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Aren’t you tired of getting things you don’t need every Christmas? Aren’t you tired of trying to get the perfect gift for everyone year in, year out? Aren’t you just plain tired of the “too much of everything” around Christmas?
A few years ago, my partner and I finally managed to pull off a no-gifts Christmas and we’ve never looked back. We were tired of all the hype and the feeling that we had to do what everyone else was doing. But a no-gift Christmas with kids isn’t as easy to pull off as it is with adults. We have three kids now, and although we have managed to keep toys to a minimum, we still give our kids gifts at Christmas, and they still get gifts from family and friends, and the majority of those gifts still end up forgotten at the bottom of their toy racks or under their beds!
Why is it so hard to keep Christmas simple and spend less?
Christmas is a time of joy and cheer, but it is also a time of stress and expenses. Many of us worry because of issues such as:
- How to make Christmas more meaningful AND spend less doing it
Can we give homemade or used gifts and how will they be received
Giving Christmas gifts that are less expensive than what we receive
How much to actually spend on each kid and whether it’s too much or not enough
Is it possible to pull off a no-gift Christmas, at least for adults?
How much to spend on extended family members and friends
What types of gifts to get extended family members and friends without going overboard
What limits to set to tame the holiday overspending
How to get the best deals to avoid ruining our Christmas budget
How to spend less and still enjoy the holiday season is a concern for many people, especially parents. The good news is that you can spend less and still enjoy Christmas. This article will focus on:
Why it’s okay to spend less on the children this Christmas season
Easy tips to reduce Christmas spending on your kids
How to spend less on your family and friends this holiday season
How to reduce general Christmas spending when you have kids
Why should you give your kid fewer gifts this Christmas?
Most kids get more stuff than they really need, and while they are excited when opening or discovering their new toys, those toys quickly get forgotten as they move on to the next exciting thing. Just think about it: What toys did you get at Christmas that you still remember fondly? If you are like most people, you only remember a few toys from your childhood, and the ones you remember most fondly are not necessarily the store-bought or the most expensive ones.
Science says that when it comes to toys, less is more. A group of researchers were convinced that dependency in adulthood stemmed from depending on too many toys and on adults in childhood. In other words, they thought that children used toys and things to avoid frustration and to avoid dealing with difficult situations.
The researchers tested their assumption in a day care center in Germany. They took away all the toys and left only the bare necessities (blankets, sheets, etc.). They found that although the kids were lost without their toys at first, they soon came up with strategies to fill their time. They went outdoors and picked twigs which they used to make crafts, they had discussions to decide on what to do, and they engaged in more imaginative play.
These kids also had better critical-thinking skills and relied less on external sources (toys and you!) to help them deal with their boredom. In other words, the study found that fewer toys and stuff sparks creativity.
How to reduce holiday spending and make the festive season more meaningful
Over the last few years, we have changed some of our family’s Christmas traditions. We have incorporated several ideas from like-minded families and borrowed from some fantastic traditions of families that are increasingly shifting away from a gift-laden Christmas. But changing how you celebrate Christmas can be difficult. Here are a few things that can help make Christmas more meaningful and less costly, whether you have kids or not.
How to spend less for Christmas when you have kids
1) Adopt a gift-rule
Not everyone is comfortable with a no-gift Christmas. I get that. I know that for some families, Christmas is the only time family members allow themselves to buy gifts for each other. But you can still make Christmas more meaningful by adopting a gift-rule for your family. For example, you can choose a rule like “one home-made gift, one non-material gift, and one gift from your wish list” or something along those lines.
2) Explain your actions to your kids
There is proof that kids are more likely to go along with decisions if they participate in the decision-making process. Explain why you are changing the Christmas rules and allow your kids to have a say.
3) Buy joined gifts with family members
Proposing to buy joint gifts (everyone chips in and you buy one expensive gift for the kids) has helped our extended family accept our gifting preferences, but the kids still get “smaller gifts” from their grandmother who finds great joy in giving.
4) Start your own holiday season tradition
Instead of giving treats, why not do one thing every day as a family as you count down to Christmas. Here is a free 24-day printable challenge of things you can do together as a family to spread the Christmas magic! (even if you miss the first few days, no one’s checking!). The best part is that most of the activities proposed only require 10 to 15 minutes of your time. You don’t have to follow the order proposed, you can choose an activity depending on how much time you have (or have every family member choose an activity in turns) then strike it off once it’s done.
5) Give home-made gifts
With the Internet, Pinterest and Instagram, it has never been easier to get ideas about easy-to-make and lovely home-made gifts. Making gifts also helps your family spend time together in a true Christmas spirit.
