I am going out on a little bit of a limb with this, but here is my reasoning:
I have been pinching pennies for a long long time and I'm really good at living on 'nothing'. There are now hundreds of people out there who have no experience with this, and I think it's high time we banished shame from the equation and started helping each other live within our means, however small those means might be.
So,in light of that, a happy song for you:
This song was written and performed by my brother, Ben. I don't know the people who made the video, and it's not great, but it's the only online link to the song that I could embed here with my limited knowledge. (Note to Ben: Go to youtube and read the comments--people want to buy your song and don't know where to find it....).
I put it here because I like Ben's approach. If we can first take the shame from being poor, we can start to help each other have rich and full lives, and get the things we need, without being ashamed, regardless of how much cash we have or don't have.
I hesitate to do this for 2 reasons: One is I don't want to invite condemnation for myself or my husband because we don't make a lot of money. Part of the problem with admitting you are poor is that people immediately judge you. We are not lazy. We are not stupid or incompetent. In fact, Tim works 80 hour weeks and is quite respected in his field. Financial well-being is not indicative of personal values, strengths, usefulness to society, talent, skill, or righteousness, but it is treated as though it is.
The other reason is I don't want to be seen as a beggar. What I absolutely DO NOT want from this is pity or offers for charity. I'd be mortified. See, I'm not ashamed that I DO these things. I'm only ashamed that you might look down on me for doing so. So if I say I bought my child's shoes at Savers, don't offer to buy me some from the mall. Go buy some for your child at Savers, too, and if you see a pair that one of my kids or someone else's kids might like, go ahead and get them a gift. Remember, we're all in this together, and the point is not to incite pity, but to bear one another's burdens--and not by adding to their burdens by making them feel like a failure or a beggar.
So, in light of all that, I intend to start posting my tips on how we do things cheap, and will try to swallow my embarrassment at some of these in hopes that you or someone you know will find them helpful in trying economic times, and maybe take the edge off the stigma of poverty (since you really aren't alone in being poor.)
So....Penny Pinching Tips: Birthday presents
The packaging is often the ONLY thing that identifies an item as new. Small children don't care about the packaging on their birthday presents. Seriously, it just gets in the way of playing with a toy instantly. And small children also don't care about having things that nobody else has ever played with (only their parents care, and older children who have been taught to care).
So, to ease the financial hit of birthdays, we have the kids buy each other birthday presents at the dollar store (there's fun stuff there) and at thrift stores (books for a quarter? Stuffed toys for less than a dollar?).
Recently, we discovered the bagged toys at Savers.
Now, usually those bagged toys are horrendously expensive for what you're getting--a semi-random assortment of small items. BUT on Mondays at Savers, one colored tag is marked down to a dollar. Watch the colored tags and, on dollar day, buy bags of toys that your kids will like and then save them for your child's birthday. I do recommend you clean the toys (use hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol for hard toys, throw plushes in the laundry--most really are washable).
By buying bagged toys on dollar day, we got Benji 2 awesome balls and one of the best toy trains we've ever bought (and that's saying a lot--Caleb had dozens of trains) for 33 cents each.