Thursday, November 8, 2012

Christmas Series Part 1: Cutting Back on the Excess

In a society that has put an emphasis on "more, more more", Christmas seems to be no exception.  Sometimes I think we feel like we need to spend much more than necessary and the stores have made that easy for us by creating a longer shopping season.  If you go into some stores, you will find Christmas decorations on the shelves in July.  In fact, if you wait until closer to Christmas, you're likely to find it is all picked over and many items are gone.  Halloween has barely come and all of the stores are gearing up for the holidays.  Don't get me wrong.  I love shopping early and getting a deal, but there are times that I miss the day after Thanksgiving being the beginning of the season.  I used to fall into the trap of shopping early and having all of my gifts, but making last minute additions because I found a deal I just couldn't pass up.  Not this year!  

I tend to put a lot of thought into gift-giving for not only our children, but others as well.  I take the time to shop around for the best deal, mostly online, and this year we will be adding some DIY gifts as well.  It is fun to let the kids make a gift for their grandparents and I can't wait to get to work on those.  This year we have vowed to not carry any Christmas debt into the New Year.  We'll be paying as we go and looking forward to a non-existent credit card bill in January!   

Each year it feels that our kids receive more and more gifts (especially toys!) for Christmas.  While it's awesome that they have a lot to open, eventually many of the toys are forgotten and in reality it is kind of a waste.  I don't want our kids to have the expectation that they will receive an abundance of gifts every year, not only because circumstances could change, but because I don't want our children to become greedy and want for what they really don't need.  I think it makes receiving the items that they really want all that more special.

Obviously we are not the only people who buy gifts for our children.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all buy for them as well.  This year my mom and I have discussed cutting back on gifts many times.  My kids are young, so they will surely not miss a few gifts under the tree!  My husband and I have set a smaller budget for the kids this year and I am thrilled with what gifts we decided to purchase for the kids.  We decided to buy a few of their "wish list" gifts and also buy books from Scholastic and clothes on sale that they will need.  Mrs. Claus is an excellent sewer!   

Our older two had a few specifics they requested from Santa.  The Princess loves animals and has requested My Little Ponies, Zsu Zsu Pets, a DoodleBear and a Giraffe Dreamlite.  Many of these items are pretty inexpensive and I decided to split it up among us, my brother, and my husband's dad.  Some moms in one of my mom's groups recommended Calico Critters for little girls, so I looked into those and thought they would be perfect for my animal-loving girl.  Grandma is going to take care of that and it will be a surprise gift that I think will receive rave reviews!

My older son was even easier!  When I asked him what he wanted, he asked for a Notre Dame jersey, a Bears helmet, and a new microphone (he got one last year but it broke thanks to little brother).  He followed that up with "Santa can choose the rest!"  I thought this was awesome.  When I prodded him if he wanted any toys, he responded "No, I'm good!"  We decided to get the helmet and the microphone, while passing on the Notre Dame jersey to my mother-in-law, as they are big fans of Notre Dame.  He later requested a Notre Dame jacket, so I passed that along to my father-in-law.  In the past, I would have been more likely to pick it all up myself, but not anymore.  Spread the ideas around so we aren't just asking for gifts for to fill everyone's lists.  There are also a few items that he's mentioned along the way that he's forgotten about that my mom will get.  A black Derrick Rose jersey is one of those things and he will love it when he opens that.

The little guy is into drumming, so I found a small little drum set made by Vtech.  I am hoping he enjoys it as much as banging on my nice mixing bowls!  He's also into construction vehicles, so he is getting a cool excavator from us and a bulldozer from my mother-in-law.  When I am at a loss for him, I tend to suggest money to put in his college savings fund.  He's young and will appreciate his bank account someday!  

We also like to do a family gift.  Last year we gave the kids an inexpensive boom box.  Each kiddo received a CD that they would like and the older two got some books that came with CD's.  They are wonderful for rest time or just when they need a quiet break.  They have spent hours dancing to music and our radio has held up for the year!  Hopefully we'll be adding to the music collection, as I've suggested some new CD's to others.  This year we are planning to buy them the Nickelodeon Dance Wii game.  They all love to dance and it is supposed to be easy enough to follow along to.  Last year they received the Nickelodeon Fit Wii game and have loved it.  We aren't really into video games much, but something to get them moving on a cold or rainy day is always a bonus! 

When others ask what our kids want, I usually supply a list of books, puzzles, and appropriate clothing sizes making sure to note their current likes and favorite characters.  They are practical gifts that will get a lot of use.  Reading books is a favorite activity in our home, so we can never have enough!  I try to suggest books that reflect their current interests and are popular favorites among other families we know.  

I am a big believer in our kiddos using their creativity and imaginations.  Arts and crafts are very popular in our home, so we have suggested buying supplies to restock our cabinet.  They will provide hours of entertainment and definitely get used up.  This year I picked up a Halloween costume on clearance for each kid to add to our dress-up bins and it was a very inexpensive gift that will be fun and last awhile.  Anything to tap into those minds and pull out their own creativity! 

There are times when I feel like we try so hard to give our children so much of what they want, but is it really what's best for them?  If we take a step back and reel that in a bit, I think our children would be so much more grateful for what they do have.  Perhaps they will be upset, throw a tantrum, or pout, but it's a great life lesson.  You don't always get what you want, but in many cases less truly is more.  


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