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Holiday-Shopping Lessons from My 11-Year-Old

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Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: My 11-year-old has taught me a few good lessons about holiday shopping. Here's the list:

mother and daughter shopping
1) Really think about the gift you are giving someone and make sure it is something THEY will like, not just something you like or something you think they should like or should have.

2) Less is more. One well-thought-out gift is better than ten trinkets.

3) Don't feel you have to spend the same amount of money on each gift. No one should care how much a present cost.

4) Gifts can be made, bartered or bought used. Don't feel pressured to buy everything in a mall.

5) Make a list of people you would like to buy for and what you would like to get them. Start early, so you can look for good deals and budget along the way.

My daughter gets between two and five dollars a week allowance, depending on how many chores she does. She used to be a great saver, but for the last couple of years, she has been spending as fast as she has been earning. She did some shopping online using Google to search for a product, then clicking the "shopping" tab and having the results display from lowest to highest. Also, for used books, she checked eBay, and the "used" sections of Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Using the guidelines above, this is what she is giving to friends and family this holiday season:

Best friend: Crayola craft-kit pillow ($5; originally $21.95). I bought it on sale, and she bought it from me when she spied it in my gift closet. She's also giving her friend a framed picture of the two of them that she made and decorated herself (free -- she had received a frame craft kit as a present).

Brother: The new "Wimpy Kid" book in hardcover ($6; retail price $13.95 -- purchased online, no tax and combined with an order of mine to get free shipping).

Sister: "Eloise at Christmastime" in hardcover (used, in like-new condition, for a penny plus $3.99 shipping online; retails for $19.99 new).

Aunt: The first "Harry Potter" movie on DVD (new for $5, no tax and free shipping online; retail $19.98).

Grandparents: Sugar-free cookies/dessert (essentially free). She will find a recipe online at and bake them herself. I have a pretty tin she can put them in and probably have all the ingredients in the pantry.

Dad: A hardcover book about adults who spend hours trying to beat video-game records ($1; retail $24.95). He will love it, and we found it at Dollar Tree.

Mom and Family Friend: This one is inspired. She sees how much I rely on my family calendar, where there is a space to put each family member's activities down for each day. When helping me clean off my desk, she saw a matching pocket or small desk calendar. I explained that it pretty much sat there all year because I didn't use it, but they came together in a package. A close family friend, also a mom, is on her list, and my daughter has seen her refer to her small calendar often. She planned to buy the set at Costco, which is where I got mine last year for $14.99. It was pretty much going to break the bank. Today, we picked up a Mom's Family Calendar and Desk Calendar Set at Big Lots for $5, and it came with two extra notepads.

She probably has just one more gift to get (probably a little something at Bath and Body Works for the babysitter), and she knows that there are almost always "free gift with purchase" coupons online that she can combine with the holiday sales. She's pretty much done with shopping more than two weeks before Christmas, and spent $26 for eight great gifts!

If only I were in such good shape ....

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