Cut Down On Holiday Spending Without Looking Cheap

No one wants to look like a grinch, but most of us reach a point in our holiday or birthday shopping where we realize that we're going to spend more than we want to if we get everything on our list. What to do... If you're a parent, you have two options: ramp down on the number and/or the cost of the gifts you get your loved ones or get everything and live on that recalled dog food you didn't really throw out but hid behind the furnace. It's probably only toxic to dogs, right?

Well, if you don't have a dog and have to go with the first option, I have some suggestions for really nifty toys and gifts that won't bust your budget. Believe me, I know from making Christmas clubs stretch to cover more family members than I have chin hairs. At one time, what with step-siblings, foster siblings, bio-siblings and all of their kids, I was aunt to over thirty little darlings, all of whom presented me with their list of demands pwecious widdle wists, uh, lists by Thanksgiving. I still shudder when I think of that year when Cabbage Patch dolls were the most popular toy and what the gray-haired woman said when I snatched one out of her hand. (In my defense, she did push me out of the way with her cane.) But back to buying really nice toys on the cheap.

I like the classics, because they stay classics because kids like them. At Unclesgames, you can find plenty of card, board or outdoor games and they're always a hit. Or how about a wooden card holder for little hands? It's sooo frustrating when you drop your cards and everyone sees that Old Maid or Old Man, ya' know?

Some old favorites in the board game category include Monopoly, Risk, Trouble, Hi Ho Cherry-Oh, Life, and several versions of Trivial Pursuit. My favorite game is the Un-Game which has many versions and is non-competitive so no one loses and everyone wins. And don't forget checkers and chess.

One of the hottest toys this season is also at Unclesgames. It's the ArrowCopter which is made right here in the USA. It's for kids over 8 and up and is a high-flying toy that's launched with a rubber band and can soar over 300 ft! Tell me Dad won't be out there with it after the kids go to bed.

Puzzles, especially quality wooden ones with pieces that really fit together, are something that preschoolers will do over and over again. Good for their self-esteem and their fine motor development. There are puzzles in every category: construction vehicles, emergency vehicles, dinosaurs, science and nature, everyday life, unusual and difficult puzzles. If there's a picture of it, there's a puzzle of it.

Stocking stuffers or little presents that you can wrap in bright paper and hand to a child can be more than dollar store gimcracks. If you do a little searching on the Net, you can find many smaller items for under $20. Look for sales at places like Freebears, Giggling Toys, Oompa and other retailers of good toys online.

And don't be afraid to think outside the box. You can even give kids clothes if they're from a really trendy company like Little Miss Matched, which is one of the THE hottest places to shop for girls (and grownup girls too) right now. And of course, there's stationary, arts and craft supplies, calendars, hair accessories and anything else that kids need all year 'round, not just during the holidays. And if all else fails, gift certificates and cold hard cash are an option. Just put them into the nicest card you can find and attach a premium candy bar or designer candy cane on them. Believe me, they'll be very happy to accept it. Come to think of it, so would I.

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