This post is 1 of 3 in my Simplify The Gifts Mini-Series
If you’ve decided to “go simple” in gift giving this year, it’s good to have a game plan on how to do that. Laying out a plan makes all the difference in follow-through. Here are some tips to get you started:
We need a realistic expectation of gifts.
We want to please our children. But we’ve got to be honest with them. Let your kids know what to expect for gifts this year. Don’t feel guilty about “ruining the surprise”; you are doing them a favor. When we expect very specific things and when life doesn’t meet our expectations, we have to work through heavy emotions. If you can give your kids a realistic view of what they can expect for gifts (and stick with it!) — while I can’t guarantee contentment during the gift exchange — it should curb the major disappointments when they don’t get all they imagined. Why won’t they get all they imagine? Because this year we are giving less.
Gifts are such a sensitive topic. There are so many unspoken rules about gifting:
- I have to reciprocate every gift I receive.
- Once you start, you have to exchange gifts with that person forever.
- Gifts should be close to the same amount in monetary value every year.
- My gift needs to be similar monetary value to their gift.
- If you gift to one neighbor/teacher/co-worker, you need to gift to all of them.
But these rules are self-imposed. If we are overwhelmed by all the shopping, wrapping, and gift exchanging that we expect of ourselves, isn’t it safe to assume that other people feel the same way? Let’s give ourselves permission to end excess.
Most people purchase gifts and it can be the most stressful and time-consuming aspect of the holiday. So, let’s start by organizing a gift list. Click here to get your gift list PDF
Set a budget.
Having a set amount of money to spend on your holiday celebration will relieve stress by providing realistic expectations for what you can afford to spend.
You may need to adjust your allocations. Setting boundaries for yourself while planning how to best use your dollars will help avoid being caught off guard when you get your bank or credit card statement. It’s absolutely no fun to spend money over the holidays while dreading the bills you know are coming in January.
After you set your budget, call a family meeting to discuss how many gifts you want to exchange within your immediate family. The number is up to you. Our family has decided to give one high-quality item per person. But each family is going to be different, and that is okay. The important thing is for everyone to have the same expectations of the gift exchange.
If your family is in the habit of giving large quantities of gifts, you may choose to make the change gradually, perhaps giving five gifts per person instead of the typical 20, and then reevaluate before the following year. Another possibility is to discuss your gift budget with the kids and say, “We normally spend X amount of money per child. This year, instead of giving a bunch of gifts, I want you to think about what you would really enjoy for that dollar amount.”
Some families may even decide to take trips instead of having gift exchanges.
So depending on your budget, you can say, “This year instead of exchanging gifts, how about we do a five-day vacation in Hawaii?” Who would say no to that?!
How you decide to simplify the gift process is up to you and your family. I do encourage you to talk with the kids (unless they’re too young to really understand) and have them participate in the decision. It’s easier for kids to accept something if they are the ones who decided to do it. Just like adults, they rankle at mandates but are comfortable participating in boundaries of their own making.
As parents, our attitude about simplifying the holidays is key.
Kids take their cues from us, so if we feel guilty or uncertain about change, don’t be surprised if the children push in just the right way to amplify those feelings. When you sit down with your children and talk about what they can expect in gifts this holiday season, talk about your “why” behind simplifying the holidays. Bring them into the conversation and decision, like we talked about, and be firm that they may not hint, manipulate, or give guilt trips if they’re feelings change.
Be very frank with your children about the way they are communicating. You are laying the foundation of good communication skills that they will use the rest of their lives. If they are hinting or trying to guilt, say, “By the way you phrased that, you are trying to make me feel guilty about this and that is not acceptable.” Be open to discussion, but don’t allow people to emotionally manipulate you.
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