Creating a Memorable Secondhand Christmas

We are so happy to welcome Emily as a guest blogger this month!  She shares ample inspiration for families that are seeking a more self-sufficient lifestyle on her blog and website  

In one of the Facebook groups I’m in for December babies, someone recently asked what our Christmas budget was for our kids. I saw a lot of numbers – ranging from almost a thousand dollars to just a few hundred (per child) but no one had as low of a budget as me.

My budget is $50 for my son.

Now, this post is in no way shaming anyone. I don’t care what someone spends on their child for Christmas. What I care about is what we spend on our child for Christmas. Caleb already receives so many gifts from his grandparents before and after Christmas, so for our family Christmas, I wanted something similar. I want to put the emphasis more on family and celebration, with less on material items (plus, we tend to celebrate the winter solstice more so than Christmas).

I maximize our budget by doing what I call a ‘secondhand Christmas’ meaning everything is either gently used or handmade. This makes it kind of fun to find gift ideas and encourages me to stretch my imagination.

This is our second year doing this. I wanted to share with you some things that I learned and what I’m planning for this upcoming year.


Know what you want to get your loved ones BEFORE you buy anything. I cannot stress that enough. In order to save money, you have to be smart about shopping.

Make a list. Write down things your loved ones might say they want or need throughout the year. That way you aren’t stretching for ideas.

If you are on a super tight budget, start setting aside money now (or rather, at the beginning of each year). If your budget is say, $50 a person and you have 3 people to shop for, start setting aside $20 or so each month, or week, or paycheck.

Anything that you can save now will help greatly when you start shopping.


A lot of these tips will go hand-in-hand, you will find. I’ve learned that by going with more classic items rather than the fad, there will be longevity in the duration the item will be used, and I can also find it at a discounted price.

For example, this looks like bikes, scooters, rollerblades, basketball hoops, dress-up sets (which can be easily created using items from the thrift store) – items that don’t have a shelf life.

Side note: Don’t be afraid of giving a gift card if you have a loved one that you don’t know – a lot of people actually DO appreciate gift cards and no, it doesn’t look cheap. You can always pair like a gift card and a small item – think a gift certification to a local book store and a jar of homemade hot cocoa.

If your child is really into something as the holidays get closer, then start looking on the marketplace or eBay for something that aligns with that as well (my son is really into PJ Masks).


I’ve always been an early shopper. I finished my Christmas shopping one year in May. I was rather proud of that. By starting early, you are not rushing come December to find the things on your list.

Certainly, you can always add something last-minute, but by starting early, you can ease some of the stress of the holiday and make sure you are getting the best deal.

Shopping early also helps to spread out how much you are spending on gifts for the holiday.


One thing that I’ve had a time convincing Caleb’s relatives is that the quality of gift matters more than the quantity of gift. Don’t give a gift for gift-giving sake. Give a gift that matters.

Plastic dollar store toys, junk that you know will never get used (hello body care kits that are usually in the Christmas gift aisle), massive amounts of clothes – just say no.

Instead, try creating gifts. For family members, this could be herbal salves, tea blends, or for us – one of our favorite things to give family members is some of the goods we canned throughout the year (especially our salsa) and a candle I’ve made.

For my son, I think about what inspire him. This year, for example, I am making a play scene for his farm animals using materials found in nature, moss, expired lentils (for a path), etc. I think he will love having this to play with.


My mom always gave me some sort of pajama set on Christmas Eve, so I’m continuing that tradition in the form of a Christmas Eve box. It makes for a lovely family moment – a pair of pajamas (usually from Poshmark or eBay), a book (from either ThriftBooks or my local used bookstore), and some sort of yummy treat – like hot cocoa.

Starting a family tradition is a great way to make the holiday seem extra special. This could be anything from foraging for natural holiday decor to riding around looking at Christmas lights one evening to creating cookies for Santa.

These memories are what your children are going to remember, not what they received.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with secondhand items (especially since most things are in near-mint condition for a fraction of the cost). When items can be given a new home or a new purpose, they live on rather than just being tossed into the junk heap.

As long as a gift is given with love, it will be received with love.


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