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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