Happier Holidays: Stuff stockings for less than $15
With families keeping a careful eye on the budget these days, holiday plans are getting a hard look as well. Fewer gifts for the kids, cutting the naughty and nice list to a bare minimum, a little less decking the halls all are fine ways to focus more on the season and less on the stuff.
One of my kids' favorite things about Christmas morning is seeing what a certain someone left in their stockings as they slept. It's easy to go overboard, equating "small" with "stocking stuffer" even if the items cost more than what's under the tree. But don't toss out the tradition; there are many ways to fill their hearts with joy for less than $15 a sock.
Small tots (1-3)
For little ones, it's more about starting memories than what they get.
1. Age-appropriate crackers or cereal bars, $1 a box
2. Juice or shelf-stable milk boxes, $1 a box
3. A small (but not too small!) ball, $1
4. A car or truck with no small parts (think Fisher-Price), $4-$5
5. An adorable new shirt, socks or pajamas. Since we live in a warm climate most of the year, shop stores' clearance racks for something to tuck in the top.
1. Box of crayons or new set of washable markers ($1-$3)
2. Rolled-up coloring book ($1-$3). Cheaper alternative: Print coloring pages off the Web. Just Google your child's favorite character + printable coloring page and print away.
3. Stickers ($1-$3 per pack)
4. Small cans of Play-Doh (Get a bag of 10 or so for $5 and split among several stockings. Genius!)
5. Box of kid-related Band-Aids (boo-boos never take a holiday; $2-$3 per box)
1. Pack of favorite trading cards (Pokémon, etc.; $3)
2. Cute hair ribbons or barrettes ($2)
3. Silly putty ($1)
4. Temporary tattoos ($1-$3)
5. Small pack of Legos or GoGos, Trash Packs, etc. ($3)
1. Hair accessories ($1-$3)
2. $5-$10 gift card to iTunes, book store, etc.
3. Bottle of favorite drink (flavored water, iced coffee, etc.; $1-$3)
4. Funny T-shirt (Check clearance racks. These can be found often for $5 or so.)
5. Travel-size body wash or lotion ($1-$3)
Your older children really want a stocking. Look closely at those eyes as they roll them; you will see a hint of a smile in there.
1. A roll of nickels or dimes ($2-$5)
2. Small bags of favorite chips, cookies, etc. ($1)
3. Perfume, nail polish or makeup samples (Try asking at department store counters or your favorite Avon or Mary Kay rep.)
4. Paperback novel ($2-$7 new; check resale shops)
5. Flash drive ($5 or so; check Black Friday sales)
At our house, even the parents and grandparents get a little something when they've been good.
1. Small bags of coffee ($1-$3)
2. Candles ($1-$3)
3. Small photo book ($3; fill with the year's memories for grandma or grandpa)
4. Golf balls or card game ($3 and up)
5. Index cards printed with family favorite recipes
These suggestions are just the beginning. Add a juicy orange or other piece of fruit in the toe or pack in some home-baked cookies or brownies to sweeten the deal. Think care package wrapped in a faux-fur-trimmed, red velvet hug. It's a family tradition well worth keeping.