6) Give a gift for your entire family
A gift for the entire family is a great alternative and it can help bond your family. Joint family gifts can include taking a nice vacation, tickets to a park, or whatever your family has been dreaming of for the entire year!
7) Star an “advent book” tradition
So many kids think that the festive season is just about food and gifts and have no idea about the real meaning of Christmas. Reading an advent book as a family during the weeks before Christmas is a great way to bond and to help your kids understand what Christmas is really about. Some great advent books you might want to check out include Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage, Tabitha’s Travels and Ishtar’s Odyssey.
8) Offer experiences
Instead of offering your kids more toys, why not offer experiences? For example, you can offer tickets to visit something, lessons (music, art, yoga, etc), or even a late-night ice cream treat.
9) Give used gifts
While not everyone may be comfortable giving used gifts, they are an economical and environmentally sustainable option.
10) Give non-material coupons
Non-material gift coupons are a fantastic alternative for families who want to try a gift-free Christmas or to reduce material gifts. They are a great way to give cherished gifts in line with your family members’ preferences. Below is a FREE TEMPLATE with three designs you can print out and use.
11) Make your own advent calendar
Instead of buying an advent calendar, why not make an advent calendar that you can use for years? You can also make a joint advent calendar for all your kids. Select different treats and let them choose which treat goes where. Our family has been saving sweets from Halloween and pegging them on a DIY advent calendar for the last four years.
12) Mix individual gifts with combined gifts
Mixing individual gifts with combined gifts – each kid gets their individual gift(s), then all the kids get a combined gift, is a great way to spend less at Christmas and still give your kids meaningful gifts.
13) Invest in gifts that will last and last…
Gifts that last past Christmas are a great gift idea because your child can use them way past the festive season. Subscriptions are perfect because you can decide to subscribe your child over a 3, 6, 9 or 12 month period, meaning that they will keep receiving their gifts long after Christmas.
Subscription boxes are also a good alternative to toys because they help teach important skills such as creativity, independence and critical-thinking skills all year round. The best part about subscription boxes is that there are so many options out there, you’ll definitely get something your child will love. Here are just a few ideas of subscription boxes you may want to check out:
Subscription boxes for the artsy kid: We Craft Box
Subscription boxes for the creative kid: KidArtlit
Subscription boxes for the kid who loves reading: Book roo
Subscription boxes for the kid who’s into computers: Bitsbox
Subscription boxes for the nature lover: Green Kid Crafts
Here is a long list of other subscription boxes your child may find interesting.
14) Give your partner a non-material coupon
Instead of giving your partner a material gift, why not give them a non-material coupon? Non-material coupons are great because you know exactly what will make their day, so you know that the coupons will be appreciated.
15) Give older kids a gift card
Gifts for older kids generally cost more because they often want electronics, designer clothes or other costly gifts. A gift card is a great idea that can make you spend less at Christmas because once you have decided on the amount your child will get, you leave it up to them to choose their own gifts depending on how much they have.
A gift card is also a good gift to teach your child about the cost of things and about prioritizing (they are forced to decide what they really want).
16) Get a combined gift with your spouse
Instead of giving each other Christmas gifts, why not get a combined gift (a weekend away, dinner, camping, a good wine bottle, etc.) you’ll both enjoy?
17) Sticking to a certain number of gifts per child can make you spend less during the festive season
18) Get only one big item
Opening presents is a big thing for kids. It matters just as much as – perhaps more than –what is actually in the gift package. Buying one “expensive” gift and then offering other less expensive but meaningful things (slippers, pajamas, hair accessories, books, activity books, their favorite snacks, reused toys, etc.) can help tame the holiday spending.
10 ways to reduce Christmas spending on friends and extended family members
If you have a large family, then you know that shopping for Christmas gifts is both expensive and time-consuming. Here are easy tips to spend less this festive season.
19) Have the adults donate to a charity instead of giving gifts
Christmas can also be a moment to give to those who have less. It can be a moment to offer something to those who have no one to give them gifts. Why not ask your family members if they would be okay donating to a charity instead of buying each other Christmas gifts?
20) Start you own family tradition
Why not start a tradition where your immediate family decides what every family member should give next Christmas? For example, one year each family member can be asked to give a “used gift”, the next “DIY food gifts”, and the next a “DIY painting”. This activity is guaranteed to spark your family’s creative streak!
21) Give homemade gifts
Many people appreciate handmade gifts because they are often thoughtful, useful gifts that people can actually use. Great and easy-to-make handmade gifts include homemade bread, jams and jellies, home canned items, cookies, gifts in a jar, fudge, candles, ornaments, etc.
