Be forewarned if you are expecting tips on black Friday shopping and getting deals on toy sales, this is the wrong post for you. We’re far from grinch-like, yet my wife and I have always thought that Christmas is a little too over-the-top most of the time. What we have found to work is to keep to the main essence of Christmas that (hopefully) our children will always remember — time together as a family, celebrating the season and creating family traditions! After having 5 years of family Christmases under our belt, we realized that funny enough – if you make Christmas actually mean something – you actually end up saving more… in short, it is not just about the gifts!
– Create certain activities that you as a family do every year! Since our kids are younger – we do breakfast with Santa, we buy christmas ornaments together, decorate ginger bread houses, go to Christmas Eve service, drive around in the evening to see other decorated houses and decorate our house together every year. Honestly, I think the activities done together mean much more than the accumulation of stuff to children. The hope is when you create an atmosphere of creating memories together the emphasis on “stuff/gifts” diminishes.
– Before christmas it is time to declutter, donate or exchange. Out with the old before in with the new! My wife just attended her first toy exchange and it was perfect – we got gently used toys and were able to unload our gently used outgrown toys. Our kids are still too young ( 5.5 and 2 years-old) to know the difference between ‘new’ and ‘gently used’ and we plan to take advantage of that for as long as we can :-) If you don’t have a toy exchange you can join, definitely plan hosting your own – ask your neighbors, parents at your kid’s school, etc to participate. It can be as simple as everyone bringing one or two toys to exchange. It’s also a great time to donate gently used toys, clothing and household items to charity for the less fortunate – do something good for others and get a potential tax deduction!
– Gifts beyond toys! This year we are re-decorating our 5.5 year-old daughter’s room, so her Christmas gifts will include bedding set, curtains, etc. that would go into decorating her room. I think she’ll be super excited to see her new room unfold as she opens her gifts. We’re glad to not be giving more clutter-inducing toys and she will still have the fun of opening gifts! What’s in their stockings this year? New toothbrushes! Even Santa wants everyone to have good clean healthy teeth!
– Green Christmas Greetings! Instead of sending hardcopy greeting cards or the ever so popular photo cards, be ‘green’ and send an e-card or photo slideshow card! A great friend of ours has done the photo slideshow greetings via Smilebox.com for a few years now. It’s great to see photos of their family for the entire year. You save on the cost of cards and postage if you do the e-card or photo slideshow greetings!
In the long run, we’re hoping that by starting early and building expectations and a good foundation of Christmas spirit we can avoid the general too-much-ness that can invade the holidays and instead have what the yuletide was really meant to be – a time of happy family memories!