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How to have a very merry Christmas with kids for $200 or less—seriously

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For as long as I can remember I’ve started to get excited about Christmas as soon as the weather began to cool and the leaves began to turn. I’ve always loved the sparkly lights and the at-home coziness of the holiday season, but the day itself has taken on a new significance now that I have children.


Over the past few years I’ve loved seeing my son’s eyes light up as he opened his presents and, each year, wooed by holiday ads and the thought of my child’s smile, I’ve ended up spending a lot more than I intended.

This year, out of necessity, I’ve decided I’m doing things differently.

Since last Christmas, my husband and I have had a baby, taken a partially-paid maternity leave and an unpaid paternity leave, bought a new home and started our older son at a full time preschool. We’ve also made some intentional decisions about how we want our children relate to money.

The average American family is planning to spend an average of $983 for gifts this holiday season. But they don’t have to.

This Christmas, we’ve decided to opt out of going above and beyond and, instead, stick to a strict $200 budget for our little family. If you’re considering (or being pushed by circumstances) towards a budget Christmas, here’s how we have an amazing holiday together—without spending much.

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The Baby

The baby will receive gifts this year mainly because it would seem suspicious for Santa not to bring him anything. As a 13-month-old, his interests are limited: he enjoys napping, nursing and getting into the kitchen cabinets. Under the tree he’ll find:

A television remote: $7

Again, not a very Instagrammable gift, but something that I know my child will love. As of now my tot totes around our real TV remote, come Christmas time he’ll have one of his very own.

A soft duck: $25

My baby is the classic second child, born in the same season as my first, he has hand-me-down everything. Almost all of my baby’s possessions, from books to clothes to toys were once used by my first. As my babe enters the phase of his life when he might become attached to a comfort object, I plan to get him a brand new and very soft stuffed duck.

A large ball: $4

A big fan of chasing and rolling, my baby will be unwrapping a brand new ball on Christmas morning.

Baby total: $36

The Preschooler

A personally curated art kit: $20.00

My preschooler loves art and, while the quality of the supplies might matter to a more seasoned artist, I’ve found that my boy simply loves the feel of paint on his fingers and the sensation of cutting paper with “real scissors.”

For less than $20, I’ve created an on-the-go art box that my boy can haul around the house and explore over the next few months. The art kit includes the box itself ($5.99) a pack of construction paper ($3.99), 3 mini-sets of paint ($2.99) a pack of paintbrushes ($1.99), markers ($2.99) and 2 pairs of silly scissors ($1.99).

A pair of character pajamas: $19.99

Pajamas are a practical gift that are also incredibly fun. My son is a big Daniel Tiger fan so he’ll be getting a trolley adorned set under the tree this year.

An E.T. Poster: $7.99

This past summer my son stayed a weekend with his grandparents and, despite our Daniel Tiger only decelerations, my parents gave in to nostalgia and let my son watch E.T. Ever since, he’s been obsessed. This Christmas he’ll be getting an E.T. poster to hang next to his bed.

A kids wheelbarrow from the neighborhood list serve: $10

While we buy a lot of our children’s clothes and supplies second-hand we typically shop new for toys simply because it can be really hard to find what you want. This year we started looking early and scored an almost-new wheelbarrow that my boy will love.

A set of pre-cut 2x4’s: $8

My son loves to build in the backyard and, as un-instagrammable as plain old 2x4s are, I know my boy will be thrilled to have something he can use to construct.

Two books: $12

As an avid reader, my son will be more than happy to receive a couple of new books he can read with me or my husband and that he can flip through as he drifts off to sleep.

A “movie night” bundle: $2

At our house, movie nights are a real treat. This Christmas we’ll be gifting my son a movie night by wrapping up a bag of microwave popcorn, a hand drawn movie ticket and a pack of Sweedish Fish.

A flashlight: $2

While a flashlight might not seem exciting to a grown up, to a preschooler it’s the key to after-dark adventure. I know my son will be thrilled opening up this gift and look forward to hours spent reading under the covers and creating shadow-puppet shows on his bedroom wall.

Preschooler total: $82

The mom and dad:

While it’s always nice to receive a little something, my husband and I typically buy what we need for ourselves and aren’t big spenders. This year, because we had a few major expenses, we’re opting out of getting each other anything big and, instead opting for a few small gifts.

A Handprint ornament for each child: $6

We love honoring our kids and plan to make handprint ornaments as gifts to each other. In the future I’m sure we’ll look back at their tiny hands and wonder how our sons ever used to be so small.

Two $10 Chipotle gift cards: $20

Throughout the week my husband and I each pack our lunch for work. Giving each other gift cards is really giving the gift of being lazy one evening and skipping the chore of packing lunch.

