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smartmom baby's first christmas on a budget

Baby’s First Christmas on a Budget

Photo by Amanda Watters

I haven’t gotten this excited about the holidays in quite some time. Honestly, Christmas stopped being a big deal for me several years ago. I still look forward to it, of course, because it means seeing my extended family and participating in all kinds of fun traditions. But for some time, it just hasn’t had the same appeal it did when I was younger. But this year is my baby’s first Christmas, and I couldn’t be more excited!

As we look forward to this Christmas, what I am eagerly anticipating the most is seeing our five-month-old son’s reaction to all the twinkling lights, the festive music, and, of course, tearing open of his gifts. A baby’s first year is full of exciting milestones, and for many families, the first holiday season is one of them. For us, the hardest part has been not going over our budget. I recently decided to quit my “real job” to concentrate on building my photography business, and I can tell you that not having a steady paycheck has really impacted our Christmas spending! We’ve had to show some real restraint, and it hasn’t been easy, but if you’re careful and make smart choices, you can make your baby’s first holiday a wonderful one without breaking the bank.

My first bit of advice? Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make your baby’s first Christmas a huge deal, at least not materially. When you think about it, this is really a milestone for you. Your baby’s not going to remember much, but you will, so concentrate on making those memories special! Take time out from your preparations to spend with your baby. Sing some carols, read Christmas stories together, take them someplace with lots of pretty light displays, and create some new traditions you can share for years to come! None of these will cost you a dime, but their value will stick around a lot longer than any present you purchase.

While we’re on the subject of presents, do yourselves a favor and don’t go overboard with toys. You probably have friends and family who are going to shower your kiddo with more than you’ll know what to do with. Between now and the day when he or she leaves for college, you’ll have amassed a collection of children’s playthings to rival Santa’s workshop, even if you don’t purchase a single one yourself! Instead, choose one or two that you’d really like your child to have–maybe something educational like Baby Einstein, or some fun musical toys–and leave the rest to someone else. Trust me, they’ll more than cover it.

You can also consider getting toys or other more expensive items second-hand. If you’re not up for a trip to the thrift store, there are plenty of nice resale boutiques nowadays that specialize in baby items, so you can get gently used clothes and gear for a lot less than you’d pay in stores. Craigslist can also be a great resource, but be sure you are safe about meeting up with people you don’t know, and if it’s something with moving parts, try it before you take it home!

For the rest of your presents, choose practical things–stuff you were going to have to buy, anyway. Let’s be honest: the best thing about babies and Christmas presents is watching them tear off the wrapping paper! I’m pretty sure even they like that part the best, so give them lots to unwrap in the form of necessities. For us, that means some new cloth diapers, a couple of new sets of pajamas, and a high chair. It’s all stuff we’d have needed to get before our son reaches six months, which means it was already in the budget, but this way we get to watch him rip open the gift wrap first.

If you’re wanting to commemorate the holiday for the rest of your friends and family, consider some homemade keepsakes to help them remember. Salt dough ornaments are quick, easy, and cost literally pennies. Just mix ½ cup water, ½ cup salt, and a cup of flour together to form a thick dough. Roll it out like you would sugar cookie dough, and cut it into circles a little larger than your baby’s hand or foot. Then, press your baby’s handprint or footprint into the dough. You can add a message like “Baby’s First Christmas” or whatever else you’d like by writing in the dough with a toothpick. Then, poke a hole that’s about the diameter of a pencil in the top and bake the dough at 250° F for two hours. When the ornaments are done baking and cooling, you can leave them plain or paint them with acrylic paints, if you want to liven them up a bit. All you have to do to finish them is add a ribbon for hanging, and you have a delightful memento to give! And this recipe is enough for 10-15 ornaments, so you can save a couple for yourself, as well.

And speaking of mementos, make sure you chronicle your baby’s first holiday season with photos or video! Like I mentioned before, your baby isn’t going to remember much about it, but you’ll kick yourself if you forget to document it so you can share your fond memories with them in the years to come. If you don’t have a camera or a video recorder, consider borrowing one from a friend, or renting one. Heck, even a smartphone can take decent pictures and video these days, so capture every last moment and save it for posterity. You–and your child–will be so glad you have the ability to look back on these memories together!

Making your little one’s first holiday a special one doesn’t have to involve too much spending. You just have to get a little creative and recognize that the best present you can give your baby is a day full of joy and laughter, surrounded by loved ones. After all, that’s what the holidays are all about!

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