Our son is turning two, and we racked our brains to figure out what type of present to get for a 2-year old. Obviously with children of that age, the idea of a birthday is a nebulous concept indeed, and we didn’t feel the need to spend a ton of money on presents for him. However! We still wanted to get him something that he would enjoy, regardless of whether he knew what it was for or not.
So we went down the list of things he needs vs things he loves. At this age, he is a huge fan of Thomas the train, and if you know about those little things, they cost an arm and a leg. One little train costs around $16 – just for one car! Thus far we had gotten away with trains and tracks that were bought with credit from returned birthday presents (cash automatically goes into a savings account for him), so our costs when it comes to trains has been minimal. But for his birthday everything would come out of our pocket, so we wanted to make sure it made sense.
What to buy?
When it comes to budget birthdays, like I mentioned before, it helps to think of needs vs wants. In this instance, we had a mental list of things that he needed. Two things stuck out in our minds:
1. Warm clothes (did not have any from Hawaii).
2. Blankets and sheets (again, he didn’t use any in Hawaii, and he was now sleeping in a bed instead of a crib).
When we combined this with what he wanted…Thomas of course…it was pretty obvious what we should get him for his birthday.
Where to buy it from?
Of course the next question was where to buy his presents from. My heart sort of sank when I saw the minimal selection of blankets (usually smaller toddler ones) and the expensive sheet sets (usually around $50) that were available online. While the costs weren’t super high, the fabric was (per reviews) scratchy and not quite what I wanted. And a t-shirt? Fuggetaboutit! Anywhere from $6-20 for a t-shirt that he would outgrow within the year.
I gave up, to say the least. Then one day I went online to craigslist to see about buying a stroller (if you recall ours was stolen) and in the process came across a multi-family garage sale. At this sale there was a huge room full of Thomas the train stuff – according to the lady who was selling it her son went through the same phase as ours – and in that loot included everything I had been looking for. In the end, we ended up getting all his needs and wants, plus a few extras (!) for a grand total of $50.
This is what we got for $50:
2 Full size comforters
1 sheet set
1 PJ set
It was a really wonderful mix of things that he actually needed (clothes and blankets) and things he enjoys (books and trains). We were very lucky to find that garage sale, and even luckier that the lady was willing to meet me before the sale to make sure that I got the things that I wanted. We were very happy because necessities that we were prepared to spend money on became much, much more affordable due to some luck, some patience, and a bit of goodwill from craigslisters.
1. Combining needs and wants makes for great frugal presents
2. Craigslist is your friend when you’re on a budget and have things you need to buy
3. Be open-minded and willing to make it easy for people to sell you stuff (we went to the lady’s work during the day to meet up with her)
4. Go with a budget in mind. It would have been very easy to spend more at the garage sale if i hadn’t set a price in my head ($10 for misc trains and books, as we had already given her $40 for bedding, clothes, and a couple book sets)