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This Holiday, We Will Go Without Presents ....

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Guest blogger Sara: I can't believe the holidays are right around the corner! In all honesty, I don't feel as if we even got to enjoy the summer. The financial stresses and pressures our family felt this year were enormous, and took a huge toll on our lifestyle and relationship. I think the kids could feel the strain in the air -- there were definitely moments we almost lost it in front of them, but we managed to stay on one another's team (for the most part). That said, we will have to make some changes this holiday season which will directly affect the kids. Presents ....

family holiday
Though our two kids are really too young to fully understand Christmas, we have celebrated with gifts under the tree since they were born. There is something about seeing the tree with tons of presents underneath it .... But this year, due to me having been laid off because of the economy, and my husband's business being in the gutter, we've decided to give just one gift each -- a very small gift. So instead of the tree being filled with bright and colorful presents, it will be more sparse. We will fill up the time it would typically take to unwrap gifts to do other things: Have a family breakfast; go see the extended family; take a trip to the park and do what is truly important. 

Will we explain why our kids aren't getting tons? If they were a few years older, we would. We might say there were a lot more kids Santa had to get to this year, so we had to share. We might say something about appreciating many of the other things in our lives -- Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, the food in our fridge, our health, our dogs. Let's face it: We are more than blessed to be together and celebrate the holidays. Many are in hospitals, or going through real trauma, or have lost someone in their family, or have worse problems than not being able to afford a lot of gifts. 

Maybe we will start a precedent: that even when the finances are flowing, we won't continue to do a lot of gifts. Maybe we will make a permanent swap to just give one or two gifts, and that's it. Maybe we will try to reinforce the REAL things, and maybe that will be the biggest gift ....

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70 comments so far | Post a comment now
SMH October 25, 2010, 4:29 PM

Please write a follow up to this. I’ve tried in the past to “reduce” the size of our Christmas and have been poo-poo’d by extended family. Please let us know as the holidays get closer how this works out.

Anonymous October 25, 2010, 6:08 PM

Please fill their Christmas Stockings!

Jennifer October 25, 2010, 7:53 PM

We scaled back on Christmas for the past few years due to a completely different reason, well..sort of.

We bought less last year for our daughter b/c frankly, we didn’t want a lot of “stuff” just to have it. Once you’ve bought the play kitchen, bicycle, barbie dream house, you just really start to run out of room unless you live in a mansion.

Due to previous financial issues that we’re just now escaping from, we have a standing rule- for adults, one gift per couple (or person if they’re single), and for a couple of years we plainly said, we can’t afford to buy gifts, please don’t get us anything. Most listened, some didn’t, but they can’t say they weren’t warned that gifts would not be forthcoming.

You’ve got to do what is best for you and your family regardless of what anyone- and that includes extended family- thinks.

Jennifer October 25, 2010, 8:24 PM

Oh, and to SMH who got poo-poo’d. Believe me, we did too. We decided that we can’t control them, but we CAN control how we spend our money and they have no business trying to tell us otherwise. In fact, DH got more irritated than me and simply told them if they gave us any grief over it, we would simply stay home and let them have their whinefest alone. My parents were totally understanding, his..not so much.

Kristen October 25, 2010, 10:25 PM

I think this is great. We have never done lots of gifts, I feel it’s a waste. Our children only receive one gift for their birthday and just a few things for christmas. Nothing big, nothing spectacular(at least to anyone else) and our children’s lives are full and happy. Hope to see more people do this.

Anonymous October 26, 2010, 5:15 AM

I agree, stockings are important. My husband usually makes up a stocking for me and I do one for him.

I don’t know about other people, but I used to gets loads at Christmas when I was a kid. The thing is, though, my mum used to use it to buy me, my brother, and my sister the things she thought we needed - pyjamas, dressing gowns, things for school like pencils and pencil cases, jumpers, slippers, bath stuff…you get the idea. There would be toys and things as well, one big thing usually with smaller things around it, but the bulk was stuff that she decided we needed. Unfortunately we’re all winter babies too and we’d only get one or two things for birthdays. This meant that, besides clothes, we wouldn’t get new stuff throughout the year. No more toys, videos or anything else. Christmas was the year’s stocking up time.

