B, a counselor for L School District, said she usually spends about $1,000 in Christmas gifts for friends and family, but is cutting back to no more than $500 this year — and all of it will go toward her 3-year-old daughter, N. “I can’t afford to shop for myself. Everything has to go to my child. You have to pay bills, so some of those bills are going to get stretched out.”
That’s a few sentences out of a “news item” about the shopping scene on Thanksgiving Friday. Now, I am no expert on three-year-olds, but chances are, that little girl wouldn’t notice if her mother spent $50 or even $5 on Christmas presents and put the rest in reserve: for those bills B mentions, or for daily living expenses, or, if B and her daughter N are particularly lucky, taking the $450 not spent on “presents” for a toddler but invested for the child’s education.
$450 invested for 15 years, at 6% compound interest, would be about $1100 by the time N is ready for college. That would be, umm, just about the time when she realized that she had no specific memory of this coming Christmas…other than she was loved and warm and well-fed. I think N would rather have her textbooks paid for then, than a bunch of forgettable stuff now.
Or am I crazy? Does it really make sense to spend $500 on a child whose imagination and enjoyment can be fulfilled by a rag doll and a fairy wand? Or who’d be thrilled with a set of tea cups from the thrift store?
You’re right. What do I know about 3-year-olds? Well, here’s some thoughts from those who do:
- Parentcenter has a list of gifts for 3-year-olds, all of which are easily found for under $10 at your local consignment or resale shop. Buy from a non-profit thrift shop, and help a charity with your purchase.
- This mom blogged The big present-tacular with Vi was fun. She opened up like two gifts — a magnetic dress-up doll and a play baking set — before she lost interest, instead playing with bits of ribbon and tinsel. . . As soon as she got the paper off she’d walk away. It’s all about the opening-up for her. (read it all.)
- Another mom: I knew we had overdone it when on Christmas morning we had to keep encouraging her to open her gifts. Don’t you want to see your stocking? No. Look, more furniture for your house! Hmmm. Hey, here’s another one for you! You want to open it? Okay, but can you help me? The dollhouse that was a big hit at first still gets attention, but yesterday we spent hours building houses with blocks and Legos (continued.)
I would be totally remiss if I did not remind all of my readers that many of the things a 3-year-old would love are available at gently-used good prices at consignment, resale, and thrift shops. That way, not only are you saving for your toddler’s future expenses…you’re actually saving the planet for her as well. And isn’t THAT a wonderful holiday present to give the next generation? Priceless, indeed.