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How Do You Manage The Christmas List Pressure?

The run-up to Christmas can be a tricky time for parents, as there's a lot of pressure to get just what your kids want on their (constantly growing) lists for Santa, as well as providing the best holiday possible, to create lasting memories. There can be pressure to keep up with the latest trends that 'everyone in school' have, and to give your family the perfect Christmas. And this can be even tougher if you’re already doing everything you can to make ends meet.

So when one of our moms reached out to ask the community about budget-friendly entertainment, managing expectations, and wanting to do the best for the whole family; we couldn’t wait to hear the responses:

"Hi moms. I'm looking for some ideas and advice. I have five young children, one of which has a chronic illness. Myself and my husband work extremely hard to give our kids what we can. After childcare and monthly bills are paid there isn't a cent left. I budget as best as I can, we don't drink, smoke or go out.

What I am looking for are ideas to entertain young children that doesn’t cost a fortune. Lately my girls are saying everybody has this or that. They all need new clothes, shoes, etc. and I wish I could give them what their peers have. Do you give in to peer pressure with your little ones? How do you source new games /toys? There is nothing of interest in the charity shop. I try to explain it's either food on the table or new toys, not both. We are dreading Christmas as their lists are growing by the day. All ideas and thoughts on how to handle peer pressure will be much appreciated. Thanks."

Fun Ideas

Joy: Your local Library is great for free rental of books, DVDs and run some fun events too. Also, the GAA is really well priced and your local council pool are great for swimming lessons that aren’t too expensive.

Liz: We spend a lot of time outdoors. We live in Wicklow...the biggest free playground! They comment themselves on the amount of positive, active, quality-time we spend together. They don't have much in the way if material things. I think it's ok to tell kids there are limited funds. I grew up with very little, and I value everything I have. Kids need to know that it's not all about material things.

Catherine: OPW sites are free to visit on the 1st Wed of each month. Bring a picnic on nature trips. Cinema and swimming pools can do cheaper admission days.

Caoimhe:  Museums (in Dublin) typically are free, and local playgrounds & parks for nature trails/ collecting leaves & nuts for collections etc. Making obstacle courses & lots of simple crafting ideas on Pinterest too. Housework is free & making jobs around the house for older ones. Putting on a family music show or acting out nursery rhymes, but including lots of practice & making costumes & props out of existing stuff all costs nothing.

Caitriona: We went crab fishing…what a day!! Great fun and the fishing lines were only €2.50

Affordable Stores

Lainey: Sports World do great sales. I get branded runners for my 6yr old for €15-26. There's obviously more expensive ones, but I stick to that price bracket. Also, I got a Clarks foot measure on littlewoodsireland.com and keep an eye out for online sales. I just measure his feet myself and buy online for leather school shoes.

Alisha: The place to go is For Sale groups on Facebook. People are constantly selling things they've bought new that is no longer being used. You can get huge bundles of clothes, some of which have never seen a child's back, for next to nothing!

Hilary: Adverts.ie is great for buying & selling stuff. I have bought lots of stuff off it for my kids.

Liz: Try Done Deal as well: Great bargains. And you could sell some of the stuff they don’t play with anymore as well.

Lel: If you could go up North or even order online, Home Bargains and B&M are great shops. Someone was also telling me they saved 20euro alone on a doll up north. Asda also have great deals, plus Sports Direct are good.

Ann: Buy clothing a year ahead. Summer and January sales are great for getting up to 70% off usual prices. Littlewoods buy now pay later is attractive but you are paying huge interest on purchases so it is a lot more expensive by the end of the payment run.

Ciara: BeadyEyeBargains on Facebook is great for catching bargains in Argos and Smyths, as well as plenty of other places. Best deals are posted daily. I've gotten some great bits.

Marie: I always start by TK Maxx as they have a good choice of reduced price toys. Use Amazon for price comparison. And if you use camelcamelcamel.com to see price fluctuation on Amazon you buy it at the cheapest. Pricebuy.ie is a price comparison website all over Ireland: You could see which shop, where, is selling the product for cheaper. At last, check Mr Price. I bought a little tikka cooking station last year for 25 euros instead of 75.

