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A New Twist on Christmas Gift-Giving (Great for Tight Budgets)


It’s Christmas and this year is one of those “fun” years when finances are tight and every penny is budgeted. Neat.

I faced this same dilemma last year. As someone who loves to buy presents, I was discouraged that the prices of the gifts my teens want keeps increasing as they get older. My budget just doesn’t stretch the way it used to.

But then when two of my children told me they don’t really care about gifts anyway, I had a stroke of creative insight that changed the way I approach gift-giving. “Of course they don’t care about gifts that much,” I thought. “It’s not their love language.”

If you’re not familiar with The 5 Love Languages, let me give a brief synopsis. The book, written by Dr. Gary Chapman, suggests that there are five ways we express love and want to be loved. The five love languages are:

  1. Words of affirmation: receiving verbal and written praise and affirmation.
  2. Acts of service: being served and helped.
  3. Receiving gifts: (This is mine one hundred fold.) receiving presents. This one can be misunderstood because it’s not about something expensive or fancy; it’s truly the thought that counts.
  4. Physical touch: physical affection. This is my husband’s love language. Just sitting near him on the couch and holding hands reminds him that I am here for him.
  5. Quality time: I used to think that quality time was about being together. Turns out a key to this love language is feeling like you’re the only one in the room.

According to Dr. Chapman, each person leads with two of the five. In my home only two of us feel loved through gifts, which means that four people in my family genuinely don’t care about presents under the tree.

Armed with this knowledge, my goal became to give gifts that honor my family’s diverse love languages while keeping the spending down.

Giving To The Love Language:

First I asked myself the following: if the goal of gifting was for my family to know they are loved extravagantly, then how could I get creative and think past traditional presents? Here’s what I came up with:

For my 16-year-old, Bethany, who loves words of affirmation, I created a “wall of words.” I discovered all of her favorite book quotes, Bible verses, and song lyrics and made posters for an empty wall in her room.

For my son (a quality time hog), I made “Caleb coupons.” These were redeemable for activities together like fishing, kayaking, and dinner out. None of the activities were expensive, but they all lasted between two and four hours.

Crystal, our 22-year-old, likes to feel special and be with us, so we made her some favorite treats.

And Kaleigh, who LOVES gifts like her mom, got a selection of meaningful gifts, like a t-shirt from her favorite book series.

The results? My kids LOVED everything. There weren’t any electronics, games, or expensive gadgets in the mix, and truthfully they didn’t care.

Including My Kids In The Fun:

This year I want to take last year’s gifting success to a new level by involving the kids. Here’s the plan: they have to come up with gifts for each other that show how much they love them. Since we talk a lot about love languages in our home, we reviewed how each of us feel loved, and then I gave a few simple parameters:

  • The gifts don’t have to cost much.
  • They have to be thoughtful.
  • And the only “rule” is that they aren’t allowed to wait until the last minute.

For my teens, this plan also has the added benefit of reminding them why they love their siblings (who they fight with way too often!).

The budget might be tight this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t truly show each other love. Jesus came to Earth born in a stable to show us just how big and extraordinary love can be. He gave gifts, served the world, gave us all of his time, and shouted words of encouragement. Christ loved and loves everyone in just the right way.

This Christmas my hope is that we can remember that love is more important than anything else.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Karlene

    Thank you. Never thought about the love languages for my kids before.
    Some good ideas.

  • Lisa Linthicum

    Thank you for those very thought provoking ideas! A present doesn’t always mean a ‘thing you buy’. I’m not a person who likes gifts, so this really helped me to think about this! Thank God!

  • Karla

    Thank You for sharing. This year I am allowing my children to choose one gift that they really want. I am going to include the expressing my love to them in kind and thoughtful ways. Thank you again

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