Monday, November 17, 2014

Two Life Hacks to Make Buying Kids' Holiday Gifts Easier

I'd like to pretend that I can ignore the holidays for a few more weeks, but sadly I have to start thinking about them EVEN THOUGH IT'S STUPID AND I DON'T WANT TO. Why? Because 2 weeks ago (right around Halloween) the books arrived in the mail. Do you know the ones I'm talking about? The Toys R Us and Walmart and Target Christmas catalogues filled with crap my kids don't need and don't actually want. You know what else in now in full swing? The commercials. There are now more advertisements for useless, expensive, stupid than my small brain can handle.

I thought I'd share two ways I make the whole nonsense about Christmas shopping a bit easier and less expensive. I've written about all this stuff before, but not really here and in one post. So here's my tips - or "hacks" as we bloggers are now required to call them - all in one spot.

Hack 1:
The week all the advertising and PR crap start (so like - now),  I ask my kids to write down what they want for Christmas. I make them really think about it. Then I take the lists and hide them. Right after Thanksgiving, I ask them to make another list. By this time, their choices have been influenced by their friends, what they see on TV, etc.

Then I compare the lists. Whatever is on both lists is what I consider actually buying because I know it's what they actually want. I pick the the three things that I can reasonable afford and share the other items with the grandparents and Santa Claus (who still comes to my house, God bless his jolly old soul).

Hack 2:
A couple of years ago, we explained to our kids that from now on, they would each be getting only three gifts from us. A lot of parents do this apparently, and we were late to the bandwagon. Some have a process like: one thing you want, one thing you need, and one thing to wear.

Some tie it to a religious tradition like my buddy Glennon at Momastery who explains (and I'm paraphrasing here because I'm too lazy too look up her exact quote): "Jesus only got three presents on his birthday - gold, frankincense and myrrh. So please don't tell me you expect more presents than Jesus got on his own birthday."

I do this not because of Jesus but because I am not in the business of (1) raising ungrateful small people with unreasonable expectations or (2) going into debt every Christmas. And there's a third reason!

The older my kids get, the less stuff they ask for (which is great), but the more expensive that stuff is. Example - my kindergartner wants marshmallows, a Barbie Flipping Pup Pool, and ceramic horses to paint (that cost about $2 at the craft store). My sixth grader wants a smartphone, to go to NYC to see a play on Broadway sometime this year, and a nice pair of black leather boots. So that's a delta of about $2,000 between the two wish lists and NO, my oldest will not be getting what she asked for (even though I would like all those things and I'm actually DYING to see Les Mis).

So that's what we do:
  • We only buy each kid three gifts, and 
  • We make them fill out two wish lists a couple of weeks apart to make sure we spend our money on what they actually want.
Hope this is helpful and not annoying!
xo, Lydia

PS:  We also have a third tradition. Every week between Thanksgiving and Christmas we do something to help people in need or to serve our community. You can read about some ideas for that right here if you're interested.

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  1. I had a friend tell me about her family tradition, which we have since adopted:
    One gift you want
    One gift you need
    One gift you will wear
    One gift you need
    My kids know this now, sets realistic expectations, and it helps them create their lists appropriately. This is separate from their stockings and santa gift :-)

  2. is it bad that I still don't ask? My oldest is 3.5. She just gets whatever we think she wants/needs. I do like your idea of the 2 lists though I like to be done my shopping by very early December.

    I also hide all the catalogs. And by hide I mean "put straight into the giant recycling bin in the garage."

  3. I LOVE the two list idea. That is brilliant. I'll start that tradition this year. We have been focusing on gifts that are experiences, instead of things. Like for my son's first birthday last year, instead of getting him toys (he's the 4th child - we already have enough toys) we got a family pass to the zoo. He has LOVED it, and best of all, I don't have to find a way to organize even more toys in our playroom. And my 5th grader would LOVE to go see a show on Broadway, but it's not in our budget either. BUT taking her to most of the local high school and community theater productions is. So she got a gift certificate to go see 3 musicals for her birthday this year. Trying to figure out how to translate "Experiences" into Christmas gifts now.

    Thanks for keepin' it real around here! I think we lead parallel lives - mine just has less wine and more chocolate. :D

  4. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read

  5. And then there was the year that even one gift was out of the question, and then I received a gift card to Target in the mail!! I know you're not officially doing the helpahookerout thing anymore, but I want you to know it changed my life and now that we're not living on the razor edge of the checkbook anymore, I am the gift card fairy. Thank you, RFM!!

  6. Not having cable made a huge difference in what and how much my kids asked for. I take my kids to stores to get ideas. Works wonderfully! This year, Santa gets to bring what I normally wouldn't buy in addition to the traditional books he leaves. From us, they are getting things they need for sports, camping and handicrafts (wood working tools, knitting, etc). Oh and games. All things that will be used together

  7. Every year I tell myself that less is more for my kids. Because on Christmas they literally get tired of opening gift after gift when they just want to stop and play with one! But I start shopping early, then I smell Christmas in the air after Thanksgiving and get into the shopping spirit all over again. I need to try doing only 3 or 4 gifts this year that I know they will love and actually ask for.




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