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Christmas Planning Part II: Our Christmas Gift Philosophy

It is very easy around the Holidays to get caught up in the "magic" of Christmas. And what could be more magical than a giant pile of presents under the tree, right? While this may paint a lovely picture, it can't always be the reality financially. And even if you can swing it for one year, it might set up an expectation or precedent for years to come. Years that might not be as abundant. In our family, we have decided to shift the focus as much as we can from getting and gifts, to giving, making memories, and traditions (more on that to come).  We still give gifts, but we have pared it down quite a bit to make it more manageable.

We have settled on giving our kids 4 presents each year, based around the following rhyme shared with me by a friend: "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." I can already hear your brains ticking, "Do you seriously only give your kids ONE TOY at Christmas?" Well, no. These are the four gifts from Mom and Dad. "Santa" brings each kid one toy and a game or activity (such as art/craft supplies, model building sets, puzzles, etc.) on top of the Mom and Dad gift. The larger or most wished for toy always comes from Mom and Dad because I want my kids to know that they came from me. I'm selfish that way. 

As an example, last Christmas my eldest received a B.B. gun (want), Nerf darts (we deemed this a need because his cousins shot all of our old ones over fences and lost the rest), new jeans (wear) and a book (read). From Santa he recieved a small remote control helicopter he has been asking for for 3 Christmases, and the game Battleship. If you feel the 6 presents is too many, you can always pare it down to fewer, we have just found that this is what works for us.

Why do we do it this way? Well, for one thing, Santa never has to miss our house. Our boys know that Santa brings one toy and something else special. On a lean year he might bring a moderate toy (like a something that might be found at the store in the $10-20 range) and a nice, new coloring book (maybe one they recently admired at the dollar store). And then Mom and Dad can make gifts from scratch using materials we have on hand (upcycled pajama pants, anyone? Or how about these "action figures" or "princess dolls"), or refurbish items from thrift stores. 

As parents, we also follow the same rhyme, only Santa usually brings us something to wear and something we need, while the something we want and something to read come from each other. Hubster doesn't enjoy reading as much as I do, so sometimes the something to read gets exchanged for a something to listen to or something to watch ;). 

If you have family members who send gifts for your family, put them under the tree as well. If you have relatives who send cash or gift cards, very young children will be more impressed by a package under the tree, so unless you are saving it for college, go ahead and use that cash or card to get them something, wrap it, and put it under the tree from whoever sent it. Teens and tweens might be more excited about gift cards and cash, but tape them to the bottom of a small box and wrap them up for under the tree as well.

We also encourage our children to make or buy gifts for eachother using their own money. The dollar store, yard sales (start early) and thrift stores are great places for kids to find something they can afford to give to their siblings. They can help to clean, fix up and wrap anything they buy.

Our stockings consist of an orange, maybe some in-shell peanuts, a couple candy canes, a large candy and a few small chocolates. Nothing major, and not too over the top because I don't like dealing with the sugar hang overs ;) . 

We like to try to keep things simple, and often make homemade gifts. We find that with fewer presents, we all seem to appreciate the gifts we do get more, and it also forces us as parents to be more thoughtful in our gift giving.

Up Next: Part III: Traditions and Making Memories

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