A gift card to the movie theater $26

Date nights are hard to come by in our house but, because we have full time childcare for both of our kids, afternoon dates are a little more possible. A gift card to the movie theater will give us the chance to sneak out of work a couple of hours early and head to a matinee showing.

Assorted teas: $15

My husband enjoys hot tea each evening and, this year, I’ll shop for an assortment of teas he may not yet have tried yet.

Assorted chocolates: $15

As the chocolate lover of the family, I’m counting on my husband to pick up a few nice truffles from the local chocolate shop.

The mom and dad Total: $82 (split)


Holiday Cheer (free)

While presents are fun, we all know that the holidays are really about spending time with the people we love the most.

This winter, we’ll work hard to create holiday magic without breaking the bank by planning ahead and engaging the resources we already have. As the holiday’s approach we’ll:

Listen to holiday music

Nothing says “Christmas” like the jingle of familiar music. This year we’ll sing along to the classics on our favorite Pandora station as we wrap gifts, bake cookies and decorate our tree.

Check out the local lights

Some of my favorite childhood memories involved peering at Christmas lights from the back of my parent’s car as we cruised around town and sipped on vanilla milkshakes. This year, I’ll map out the best displays in town, suit my sons up in their pajamas and take a long cozy ride.

Create homemade holiday cards

While professionally printed holiday cards can be pricy, my family has enough art supplies lying around to create beautiful, homemade cards I’ll be proud to send out. This year I’ll let my preschooler get in on the fun by helping me paint, draw and craft our holiday notes.

Cook our holiday favorites

As the holidays approach I’ll be pulling out my grandmothers recipe cards and baking my way though her favorites. Engaging seasonal recipes won’t cost us any more than our regular groceries and will ensure our boys have cozy memories of their favorite holiday foods.

Watch the classics

This year, most popular cable channels will be showing a variety of classic holiday movies. While I’ve seen most of the classics at least a few times, I’m looking forward to watching the joy spread across my child’s face as he watches one of my old favorites.

If your family is interested in opting out of going overboard, consider setting a limit that seems reasonable and sticking to it.

In our family, the keys to our shopping success have been focusing our spending on our kids, selecting gifts that will make our kids happy (even if they don’t appear on any top-toys list) and choosing not to compare our gift piles with those of other families.

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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After quite a wait (he was born last week) Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have finally revealed their baby boy’s name and it isn’t what the internet was expecting.

While Kim had previously hinted at the name Robert, after her late father and her brother, the couple went with a name that makes sense given Kanye’s new Sunday Services.

Baby number four for the Kardashian-Wests is called Psalm West, his mom announced via Instagram.

Psalm is the fourth child for Kim and Kanye, who are already raising 5-year-old North, 3-year-old Saint and 1-year-old Chicago.

Welcome to the family Psalm!

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Back in the day, when I saw my mom sporting a fanny pack, I cringed. I was a tween, and my mom was utterly embarrassing with her nylon belt bag. Flash forward a couple of decades and as I juggle four kids at a playground while my tote keeps slipping off my shoulder, I find myself thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, my mom was onto something."

And I'm not the only one. That's right friends, fanny packs are BACK. Why? Well, for celebs and fashion-types, it's because everything that was once old must always be reincarnated.

But for us mamas, there is one simple resounding answer: The bag is incredibly convenient. It allows us to have our hands free—to, ya know, change a diaper or put a bandage on a knee—and it also forces us to pare down the litany of items we'll throw into our purses before we head out the door. Like, those ten extra snacks or a juice box or a coloring book — the items that result in your purse suddenly weighing 50 pounds.

Oh, and this just in: You can also sling a fanny pack around your body, now. We've got options!

Is it the ultimate mom bag? Listen, we're not going to say it is. But we're also not going to say it's not. Catch our drift? And if you see yourself in a mirror while sporting your new belt bag, we dare you not to start singing, "I'm too sexy for… my fanny pack."

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Shop our favorite patterns and styles below, some of which start as low as 6 bucks.

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack, $85.00

Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack

This just in: We all need more neoprene in our lives! We're loving the yellow lace design detail, and the fact that this one has a key clip and card holder inside, too.

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Pam & Gela Leopard Print Belt Bag, $105.00

Pam & Gela Leopard Print Belt Bag

We're just going to say it: One can never have too much leopard in their closet. This one will definitely spice up your daily jeans and t-shirt outfit.

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Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Belt Bag, $30.00

Herschel Supply Co. Fifteen Belt Bag

Durable? Check. Fun colors? Check. Cute Herschel logo badge on the front? Check.

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Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L, $38.00

Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag 1L


Yes, you need a sporty fanny pack, too. This one is perfect when you're heading to Saturday morning yoga.

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Sun Squad Cooler Fanny Pack, $6.00

Sun Squad Fanny Pack Cooler Grapefruit

A insulated fanny pack that keeps snacks cool? Amen!

