I am one of those people who ponder about the perfect gift for others and Christmas is my time to shine! But once the kids came along, I discovered that quality and the thought of the gift were not appreciated as much as the empty box.
Retail price is what I paid for most of my life. Shortly after our first child was born, another new mom introduced me to Black Friday shopping. Wow! Who knew you could save money on Christmas? I was hooked on the savings.
But then another mom upped the ante and introduced me to consignment sales. It was love at first sight when I walked into the Just Between Friends sale (JBF) (www.jbfsale.com) at their Overland Park, Kansas site. Originally expecting a giant garage sale or swamp meet, I found it to be impeccably organized with everything kid-related under the sun sitting there – and at bargain prices too!! The owner, Tami, (JBF is technically a franchise) has an energy level that puts you to shame and she truly cares about you not just as a shopper, consignor, volunteer, but as another mom!
But I still purchased new items at retail or Black Friday prices with a few JBF items to go under the Christmas tree. I feared that the kids would know instinctually that Santa didn’t go to the mall. However, I think the truth is that I didn’t want to admit defeat by the debt-mountain nor be reminded of it. But this year timing proved to be the enema necessary for me to learn a valuable budget conscious lesson.
I am fortunate to live in a city with four major JBF sales within a short drive. They were all held in September, October, and November. At each one I purchased a few items here and there but bulk of my shopping still came from my original sale in Overland Park simply for its gigantesque state (over 700 consignors and 50,000 square feet of bargains!!) and the genuine care from Tami and her family members who are also there. At home I quickly hide the bags from the kids but they also became out of sight/out of mind to me.
In late-November we were struck with five major and costly emergencies. They involved a deer, a fried oil pan that locked an engine, a dying fridge that killed the Thanksgiving dinner, a furnace on sick leave, and a medical emergency which also meant a major medical bill. All within the same week! It certainly did kill the Christmas shopping spirit and cash flow.
Three weeks later Christmas time was here and I kept reminding myself to be thankful for what I did have as there are those with so much less. But I couldn’t help remembering the past years of the back closet being stuffed with gifts. And previously I had a Christmas cash fund while the three plastic amigos known as Visa, Master Card, and American Express were always very helpful. Of course we always promised to pay them back by February (but they rarely were).
I was incredibly sad and didn’t even want to decorate for Christmas. So one week before Santa was supposed to come, Jack reminded me of the hidden bag of JBF items. We decided to go through them before hitting the stores with the meager remaining credit on our cards. But as we began to pull the items out, my spirit rose up a notch with one. For each child there were board game, books, movies, electronic games, a full outfit, a set of pajamas, a pair of shoes, and several toys or activity kits. The items were either new-with-tags or lightly used.
Whew! So we don’t have to hit the stores yet I was still nervous for Christmas morning. But when the time came, the gifts were unwrapped to the same level of shrieks of excitement and exclamations of wonder. The kids were happy, they were busy, and Santa is still #1 in their book.
You must be wondering, how much did I really save by shopping at the JBF sales? I researched each item and looked for the lowest retail price online and here are the numbers:
Grand total of retail price: $621.48
Actually Spent: $135.50
Grant Total of Money Savings: $485.78
In so many ways this was a Christmas miracle I needed. Instead of feeling down the kids were not unwrapping items from the mall, I was on an euphoric high with the knowledge that I saved over 75 percent. Instead of being wary of the credit card statements coming to my inbox (i.e. electronic statements), I opened them with physical arm waving celebration of the evidence that they were never used. When I looked at Jack that morning, I knew that he was basking in the same thoughts ….or having too much fun with the Lego Batman Wii game (purchased for $3.50 baby!).
I think my better half is understating how much her consignment shopping saved us this year from the kids having a very small Christmas. In the bigger picture, is that the most important thing? For the kids to have a Christmas morning where their eyes bulge at the sight of their wrapped bounty? That they are opening presents for hours and hours and then completely overwhelmed with the decision on what to play with first? Not so much. But, there is no bigger feeling of failure when you cannot provide the most basic thing, like Christmas morning, for your kids.
So, yeah, we had a plethora of financial crises (yes, that’s the plural of the word crisis…I looked it up!) in November. Usually, we stock pile savings the last six months of the year for my wife’s Black Friday extravaganza and she pours thru ads upon ads to figure out how to get the biggest bang for our saved $500-700 earmarked for Christmas presents for the family. So, when the fridge stopped working ($450) and the furnace wouldn’t kick on ($250) and the scary medical emergency bill arrived ($1,083) and one car broke down on the interstate ($1,000) and the other had a slight disagreement with the deer ($1,000)…the Christmas stockpile was plundered like a bag of donuts by a group of 4 year olds. So, by the beginning of December, our cars were running again, the fridge was keeping things cool, everyone was healthy, and we were warm in the house, but we had exactly $0 for Christmas for the kids.
When we started to pull the JBF bags that Diane had put away for safe keeping, it felt like this was going to be a friggin’ Christmas miracle. The packages just kept coming. Games, puzzles, toys, toys, clothes, and more toys were pulled from their hiding place and placed into piles. No, nothing was state of the art or high dollar. But, everything looks great when it’s unwrapped from the Christmas wrapping paper. While most of our daughter’s friends were getting ipads, the newest Brave DVD and the latest Taylor Swift CD, our daughter was getting the Best of Garfield DVD set, several games like Jenga and Clue Jr, and other things. To her, these were new things and fun to watch and play with. She was ecstatic with her ipad-less Christmas. (Not that she was getting an ipad anyway, but it helped make my point. A 10 year old does not need an ipad).
In all, it was a pretty good Christmas for the kids. We spent about $130 for $600 worth of stuff, and the kids were none the wiser. It helps that our kids are pretty humble and not asking for the latest in electronics or games or toys. They are pretty happy with whatever they get, and we were able to provide that.
Did Diane or I get anything for Christmas for each other? Nah, this is where we cut in our Christmas spending. Our Christmas gift to each other will be this blog and this adventure to get out to debt.
Would you consider consignment shopping as your primo spot for Christmas, birthday, baby shower, and christening gifts? If you have in the past, what was your biggest savings?