Toys, Toys, Toys: How Much Do You Spend on Christmas Presents for Your Kid?

Our daughter is two months shy of her second birthday, and we’re already drowning in toys. Between last Christmas and her first birthday, she got an incredible haul. Since February, I’ve only bought her two toys — a Fisher-Price dollhouse and a small talking Mickey Mouse. She’s been incredibly happy with all of the toys she has at our home, my in-laws’ house and the babysitter’s place.

I’ve been rotating through what she currently has — only half of the toys are out at any given time, because otherwise, the playroom is an incredible mess and she doesn’t play with anything. Grandma and Pop have bought her a few more things over the past year for their place, and our amazing babysitter has also added to her collection.

Now Christmas is upon us again, and her birthday is barely 6 weeks after that. I think my plan of action will be to pack away the toys she hasn’t played with in a while to make room for what’s sure to be another avalanche of gifts. We’re still trying to figure out what to buy her because there’s so much stuff out there. Santa’s going to bring her a toddler-sized table and chairs, and an art easel, but I think a trip to the toy store is in order. We get a kick out of shopping for her — and it makes us feel like kids again, too.

Do We Spend Too Much on Christmas Gifts?

Last year we spent about $250 on gifts for Miss Frugalista. Some people think that’s a lot of money for Christmas presents, and some people don’t think it’s enough. It’s a happy medium for us. Her birthday was closer to $50. Depending on what we decide to get her from Santa, it could be more or could be less. I’ll try to buy toys at the lowest price out there, but it seems like every retailer — online and off — has been using the same prices. And there’s no way I’m going shopping on Black Friday. That’s craziness.

It’s also an expensive few months because we hit a trifecta of birthdays this time of year: mine is in December, Mr. Not-So-Frugal’s is in January and then the little miss’ is February. Hubby and I are not exchanging birthday gifts, and we’re limiting Christmas presents to each other.

How much do you spend on Christmas presents for your kids? There’s no right or wrong answer, but this is the one time I get a kick out of emptying my wallet!

A Love Letter to the Jersey Shore

Will my daughter remember the boardwalk as her parents do?

We survived Hurricane Sandy. North Jersey was spared the rain, but we did not fare so well with the wind. It took five days for us to have our power restored, and now, a full week later, I know many people who are still waiting for the utility companies to flip that magic switch.

We lost a small downspout gutter to Sandy, who added insult to (minor) injury by tossing all of the leaves from the 100-foot oaks bordering our property up and over our house. They landed in our driveway, where they stayed thanks to the retaining walls.

Others were not so fortunate. Some of the towns that full-time Jersey Shore residents — along with part-timers and retirees who had finally realized their dreams of owning homes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean — called home barely exist, merely points on a map. An angry ocean pushed unimaginable amounts of water onto the land, overtaking the coastline I’ve come to know and love over the decades.

Seaside Heights’ Funtown pier in a watery grave in the Atlantic. Dozens of Mantoloking homes burned. Boats previously docked in the bayside marinas strewn on the bridges linking the barrier islands to the mainland — and crashed into houses, and in the middle of what were formerly streets, now sandy (Sandy!) and impassable.

Jersey guidos and guidettes lamenting the damage to Joey Harrison’s Surf Club. Homeowners left with nothing, not even mementos. Vacationers — even us “bennies” — feeling the pain, too.

Ortley Beach. Long Beach Island. Atlantic City. Sea Bright. Greetings, Asbury Park. Destruction, everywhere.

I wonder if, decades from now, my daughter’s memories of the Jersey Shore will be the same as mine. Will she remember Mommy and Daddy holding her on the little train ride on the Point Pleasant boardwalk? Will she have walked barefoot on the wooden boards, a rite of passage, daring them to pierce her little-girl skin with a splinter? She’ll likely never brave the oceanfront skyride at Seaside Heights, as Sandy laid waste to that, too.

It’s going to take a long time to rebuild. Afterward, it may not look like the Shore Points of our youth, the destination on the Turnpike and Parkway signs guiding us to our summer utopias. But it will still be our Jersey Shore. We’ll make it ours once again.

Jersey Strong.