How To Have A Holly Jolly, Budget-Friendly Christmas — With Fewer Gifts!

Did you blink? It’s Christmas time, again. Time flies! (And I forgot to glue my eyelids open.)

Nowadays, it’s no surprise that the twinkle in a child’s eye comes from shiny new smart devices and fancy brand name items.

Not from sitting on the floor with their younger siblings as they squeal with joy; not from their mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls that she’s made every Christmas morning for the past 20 years; and not even from their little dog weaving in and out of the pile of used wrapping paper. 

It’s just the world we live in.

Get this: my grandma and her sisters got apples and oranges in their stockings every Christmas when they were little girls. It was the highlight of their year.

OK, OK. The times have changed. So what?

That’s all to say that I had this little nagging voice in my head all year to try something a bit different with my family this Christmas; a new tradition, if you will. After the crazy whirlwind of a 2020 we had, I think it was much needed.

And when I say “nagging,” I mean it in every sense of the word. Even as I’m writing about this topic right now, I can’t deny that it’s FUN to receive lots of gifts! It’s FUN to get your kids a sleigh load of toys! And it’s FUN to watch someone’s face light up as they open each present!

…But mama, when I say I felt like Rudolph’s backside after spending so much money… I know you know that feeling, too. Christmas time is tough!

And newsflash: it shouldn’t be. If the holiday season isn’t the only time you struggle with your finances, learn how to gain control with my 14-day course!

I wanted to bring thoughtfulness and intention back into our home. I wanted to invite them inside, drape them with a blanket and sit them down by the fire. I wanted to make them each a nice cup of hot chocolate and apologize for not being in touch for a while. 

I just couldn’t stand the idea of buying (oops, I mean Santa buying) my daughter lots of useless little toys as my “intention,” and getting my husband every single gift I saw that made me think of him as my “thoughtfulness.”

Let’s be honest. Neither did our bank account (insert super sweaty/nervous emoji here)!

I tried cutting costs and saving money earlier this year to help our budget but there was that nagging voice again…

So what did I do?

I researched. I hopped online and tried to see what everyone else is doing; what works, and what doesn’t. Granted, every family is different, so a goldmine to one could be a dumpster fire to another.

And ya know what I found?

A nifty little idea called the “4 Gift Rule.” You may have heard of it; it’s become pretty popular in recent years.

If you haven’t, it goes a little something like this: want, need, wear, read. (Catchy, right?)

Four simple categories. Four presents per person. That’s it. Bing, bang, boom, done.

This not only limits gift-giving — because it’s not about what we receive — it’s also great on your budget and brings the focus back to precious, pure, intimate family time.

Discover more tips and tricks for holiday budgeting here!

What does this mean?

So, you get each kiddo something they…

  • Want — It doesn’t necessarily have to be a toy; it could be guitar lessons, art classes, their own set of kitchen tools, a trip to get their ears pierced, and so on!
  • Need — Maybe a tee to set up in the backyard for them to practice for their Saturday games; a new desk for their room; or a new bedding set with their favorite color or character.
  • Read — Personally, I’m a big fan of gifting books, especially to younger children. There’s just something so nostalgic about it, and it’s refreshing in our current age of technology! Try giving an entire series; starting a fun, educational magazine subscription (think Highlights or National Geographic Kids); or even getting a gift card for them to choose their own book.

Wait — what about the “wear” category?

Now, now, young grasshopper: we didn’t skip over it. That’s where I’ve decided to make this my own!

I changed “wear” to “family.”

In this new category, you can keep it as simple or as out there as you’d like.

Think of each child’s interests and passions: what do they like to do? What do they love talking about? What makes their faces light up?

Create family experiences centered around those interests. Together, you could take a day trip somewhere; go right down the road to a place that has something to do with those interests; support local businesses and organizations by attending events they may have; and much more. The possibilities are truly endless!

Although, in the wake of COVID-19 (hip hip hooray), you may feel more comfortable coming up with fun things to do as a family at home. And that’s OK, too!

So… what would this look like?

Let’s say Little Johnny loves dinosaurs. His “family” category gift could be a family trip to a natural science museum to see lots of neat fossils and dino models!

Or, if you’d rather be home, you could spend a day learning about dinosaurs as a family, having a “fossil dig” in the backyard (finding toy dinos in sand), dressing up as your favorite dinosaur, and even making DIY “fossils” using salt dough.

But hold on; what if Little Suzie likes flowers and plants? No problem at all! On a different day, try a family trip to a botanical garden if you’re near one. There’s also plenty of lush plants and vibrant flowers in butterfly exhibits as well!

Again, if you’re opting to stay home, you can make it work! Try something new and create a small flower garden; dissect a flower and learn about its parts; and even have each family member paint their own mini flower pot and then plant something small (like succulents!) in them. 

Why is this important?

I’d imagine it would make each child feel pretty special to be gifted with time to share their favorite hobby/interest with their family. 

The point of all of this is to focus less on the “me” of Christmas gifts, and to put emphasis on the “us.” It’s about creating an experience and memories together that are far more valuable than something you can buy in a store that’ll be broken, lost, or tossed aside in a few months.

It’s easy to spend, spend, spend and give, give, give to our kids on Christmas.

At some point, they start expecting it. 

But do they appreciate it?

I think — scratch that, I know — something a lot of parents struggle with is how commercialized and materialistic the holidays have become.

We feel pressured to buy multiple gifts that are the BEST, NEWEST, most EXPENSIVE, most RELEVANT, most POPULAR… and so on, and so on, and so on.

Sure, you want to make sure your kiddos are happy and get what they want, but there’s a difference between true happiness and temporary satisfaction.

Let’s invite thoughtfulness and intention back into our homes.

Teach your children gratitude. Help them understand that less is more. Bring simplicity and precious moments back to Christmas. 

And if you happen to try out this method of gift-giving, let me know down below! I’d love to hear how it goes, what “family” category gifts you come up with, and even what you might tweak for next time!

After a year like this, let’s go into 2021 with full hearts and thankful minds, like we just got apples and oranges in our stockings.

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