This year, I’m on a mission to buy my kids toys from thrift shops, estate sales and garage sales for Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and there’s certainly a lot of cheer to go around. But there is a side to the Christmas season that we don’t really talk about. I believe it’s important to talk about the hard stuff. For families across the globe, finances during the holidays can cause a lot of stress and strain. The financial strain on parents this time of year is genuine. For most of us, we fork out the money and bulldoze the budget to get our kids a list of brand-new toys. The weight of the financial burden can take away from the joy of the season. But this year, I’m striving to have the most careless Christmas yet, and I hope you’ll join me.
Shopping at thrift stores isn’t what it used to be, for me anyway. Growing up, I occasionally went into thrift stores to find something unique for a costume or fun outfit. In high school, I had some friends shop there and I thought it was really cool of them. Once they even found my high school class shirt hanging on the rack that I’d donated right after graduating, oops! Alas, in this military adventure, I’ve met a lot of cool people. And I’ve heard more than once how thrifting was a part of people’s lives. More and more, I was finding parents of my kid’s playmates saying how this or that cool toy came from a local thrift store. And I decided it was time to check it out.
The first time I went in, I found a large red and white firetruck that I knew my son would love. It was only $5.00, and I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t bother me that someone else had played with it, and it certainly didn’t matter to my son. We went home and washed it, and it’s still one of his favorite toys. I can’t deny I don’t still love walking around retail stores with my kids, but now I find it harder to justify spending full price on things I know I could probably find elsewhere for a fraction of the price. And then I thought about how different Christmas could be if I decided to go totally thrifty. How much money could we save? How good would it feel to not spend every extra bit of money we had in December on Christmas? Could we fit in more experiences for the family with some of the money we saved? And there my mission was born.
I can gladly say it’s been a great success. I’ve used Facebook Marketplace for Switch games; I’ve found a lot of American Girl doll accessories at consignment stores; I’ve found a drivable Lightning McQueen car for a fraction of what it costs in retail. When you force yourself to thrift, I believe you really start looking at things a little differently. Less is definitely more in cost-savings and in the number of toys. And if we want to be really honest, sometimes the thing that keeps us from trying to do something different, like thrift shopping, is expectations: Sometimes from other adults, but sometimes expectations from your kids. If you’ve always done Christmas a certain way, then it can be hard to do something totally different. But Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to teach our kids about the value of a dollar, how resale is the ultimate recycling and how worth doesn’t come from a price tag. Thrifting is a great conversation starter.
I hope you’ll consider doing a thrift challenge in the future. It’s been an incredible experience for me. Cheers to a Merry Thriftmas and Happy New Year!