22) Split costs to reduce holiday season spending
If you gift your parents, splitting costs with your siblings is a great way to spend less and get a more meaningful gift.
23) Give a home-made gift basket
Home-made gift baskets are a great idea that will help you spend less during the holiday season. They are easy to make and if you start early, you can get affordable gifts (candy, mugs, chocolate, soaps, and so on) with which to fill your basket.
24) Think of the needs of the people around you
Sometimes the best gifts are the simplest and the most useful ones. If you have a busy friend or a friend who is just about to deliver, they might appreciate freezer food more than they’ll appreciate a book they’ll never read. Many people appreciate food gifts, so that’s a gift you basically can’t go wrong with.
25) Exchange non-material gifts
If you want to have fun this Christmas season, why not exchange poetry instead of giving gifts? Let everyone choose who they’ll write a poem for then recite each other’s poems on Christmas eve! Or you can do a gift drawing instead.
26) Fix a price limit to avoid overspending this Christmas
How much do you feel comfortable spending on each adult for gifts? Fix a limit and discuss that limit with your family and friends.
27) Stop giving gifts to adults
Many people report “everyone feeling relieved” when the gift-giving finally stops. Talk to your friends and family and see how they feel about not giving Christmas gifts.
28) Do a secret gift exchange
Get all your friend and/or family together, draw names from a hat, and have everyone buy only one gift for the person they pick. This will make your Christmas less hectic and less costly!
29) Keep it simple
There are thousands of nice inexpensive gifts, and those gifts will ensure that you stay within your Christmas budget. For example, you can get your family and friends gifts such as books, candles, scarves, etc.
30) Start shopping immediately after Christmas to reduce Christmas spending
There are crazy sales immediately after Christmas as stores try to get rid of all their unsold stuff. That means it’s the perfect moment to change your Christmas decorations or buy stuff you can use next year. Just don’t go overboard buying things you don’t really need and will probably never use!
Easy tips to do Christmas on a budget
31) Use a budget to spend less over the festive season
If you want to spend less this Christmas, you need to have a budget and, more importantly, you need to stick to that budget. You also need to be honest about how much you are willing to spend and how much you can actually spend. Sticking to your budget means avoiding debt as soon as the new year begins.
32) Start Christmas shopping early
There are many sales just before Christmas and you can often get good deals for your Christmas stuff. You’ll find better deals if you start shopping a year in advance. For example, you can shop sales around the year instead of waiting until just before Christmas to start your shopping.
33) Save for Christmas
Putting away a little money at a time throughout the year will make the festive season less expensive. Saving even a small amount per month will lighten the Christmas financial burden.
34) Make your own Christmas decorations
Instead of buying Christmas ornaments, make your own. Not only is this a fun activity for the kids, it is also a moment that can help your entire family bond during the Christmas season. Some of the ornaments our family has enjoyed making are this one and this one.
35) Gift something your home needs
Instead of giving your partner a gift, why not get something you need for the house?
36) Stop giving Christmas cards or make your own.
37) Talk to your extended family
Deciding to change your Christmas habits in order to spend less and enjoy the season more is great, but remember that you do not make the decisions for your extended family. You can explain your decision to your family members, but they are under no obligation to agree with you on this. If your parents find joy in buying their grandchildren Christmas gifts, it wouldn’t be fair to stop them. What you can do instead is propose alternative options such as craft supplies or tickets to the movies or museums as gifts.
7 things you can remove from your list if you want to spend less this Christmas
You want to spend less this chrismas? Here are things you don’t really need:
- Too much food – you know what I mean 😊
- An advent calendar – make your own
- Christmas decorations – use the ones you already have or take one Sunday afternoon to do crafts (Thanks Pinterest!). If you really need new decorations, wait until Christmas is over and take advantage of the huge sales!
- Wrapping paper. Why not replace wrapping paper with gift bags you can reuse over and over again? Or if you must use wrapping paper, buy it during the after-Christmas sales
- Expensive Christmas cards. Unless if that’s all you’re offering.
- Christmas-inspired clothes – Okay, I know kids look so cute in their Christmas PJs and their Christmas pullovers, but that’s the only time they can wear them. If you want to get them clothes, get them something they can wear the whole year long. Or at least throughout the season.
- Cheap toys. You know the one’s I’m talking about. All they do is clutter your home. I know it always feel like a good and cheap idea when you first see them. It isn’t. Fewer but better quality toys are the way to go.
Now it’s your turn. How is your family spending less this Christmas? Let us know in the comments section below.
Article updated on 9/11/20