What are your children’s expectations for Christmas presents? Do they expect many Christmas presents under the tree and their every wish to be met? Do they expect a modest Christmas?
Believe it or not, the answer to this question doesn’t really depend on your kids; it depends on you. From the time your children are small, you set their expectations, and what you set by example is what they come to know as “normal” (until they get married and find that their partner has a different “normal” than they do, but that is another post).
If you have small children, think carefully about what expectations you want to give your children. Yes, retailers would prefer that you shop ’til you drop and give your credit card a work out, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are what some people do who have chosen to have a different Christmas celebration than retailers would prefer you have:
1. Give some new gifts, some used, and some homemade.
Amy Dacyczyn, the original Frugal Zealot and author of The Tightwad Gazette had six children to buy for. Each child got one new gift. Then, they got a few gifts that were used items that she had purchased at garage sales and thrift stores. She also made her children a few gifts. If I remember correctly, she spent $50 or under for each child. (Of course, this was 20 years ago, so accounting for inflation, she spent no more than $82 for each child in 2012 dollars.
While you might balk at the idea of giving garage sale gifts for presents, I can tell you that I followed Dacyczyn’s practices when I had my own kids, and some of our kids’ presents are nice finds that we got at garage sales. My oldest is 8, and he has yet to complain about it because it is what he expects. He still does get new presents, but there are used ones in the mix. (I like the term recycled better, though.)
2. Give a charitable donation instead of gifts.
Ann Voskamp, the blogger behind A Holy Experience, recounts that one Christmas Eve 10 years ago, her son asked her, “Why don’t we give up things so we can give to Jesus for his birthday?” The question radically changed Voskamp’s way of thinking, and from that year on, her family has foregone giving Christmas gifts to one another. Instead, each day during Advent they make a charitable donation using the money they would have spent on gifts.
This is a radical idea, to be sure, but it is the norm now for her family.
3. Only give 3 gifts.
Another idea based in Christian roots is to only give your children three gifts. Some do this because the Wise Men brought Jesus 3 gifts. Others take a spin on this and give their children three gifts–something they want, something they need, and something they can experience.
4. Meet needs as gifts.
Gifts don’t have to be all luxuries and things you want. When I was growing up, my parents’ money was extremely tight. I got some new clothes during the back to school season, but my winter clothes and sometimes even my uniform clothing or new backpack were all given as Christmas presents. I was always excited to get these things and never felt deprived. My mom told me a few years ago that she had to give gifts this way because money was so tight, but I never knew. This practice was normal for me.
Christmas gift giving was not always the extravaganza it is now. As an adult, I reread the Little House in the Prairie books, and I was struck by how happy Laura was to get her very own handmade tin cup and an orange for Christmas one year.
If you are a parent of small children, you can start your Christmas gift giving traditions now, and they don’t have to involve credit card debt you can’t pay off until March or April.
What is your favorite way to give gifts at Christmas?
img credit: South Granville Live on Flickr
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.