If you have a toddler-through-elementary-school-aged child, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Elf on the Shelf tradition. Because I don’t own the accompanying book (more on that later), I don’t know the exact details, but the gist is that Santa sends an elf to spy on a child during the holiday season. The elf appears by magic, which is lost anyone touches him, and he causes mischief around the house during the night. This much I get. What I don’t get is the price tag. Between the presents, travel, cooking, cards, decor, etc., the holidays are expensive. Since I’m known for being cheap frugal, I decided I was unwilling to shell out the nearly $60 for two elves to come and mess up my already messy house. But who am I to say no to Christmas magic? Enter Jingle and Noel: our bargain elves.

As my cousin said, "These elves are cheap because they only report to the mall santas." Maybe true.

As my cousin said, “These elves are cheap because they only report to the mall santas.” Maybe true. Please don’t tell my kids. 😉

I didn’t want my kids to be the only kids who weren’t lucky enough to have elves visit their home. Seriously all the kids are talking about what their elf has been up to lately. “My elf was eating the cereal!” “My elf brought me cocoa!” “My elf brought me a letter from Santa!” If you enjoy watching Christmas movies, as we do, you’ll see that the elves all look different. In my opinion, that fancy elf is mildly creepy. I picked these two up at our local Children’s Museum for a mere $3.50 each. They have velcro hands, and are roughly the size of the “real” elf on the shelf.

They arrived during the night on December 1st, hanging from the curtain rod in the dining room. The look on my sons’ faces when they noticed them at breakfast was truly priceless. My five year old leaped in the air, gasped, and shouted, “THERE ARE ELVES UP THERE!!!” It was truly worth the $7. Because mommy is too cheap for the book mommy loves a challenge, they delivered a card to each boy with this poem, written by yours truly inside:

Hi there, boys, I’m happy to be here!

Santa thought you needed an elf to be near,

To watch how you behave each day

So he’d know if he should come your way.

He sent me by magic to your home

With my elf brother so we wouldn’t be alone.

When nighttime comes we explore your house

And throw some parties, but we’re quiet as a mouse.

If you touch us our magic will disappear

So Santa said “Don’t touch!” — you hear?

Please remember to be good

And behave the way you know should.

Santa is watching all the time,

That’s why he sent us to you with this rhyme!

And there you have it. Our elves are hard at work leaving evidence of their nighttime mischief each morning for the boys to find. So far, they’ve hung streamers from the bookshelves, drawn (with dry erase markers) on our framed family pictures, and hung wrapping paper on the front door. We’re having a great time with this new-to-us tradition. I told the boys that sometimes, if the elves catch you doing something really great and helpful, they leave you a surprise. I’m still waiting for the elves to catch them doing that, but that’s a story for another day. 😉 So if you like the idea of this tradition but can’t bear to spend any more money than necessary this holiday season, consider a DIY Elf on the Shelf, or as we affectionately call them, the Elf on the Budget.

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