Joanna: Price Scanner is brilliant: Gives you all the daily deals in different shops Argos and Smyths toys are on it. I have a child also with long-term illness and never much spare cash but the price scanner page has helped me get 99% off. Also, I know it’s not much help this year, but I also save with Park Christmas, and get my Christmas food hampers with ‘Christmas 2u’ for a few euro each week.

Lainey: For surprises/stocking fillers wish.com is fantastic (for the character figurines and lego etc.) When ordering, make sure to check the comments or reviews to make sure you are getting what you think you’re ordering. Allow a month for delivery. Some come earlier, but most items take 3-4 weeks.

Special Assistance

Louise: I don’t know your circumstances but it might not pay you to be working and paying child care for 5 children? If you weren't working, your husband could use your tax credits which means he'd bring home more, you'd have no child care fees & he'd also be entitled to the home carers tax credit. Depending on your circumstances you might be entitled to a medical card for your child with the chronic illness if only one of you are working. It might be worth looking into, or contacting citizens advice. Not a lot of people know about tax credits and stuff that they're entitled to you have to go digging round.

Joy: If you are really struggling, St. Vincent de Paul are a great organisation to reach out to for assistance.

Ciara: Also, Barnardos do a Christmas toy appeal, might be worth reaching out to them if someone needs assistance.

Miriam:  I don't know the nature of the illness, but it's bound to put some manner of financial pressure on your family. Have a look into domiciliary careers allowance you may be entitled to it and it could take the pressure off.

Leona: If your child has a chronic illness please go and join DCA Warriors: They will help you out with extra payments that your child is entitled to. That would take pressure of you, I've two special needs children, so I know where you’re coming from.

Caroline: It is so tough on hard working people such as yourselves that are doing the best that you can: Well done, you should be so proud of yourselves. You do not say if you get FIS, if not you should get advice from MABS. Don't give into peer pressure. However, do post things that you potentially need on the Facebook sites people are so willing to help.

Cracking Advice

Lainey: I tell my son you can ask for one thing and after that it’s a surprise: It makes it very difficult for Santa if you’ve a big list, and besides, Santa might know a gift that you’d love, that you didn’t even know about, coz he is the toy expert, after all.

Melanie: We don't give in at all: They rarely get new toys throughout the year. For Christmas they get 2 or 3 things off Santy, and 2 or 3 things off us, never anything over the top, as aunts uncles and grandparents get them stuff, and they end up with loads no matter what. They don't ask for new toys all the time and they know that mammy and daddy don't have the money for stuff like that: We've always been honest about that, and they're fine with that. There are fb pages depending on your area where you can buy second hand clothes and bundles of clothes; you should have a look on them, usually the clothes on there are good condition.

Catherine: It's really tough when you're on a permanent budget. As mine got older, I used to just acknowledge/agree that it was difficult. One year, Santy brought my daughter Irish Dance shoe buckles that no-one else had - getting something different/quirky made all the difference. Another time my tween was insisting on an iphone for Xmas - I explained it wasn't part of our family values, and that Santy wouldn't deliver one because of that.

Sinead: If you don't give to pressure from wider surroundings they'll learn not too also. Set ground rules, small household tasks = pocket money = when they save enough they can buy what they want. Around Christmas etc 1/2 items & surprise. Get them to write a list, and you'll choose items. For younger ones: ‘Santa brings 1/2 plus a surprise, as he can't fit everything in his sleigh for all kids in the world.

Louise: They’re going to look back when they're older, and say that they had the best childhood ever, because there was five of them and parents who really cared. There's so much pressure these days, but if you can spare it (and I know your situation is hard) time is everything you can give a kid; especially in big families. Picnics, ‘cinema at home’ days, baking, the odd hot chocolate out while feeding the ducks. Let the older ones have their pals around. Don't be too hard on yourself, there's no doubt you're doing your best.

Joanne: I wouldn't give in to peer pressure, although I know as a parent you are naturally going to feel guilty. In our house we have to contribute to Santa towards presents, and send him a cheque, so he can only bring people what their families can afford.

Do you have any extra tips for keeping the costs down at Christmas, entertaining your little ones on a budget, and managing gift expectations? We'd love to hear from you.

Please note: Some comments in this piece may have been edited for editorial reasons. However, we have taken care not to affect the meaning, or tone of comments.


About the Author

Emily is a writer, editor, blogger, and our Digital Content Assistant. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake. She still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last nine years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on dancingcakesandsilence.blogspot.com.

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