Years ago, I remember standing in my basement, with a giant pile of toys up to my knees in front of me. It was Boxing Day 2013, and we had literally just opened up a bunch of brand new toys (that were still sitting under the Christmas tree upstairs). Looking around the room, there was nowhere for these new toys to go.
It was beyond overwhelming.
Our kids (ages 8, 6, and 3 at the time) had accumulated so much crap that even they didn’t know what to play with anymore. The fact that it took us 45 solid minutes to put away the giant mountain of toys was enough for me to make a change. This was my aha moment. If we just owned LESS, we could tidy up quicker, which meant (theoretically) that my house would stay cleaner longer. This made my OCD very happy.
That Boxing Day, before anyone was awake, I grabbed FOUR garbage bags and filled them all to the brim, and stashed them in the back of the garage where no one would look. I left them there for two months. And you know what?
Not one single toy was missed.
Not once did any of my kids ask for any of the toys in the bags. They didn’t even realize that I had gone through and removed three quarters of their stuff either. What they did notice, was that the toys that were left were in order, easily found, and in some cases they hadn’t seen them in quite awhile. It’s amazing how that happens. It was from then on, that we became a minimalist-style family. I say minimalist-style because with 5 people in a house, it really isn’t possible (for me anyway) to have a completely minimal lifestyle. After all, they should get a say in what happens with some of their things, so I can’t completely go crazy giving everything away without asking.
After the great toy-exit of 2013, Easter rolled around and I caught myself trying to figure out what to do about it. Typically, we would fill an Easter basket with clothes, books, toys, outdoor toys, and of course chocolate. What I found though, was that I was using the dollar store to fill these baskets, and honestly their toys are crap. The chocolate is fake, the toys would break within a day, and I found myself regretting most of the purchases I made, just to make the basket look full.
In order to keep from filling my house back up (specifically filling it back up with crappy broken toys), we changed how we do our Easter. Easter in our home is first and foremost about Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we didn’t want our kids getting used to receiving a boatload of new toys. Being a frugal family, we had to be mindful about our bottom line, but also wanted to ensure our kids could at least hunt for SOMETHING Easter morning. Here are my best tips for Easter gifts, feel free to use whatever might fit with your family!
Less is more
We’re pretty minimalist around here, and I know it’s not a lifestyle that everyone can live by. But, I guarantee you that when it comes to giving presents, less is more. Resist the urge to fill up that Easter basket with crap just so it looks full. Actually, while you’re at it, go buy them all new (smaller!) Easter baskets. It’s like the psychology around Target carts – they’re big for a reason. They’re so big, that even when you’ve put a good number of things in them, they still look empty! Psychologically, we attempt to “fill” our carts, which is why our cover charge is always over $50 even when you just walk in for milk & eggs. The moral of the story here is to strategically pick gifts and resist the temptation to fill up a basket with stuff that will break in a day (or be eaten) just so it looks full.
Buy good Easter chocolate
I’m a quality over quantity girl. As much as we are frugal here in our family, we spend our money on quality items, ones that we will enjoy (food) or will not break quickly. I like to say that we are frugal on lots of every day stuff around here so that we can save up for those very important splurges every once in awhile. Since I love food so much, I decided years ago to forego the cheap crap-quality dollar store bunny for the basket and instead invest in a smaller, but much better quality rabbit. Last year it was a Lindor bunny, and it served two purposes. First, my kids thoroughly enjoyed it. Second, the bunny didn’t last as long in our home, and was eaten quickly – which meant there was less snacking on unhealthy treats after Easter time.
Get a smaller basket
I mentioned this above, but you really need to consider the size of your Easter basket. If you really have to look hard for stuff just to make it look “full”, you need a new basket. If you really can’t get a new basket, use newspaper or tissue paper underneath the gifts to make the basket look fuller, and reducing how much you actually need to buy.
Buy only what they need
My kids love to write lists. Easter lists, Christmas lists, birthday lists… You name it. They get quite creative with their list of desires too, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to receive all of that. It’s a great idea to have your kids give you some input. It’s also a great idea to pay attention to areas where they could really use some new things. Maybe it’s rain boots, maybe it’s clothes, maybe it’s a new book or school supplies. If you use Easter to provide your kids with new (already needed) things, this frees up money in your budget that could go elsewhere.
Dollar store items are ok… Sometimes
I have a love-hate relationship with the dollar store. The frugal minded person in me says it’s a great place, but the shop-small person in me says to support local businesses whenever the chance. I end up not shopping at the dollar store very often, except for certain occasions. Most toys at all dollar stores are utter garbage, and will last only the first day you open them. However, you can score a few items that will help fill baskets with quality items without breaking the bank. My favourites are:
- sidewalk chalk
- colouring books
- craft supplies
Obviously use your discretion when purchasing these items, but in my experience, the chalk from the dollar store is no different than the chalk at Walmart. It’s worth it to look into the dollar store for these items if you can.
Give an experience
After my minimalist-epiphany of 2013, our family moved to more of an experience-based gift service rather than stuff. For example, every year at Christmas, our kids get a handmade gift certificate that is good for “dinner out with Mom & Dad”. The other two kids get to stay with a babysitter, and the chosen kid gets to pick the restaurant and go out to eat with Mom & Dad alone. You could also get creative and make certificates for a craft night, or a games night, or any other sort of quality time spent one-on-one.
Quality over quantity
I’ve alluded to it above, but our family has no problem paying for something of quality, even if it means saving for it or doing without other things in order to get it. It’s more than fine to be budget conscious on a variety of things in life, but every once in awhile something is worth splurging on. This goes along with the ‘less is more’ topic, but resist the urge to fill the basket with crap that will get broken or thrown out, instead pick certain things that will mean something to your kids and stand the test of time.
The hunt for the perfect Easter gift doesn’t have to cost a fortune, or cause your kids to forget the real reason we’re celebrating. I know for my kids, they have always seemed to appreciate what we’ve been able to do for them, and also have learned to appreciate quality items instead of more “stuff”. It takes diligence and a bit of practice, but it can be done!