’t spend as much as some other families but I always got everything I wanted. Christmas morning was the best. But Christmas time probably wasn’t the favourite time of year for my parents. It probably isn’t for so many parents out there. When you’re living paycheque to paycheque and have the pressure of wanting to provide an incredible Christmas for your kids, it can be very stressful.
We are now so far away from living paycheque to paycheque and I want to give my kids an amazing Christmas experience like I got to enjoy. But I know that this can be achieved without breaking the bank. Too often today people feel like they need to spend a certain dollar value to show their kids they love them. So today I’ll share how I will exceed my kids expectations of an incredible Christmas and I will do it while spending no money. I’m serious… $0… Nil…
How can Christmas be free?
One of the most important keys to achieving a free Christmas is buying second hand. I’ve been purchasing gently used toys for my kids for three years now and I can say with certainty that you can find great toys that are 100% functional for a quarter of the price or less than new. And the best part is, by buying used, you can sell used when the time comes and make up all your money back (more on this later). I always wrap them up in nice bags or boxes and present them like new gifts and our kids don’t even know the difference (they also wouldn’t care either way).
When I’m purchasing almost anything in life, I try to follow the 25% rule. I’m certain I learned the “25% rule” from Mr. Money Mustache but I cannot find the article where he discusses this (if someone can find it, please let me know). Anyhow, my understanding of the 25% rule is that you should try to spend on average 25% of what most people (regular irrational spending people) spend on a given item. Remember, this is an average. So some things might be closer to 50% or 100% and many items may even be under 25%. But by always keeping that number in mind, it forces you to always strive to save money and look for alternatives.
So I apply the 25% rule on my Christmas shopping. If my son wants a certain toy that is $80 at Toys R Us, I will aim to try and get that toy for $20. This won’t always happen but as I will explain today, it’s almost always possible.
This Year’s Haul
Before I share what we bought this year, a little background on who we are shopping for. Our son is almost 4 years old. He loves toy cars, big cars and all cars. He also loves Spiderman and all superheroes. And likes learning games and boardgames. Our daughter is almost 2 years old. She loves dolls and accessories as well as little people play sets. She also loves memory games and some random toys we’ve noticed at daycare and playgroups.
Most of the photos below are not of the exact toys as they are already wrapped up.
Hot Wheels Garage (son)
- Retail Price = $60-$100 (Toys R Us)
- Our Price = $2. The set we got is not the same as this one but very similar (probably a model from years ago) and is Hot Wheel brand. We got this at a garage sale this summer.
Bowling Set (daughter)
- Retail Price = $10 (Walmart)
- Our Price = Free. Someone was giving this away on kijiji. There is a set like this at a playgroup we go to and she loves playing with it.
Doll Playpen (daughter)
- Retail Price = $40-50 (Walmart)
- Our Price = $5. Purchased on kijiji.
Leapfrog Bingo Game (son)
- Retail Price = $20 (various websites)
- Our Price = $1. Someone was selling 3 different leapfrog boardgames for $3. I bought them all and keeping the other 2 for his birthday.
I Spy Memory Game (daughter)
- Retail Price = $20 (various websites)
- Our Price = $1. Purchased at a garage sale this summer.
3 Spiderman Dolls and Spiderman Case (son)
- Retail Price = $20-$30
- Our Price = $5. We need a sleeping bag for my son this summer and someone was selling a huge lot of spiderman things on kijiji. There was the toddler sleeping bag, 3 spiderman dolls and a spider man case. All for $10!!! So the dolls and case were essentially free because we were looking to spend $10 on the sleeping bag anyways but we allocated $5 to this gift.
Playmobil Caveman Set (daughter)
- Retail Price = $50-$100 (the only one I can find is on Amazon for $300 but there are some similar models for between $80-100 on some websites.
- Our Price = $2. Another amazing garage sale find this past summer.
*I know this toy is for kids 4 and up but I know my daughter will love it and we are pretty watchful when she plays with toys. She plays with her brothers toys all the time and doesn’t put anything in her mouth.
- Total Retail Price = $220 – $330
- Our Cost = $16
- Average Cost to Regular Irrational Spenders Ratio = 5-7%
How did we get to $o spending?
So you’re probably wondering how did I spend $0 when I say we spent $16 of our hard earned money on these incredible gifts. D and I have really embraced minimalism in the last couple years and always try to remove things in our lies when we add things so we don’t have too much clutter. One of the kid’s toys that was taking lots of room in our house but was not being used was our toy kitchen. The kids play with the play food all the time and make us delicious pretend coffee and dinner everyday. But they never use the actual kitchen. They used the couch, the train table and the floor. So it was decided, we would sell the kitchen (without the accessories) around Christmas time (to capitalize on increased demand for toys and gifts).
How our 2015 Christmas was an investment that paid for our 2017 Christmas
A little background on this toy kitchen. We bought it on Kijiji 2 years ago as our son’s 2015 Christmas present. It’s a nice wooden quality one and because we bought it very way before Christmas we got a really good deal. We spent $60 for the kitchen plus about 100 pieces of cookware and food. Because we were able to act quick and pick up the kitchen the same day, we profited from this amazing deal.
And like I said, when you buy used, you can almost always resell your item years later for almost the same amount or sometime more. You are essentially just borrowing the items. In November we checked out Kijiji in our area to see how much these similar kitchen were selling for now. All the comparable were over $100 so we posted the kitchen for $100. Within 2 hours we had an offer and that same day it was sold for our asking price. The kids didn’t even notice it was gone.
Total Cost of this Kitchen (2015 Christmas Present) = $60 – $100 = -$40 (plus we got to keep all our accessories and food). Yes, you read that correct, this 2015 Christmas present was actually an investment that essentially generated a profit of $40 paid for our 2017 Christmas.
Since our 2017 Christmas only cost $16, this investment will likely pay for 2018 as well! And our 2017 gifts will likely pay for our 2019 Christmas and beyond.
Thanks everyone for reading and supporting this blog. This has been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to write many more articles in 2018. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!! See you in 2018!