Sunday, December 6, 2015

With 14 Kids, Our Budget For Christmas Shopping Is ...

The gift of giving

I get asked fairly frequently this time of year what Christmas shopping is like in our house. It's hard for people to wrap their head around shopping for a family our size, apparently. By way of an answer, here's the insider's perspective.

Last week, MerriGrace went around with a clipboard, paper and pencil and asked her brothers and sisters what they want for Christmas. It took her two days, four sheets of paper, two pencils, one eraser and a partridge in a pear tree to compile the list. Just kidding! She got it done in fairly short order and I have looked over the list. It includes items that range from chocolate, to a book of systematic theology -- Judah can't wait to start reading!* -- to various colors of light sabers, to Legos (We need more Legos? How about if I just give back the ones permanently embedded in my feet from stepping on them?) to all sorts of Star Wars paraphernalia.

All in all, it's a solid list of modest requests. MerriGrace has actually checked out online the requests and tallied the bottom line at $660 for all the presents. Now as a disclaimer, the list is blank for four of the older kids so it's far from comprehensive. So the average is $66 per kid. If you throw in the four kids who at this point are getting "unknown" for Christmas and calculate their costs at $66 each, the total bill for Christmas for the 14 Sabo kids would be $924, not including tax (unless we can get family and friends to buy the presents in tax-free Oregon and ship them to us.)

But we're not spending $924 on Christmas. I can assure you of that. If you really want the inside scoop on what Christmas shopping is like in the Sabo house, ask MerriGrace. Ok well, not really. For the inside scoop on Christmas shopping in the Sabo house, we sat down for an interview with Julie Sabo.

Q: Hey babe, you got a minute?
A: Um, is it important?
Q: Probably the most important thing you will do all day. Wait, that's not a question ...
A: (Eye roll).
Q: It's going to take like, literally, three minutes.
A: I was really hoping to get some school done with your children, but since it's soooooo important ...
Q: You're the best babe. You've got `Mom of the Year' locked up.
A: The question?
Q: Right. So people are always asking me about Christmas shopping for 20 kids or whatever we have these days.
A: It's 14. Do you tell them we get them toys, movies, video games, clothes and things like that? Things off the list MerriGrace makes?
Q: Well, yeah. I mean, I will. But this "list" you mentioned, what's that like?
A: It's right over there on the clipboard.
Q: I was hoping you could tell me about it ... (flashes cheesy smile).
A: (Sigh). Is this for your blog?
Q: (Silence followed by more cheesy smiling.)
A: We have everybody write a wish list but they all know that we'll pick one or two of the things on the wish list and that's all. And we usually wrap everybody's gifts in one package so that even if one of the kids has three gifts worth $30 or one gift for $30 it's all one Christmas present from "Mom and Dad." And Christmas isn't all about the gifts for us.
Q: It's not about the gifts. You are so right. It's all about ... I mean, Christmas is totally all about ...
A: It's about being together and being with the family. There's so much joy!
Q: Exactly what I was going to say!
A: I could tell.
Q: So what happens if a kid is hoping for a more expensive item? What if they ask for say, a new iPad?
A: The only one who asked for a new iPad was you.
Q: I mean, hypothetically speaking. Let's say someone like Seth asked for an iPad.
A: Well our kids know that that's not a possibility in our family.
Q: Yes, of course. I mean, Seth's like 2 years old. I'm sure an iPad isn't on his list. It was just, you know, a hypothetical. So I understand our kids have a cool little Christmas tradition where they have a gift exchange. Is that what they do?
A: Yes.
Q: They do something like draw each other's names out of a hat and get each other a gift. Right?
A: (Nodding.)
Q: Would there by any price restrictions on these gifts the kids exchange?
A: Not really. The older kids spend more. It's money they have earned, but we do help out the little kids with paying for their gifts.
Q: That's a great idea. A gift exchange for the kids. Did your husband come up with that idea?
A: Nice try. The kids came up with the idea. Remember? Everyone wanted to give each other gifts and that was the best way to go about it. Who could afford to give a gift to each of their 13 brothers or sisters?
Q: Exactly. So what sorts of things do the kids usually buy each other?
A: Candy, movies out of the $5 bin, used video games, inexpensive jewelry, toys from a dollar store. The kids have a blast with it, as I'm sure you know.
Q: (Nodding vigorously.) Do all the kids like this gift exchange?
A: Yes. They totally get into it. The little kids get so excited to see the older kids open their gifts. It's so much fun.
Q: One of the highlights of my year. No doubt about it. That about wraps it up for me babe. Thank you so much. You're such a great interview.
A: You're welcome.

And there you have it. Christmas in the Sabo house. On a budget of somewhere around $30 per kid, give or take a few bucks. We also have a tradition where we go around and open gifts one at a time, youngest to oldest, celebrating everyone's gift and making a million memories.

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