As for gifts for other people, I’d suggest making something at home and handing that out to anyone you’d like to give a gift too. Things like truffles are easily made at home, the kids can help, and different flavours can be added just by rolling them around in coconut or crushed nuts. The cost to you is the indegrients and a pretty bag or box. Give, say, a batch of eight to each person, and that’s a fairly economical way of doing it.

Anya October 26, 2010, 5:22 AM

Growing up, we NEVER got presents. We baked cookies, had lots of family dinners, but no crazy presents. Some little stocking stuffers and sweets, but that’s it. Presents were for birthdays.

Anonymous October 26, 2010, 5:25 AM

Chocolate truffles, not the mushroom. That would be really expensive.

Anon October 26, 2010, 2:12 PM

If your children are small enough, you can get lots of little gifts at consignment stores and thrift shops. They’ll pay more attention to how many gifts than to how new they are.

You can also spend lots of time with them making things to give to other people.

Sara October 26, 2010, 3:40 PM

We started this last year. There was some push back initially, but this year everyone agreed it was definitely the way to go! We bought small gifts for all of the little kids in the family, and the adults exchanged stockings only. It saved HUNDREDS of dollars, and everyone was a lot less stressed. We also instituted a homemade-only white elephant gift exchange with my Dad’s extended family. It was so fun to see how creative everyone could be.

Shanon October 26, 2010, 4:28 PM

This year instead of buying for extended family we have decided to do an ornament exchange. Each adult who wishes to participate buys an ornament and wraps it like a white elephant gift. Then we will play a game or draw numbers to chose which one we’ll take home. Ornaments aren’t expensive and everyone will have something to cherish for years to come. If it goes well this year, we plan on making this a new family tradition. So if we travel we’ll be able to pick ornaments out way in advance and have a greater chance of finding something unique.

KS October 26, 2010, 4:50 PM

Good for you guys. We do a scaled down Christmas. Not a one gift but they each get just a few then a family gift of craft supplies or what not. We don’t break the bank and our children love the morning just as much as the next guy. Your children will love the day of attention just as much as the appreciate the gift they do receive.

Gibber October 26, 2010, 4:58 PM

SMH & Jennifer, we were working our way out of debt thanks to Dave Ramsey. We told extended family we wouldn’t be exchanging gifts that year. I would have said before this that my in laws were the most unmaterialistic people on this earth. But I got temper tantrums instead. My MIL told me, “You ruined my holiday”.

Hannah October 27, 2010, 6:49 AM

Going without presents to downplay materialism is wonderful and commendable and will make for probably the best Christmas ever. However, if you’re doing it to save money, there are other ways. I have three kids (and one on the way) and we rarely spend more than 50 dollars on all three of them…and that includes presents, stocking stuff, wrapping paper, etc. That doesn’t mean they each get one little present and that’s it. Last year, the bottom of our tree was exploding (again, not very good if you’re trying to beat materialism…my family isn’t quite there yet.) Some things we bought new (from Dollar Tree, maybe, or a splurge at Walmart) but most things were used (in excellent condition.) Some we bought used from thrift stores (nothing more than a dollar or so each) or some were hand-me-downs that we wrapped up. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make Christmas magical. Which you already know, based on your article! There are two ways to do it without a lot of money. 1) Buy/give used items. 2) Don’t buy presents at all. Kudos to you and yours for what is sure to be a magical Christmas!

Myssnoma November 1, 2010, 1:22 AM

The last two years have been extremely hard for my family. I have older children and last year if it had not been for a Secret Santa the school held and gave them gifts they would have had nothing under the tree. This year it is looking the same. Times are very tough but we can be thankful for having a roof over our head which many others will be spending Christmas on the street, in a car, or in a homeless shelter. Those are the ones I worry about. I hope all families take the time to be thankful this holiday season for the things that they perhaps take for granted.

Nelly November 1, 2010, 7:33 AM

Give our planet a gift this Christmas by purchasing low-cost, environmentally-friendly Christmas wrapping paper

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