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How cutting back on Christmas gifts has become a blessing

This year my family is cutting back on Christmas gifts. Though my husband and I usually like to get as much as we can for our two sons, we now find ourselves in a place where it just doesn’t make sense for a couple of reasons.

First, we recently moved abroad to Germany where we’ll be for the next two years, so buying a bunch of things means we’ll have more shipping expenses when we move back home.

Second, our kids are growing up and don’t always want what we pick out anymore. They’re developing their own interests and identities, and as a result, they want to have a say in what they wear or the type of things they play with.

This has left us in quite the predicament. Neither my husband nor I like the idea of giving our boys money for Christmas (okay, maybe we do a little because it's easy). Instead of having one card under the tree, we want them to have fun opening presents. That’s why we’ve been brainstorming some creative gift alternatives that will still excite our kids.

Here are three things our kids will be getting this Christmas…(don’t tell):

  1. Extra video game time. At our house, this is a valuable thing. My boys each get 20 minutes per day to play video games. This year they’ll be able to cash in “gift certificates” for more. Varying in size--some are an additional ten minutes, and some range up to 45 minutes--I’m sure they’ll bring smiles.
  2. Date night cards. These cards can be spent on a night out with one of us or the whole family. They can choose from dinner, a movie, bowling, and a few more things on a list we put together.
  3. Get-out-of-work-free cards. These can be used to get out of a certain chore for a week if they don’t want to do it.

It seems that new ideas creep into our minds each week, but these are the ones that have stuck. I like them because they’re simple, but also useful to my boys. I can see them getting excited about their gifts this year. Not only that, but these things will help redirect our focus as a family. Rather than focusing on the commercial side of the holiday, we’re giving ourselves and our boys more family time and time to do the things they love.

What other things would you add to my list? Share in the comments, and let’s help each other out.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Dolores

    Thank you for these tips. What I’ve done the last two years is a present for the whole family. And that is a movie, a book, a board game and a certificate to a restaurant.

  • Dolores

    Thanks for the tips. Great ideas. What I have done for the past two years is; a present for the whole family. That is a movie, a book, a board game, and a certificate for a restaurant.

  • Gail lawson

    I am a nana to 9 grandkids (7 ) in one family…I am constantly told by the mom’s they hate clutter..( although the boys have a millionlegos and get more every year!! Can’t figure that out) I give disposable items so I stick to books, games, art supplies, throws..I really try to do a special activity with each of them for their birthday, nothing extravagant, breakfast out..they appreciate the one on one time.
    One year we had a newborn in Sept that died twice and spent months in the NIC unit…..I am retired and really dont need anything, trying to simplify my life.
    One day I was in a thrift store (I buy books cheap and donate to Christmas charity) I noticed a young man and his son (Not at all dressed for the cold weather properly) looking for kids shoes. The little boy like all the other kids was playing with toys, but Dad said no money for toys had to get a coat and warm shoes for him. I decided to ask the cashier to give the man two $50 bills and say someone wanted to help them have a nice Christmas.I was able to see his reaction from a distance and it warmed my heart greatly. I decided to watch for chances to give. I was eating in a grocery and saw a shabby elderly man devouring some fried chicken..I paid the cashier to buy him the biggest bucket of chicken with sides and a piece of pie and a gift card for groceries…once again I was able to see his reaction from a distance ( he cried and so did I). I think more than the gift they are so touched someone actually notices them and their need. Since the whole family was so stressed and focused on the survival of the baby and pitching in with many needs a large family has, I suggested we do small acts of kindness anonymously and share our stories at Christmas. I cannot explain the joy this brought to all of us… had great ideas…make cookies for police and firemen deliver Christmas day, gave cash and gifts to pastor to give to families struggling..I took the Mona few thrift shop gigs which they loved, we gave out free books in front of a thrift store, made a whole turkey dinner and delivered to women’s shelter, etc….the toddlers and preschooler still received small gifts but the older kids really enjoyed it and it opened their eyes to the real needs others have….it truly is better to give. I hope we and others will continue this tradition

  • DeeMarie

    I have a friend who gives her grandchildren money and takes them shopping at a grocery store. They love looking to fill their bags and see how close they can get to spending the exact amount. They bag their groceries and off they go to a homeless shelter, or some charity, where they give their gift of groceries. They learn all sorts of things from adding, spending, bagging, and most importantly, how to give. She says they love it and look forward to doing it every year! Yes, some are teenagers. Oh, and on their birthdays, she invites them to stay the weekend and bake, go to movies, do the things they like. These are great memories – something you cannot buy, and will be cherished in the years to come.

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