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State Crosby Fanny Pack, $42.00

State Crosby Fanny Pack

Proof that fanny packs can be uber-hip (and sleek!) at the same time.

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No Boundaries Fanny Pack, $5.97

No Boundaries Fanny Pack

This sweet-pea pattern screams, "Spring!" and at this price, we might buy two.

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Lola Los Angeles Moonbeam Belt Bag, $28.00

Lola Los Angeles Moonbeam

We're loving the nylon fabric and cool Lola badge on this one, which also comes in black, red and maroon.

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Tee Shirt and Jeans Janie Fanny Pack, $11.99

Tee Shirt and Jeans Janie Fanny Pack

This one had us at pompoms. Oh, and that price. Sold!

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MZ Wallace Metro Belt Bag, $145.00

MZ Wallace Metro Belt Bag

Moms everywhere love MZ Wallace for their crazy parenting-friendly totes, and turns out they make an equally utilitarian belt bag in a variety of fun hues and patterns.

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Gucci Ophidia Small Suede Belt Bag, $1,390.00

What's that? You only wear designer bags? Fear not, they've adapted to the fanny pack trend (except they refer to the style as a "belt bag,") and this Gucci stunner will transition seamlessly from the park to date night.

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Clare V. Perforated Leather Fanny Pack, $299.00

Clare V. Perforated Leather Fanny Pack

The epitome of cool-girl bag brands, Clare V. has brought its chic aesthetic to the fanny pack category, and we couldn't be happier about that. We adore the perforated leather of this bag, as well as the high-contrast zipper.

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Jansport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack, $17.00

Jansport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack

If we're going to go the fanny pack route, we might as well go the whole way, right? Right. And nothing screams "90s!" like a Jansport bag. The good news is they haven't raised their prices too much in the past two decades.

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Nike Benassi Just Do It Fanny Pack Slide Sandal, $50.00

Nike Benassi Just Do It Fanny Pack Slide Sandal

Okay, okay, this isn't a true fanny pack per se. It's better! It's actually two amazing '90s trends packed into one perfect product. We give you... the fanny pack slide!

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

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As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

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If you've ever shopped at Vineyard Vines you know two things. One, it's simply adorable. Like, the stuff that Nantucket dreams are made of. Stripes, checks, plaids and pinstripes in soft pastel hues for the entire family. Even the dog.

And second, you know that in order to achieve such a crisp, cool East Coast vibe that will look oh-so-perfect in your professionally-shot family photo you'll have to pay. Nope, that wee whale logo is not cheap, folks. How much are we talking? In the range of $50 for a boys button-down shirt or $70 for a girls madras dress (to be fair, it does have flutter sleeves and holy cannoli it might just be worth the price tag!). The good news is that we can verify the quality is top notch—my two sons regularly receive my nephews' hand me downs and even after being worn by four boys, they're still in top-notch condition.

Needless to say, for those of us with a penchant for prep on a tighter clothing budget, the news of Target's Vineyard Vines collaboration was music to our ears. We've actually tried the product and we're drooling... over the styles, the quality and the prices! Comprised of more than 300 pieces, the collection is priced from $2 to $120, with most of it costing below $35.

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Let's say it together, friends: Yassss!

Check out our favorite pieces for the whole family below.

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Sleeveless Ruffle Tie Waisted Midi V-Neck Dress

Price: $35

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Vineyard Vines for Target Baby Ruffle School of Whales Sleeveless Bodysuit

Vineyard Vines for Target Baby Ruffle School of Whales Sleeveless Bodysuit

Price: $12

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Vineyard Vines for Target  Boys' Short Sleeve Polo Shirt

Vineyard Vines for Target  Boys' Short Sleeve Polo Shirt

Price: $16

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Vineyard Vines for Target Men's Striped Swim Trunks

Vineyard Vines for Target Men's Striped Swim Trunks

Price: $25

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Vineyard Vines for Target Girls' Striped Scoop Neck Romper

Vineyard Vines for Target Girls' Striped Scoop Neck Romper

Price: $20

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Vineyard Vines for Target Toddler Boys' 1/4 Zip Pullover Sweatshirt

Vineyard Vines for Target Toddler Boys' 1/4 Zip Pullover Sweatshirt

Price: $16

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Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Blue One-Piece Swimsuit

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Blue One-Piece Swimsuit

Price:$35

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Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Women's Gingham Long Sleeve Shirtdress

Vineyard Vines for Target Women's Women's Gingham Long Sleeve Shirtdress

Price: $35

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Vineyard Vines for Target Throw Blankets & Pillows

Vineyard Vines for Target Throw Blankets & Pillows

Price: $25-$30

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Vineyard Vines for Target Pet Accessories

Vineyard Vines for Target Pet Accessories

Price: $6-$11

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