I've participated in the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoe box program for several years now. It's a tradition that I'm excited to share with G as he gets older, and with all of our future children. If you're not familiar with the program, here is how it works: you fill a shoe box (or boxes) with candy, small toys, toiletries, clothing, and other items for a child in a specific age group of your choosing. The boxes go to a collection site, and from there they're distributed to children in other countries, with the goal being "to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."
If you've ever assembled one of these boxes, you probably know how quickly the cost can add up. If you shop last minute for items, the cost can easily top $50 per box. Luckily, it's possible to participate in this worthy program without using an entire months' grocery allowance. The key is not waiting until the week before the boxes are due to start purchasing items. Here are a few simple ideas for putting together a shoe box without breaking your budget:
1. Use Trial Size
I've already shown you some of the travel-size items I've purchased for free or nearly nothing. Not only are these great because they're cheap, but they also allow you to include boring toiletry items without using up all the room you need for the fun stuff.
2. Plan Ahead
Do all of your shopping with an age range in mind. For instance, you probably won't want to include girl's sunglasses and men's socks in the same box, or put a brightly-beaded necklace with size large t-shirt. So instead of just purchasing anything that seems like a great deal, make a plan about what age and gender you want the box to be for.
3. Find a Partner
Samaritan's Purse suggests that you include $7 with each shoe box, to help offset the costs associated with shipping, handling, and distributing the boxes. If you prepare more than one box, this cost can add up- it may even be more than what you pay for the items you put in the box. Consider finding a coworker or family member to help you out. Maybe you know someone who would love to be a part of the Operation Christmas Child project, but simply doesn't have the time to shop for their own items. That person may be more than willing to cover the $7 per box as their contribution. It's a win-win!
4. Start Now
The best way to inexpensively fill your box is to start now. You can keep your eyes open for items you need whenever you go out shopping. By stockpiling items all year long, you can assemble quality boxes without spending a ton of money.
I strongly encourage you to think about participating in the program this year. It's a great way to make a lasting impact on a needy child, while also providing a great chance for your family to discuss helping others.