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Friday, December 30, 2011

When You Can't Afford Gifts

Many single parents find themselves in a predicament when it comes to purchasing gifts for special occasions. I was (and still am) one of those parents. Reasons vary. For me it was always a matter of working for people who never paid me enough to meet my bills AND have money left over for gift shopping.

When it came time for birthdays and other occasions, I was often left with very little and sometimes nothing. My kids would want to go to friends' birthday parties and I knew that I would have to sacrifice a gallon of milk, a box of cereal, and a couple of cans of Beefaroni in order for them to bring a gift.

I never wanted my kids to feel poor, though, so when they were invited to parties, they went, and I learned to sacrifice. I also became inventive with leftovers. (For information on Hiding Leftovers and Candy From Your Kids, click the link.) 

Allowing your kids to think you aren't poor takes sacrifice. You may make less than everybody else on your block, but you don't want your kids to FEEL poor. 

So, yes I was sacrificing, but before you crown me a saint, let me explain that I am one of those women who could care less about the latest fashions or the latest shoe style. I can't wear glamorous shoes anyway. My feet are too small and my right foot is persistently swollen. Throw a pair of 5" heels on my size 4.5 foot and, as tall as I am, I would topple to the ground. 

No, sacrifice for me, means taking the kids where they want to go, having them work for their own money (one of my daughters found a job as a dishwasher when she was only 15, and all of them worked while they were still in high school), and teaching them how to respect money.

Giving so little feels terrible, especially when you find yourself at a birthday party for your own grandchild and everybody else is giving gifts that must have cost at least $50 while you sit there with your $10 present wishing you could melt into the floor.

For years I felt so bad about my lack of money, I almost stopped going to the parties. Almost. Until I played out conversations in my head. My fear was that others would judge me for giving so little, but then I realized that if anybody truly thought so little of me just because I couldn't afford to give expensive gifts, their judgments said more about them than it did me. My kids and grandkids know I love them. What else matters?

Photo borrowed from

And so this past year for Christmas, knowing I could afford only $10 gifts, I logged into my Snapfish account, chose photos I thought were cute, slapped them on a mug and sent away for them. Sitting under my tree were cups for 12 of the youngest grandchildren with photos and an inscription that read, "(Child's name)'s Mug".

That gift will last them for years – or until they drop it and smash it to pieces. And I've learned to stop feeling bad about something over which I have no control. Unless I sell a screenplay or one of my blogs goes viral, or I come up with an idea that's going to make me instantly wealthy, I will forever be in the lowest tax bracket. My grandchildren will learn that love does not equal money. What matters to me is that they feel loved, and I can give them all the love their little hearts desire without denying myself food, shelter, or clothing.

You may not be able to afford gifts, but you can afford to demonstrate your love by reading books to your kids, playing games with them, taking them to the park, coloring with them, having picnics on the floor with them, watching their favorite movie with them … Giving them your time is the best gift of all and it doesn't cost you a thing.

If you would like to read other blogs by this author, I invite you to click on any of the following links.

Thank you for visiting!

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