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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!
We have always strived for a minimalist lifestyle; minimalist, not fanatical. Over the last few years, we’ve changed some of our family’s Christmas traditions. We’ve 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 when you have kids:
5 things that will make it easier to adopt a more meaningful Christmas tradition
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. Books are also great alternative gifts and those with a message are even better!
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 let them have a say.
Christmas can also be a moment to give to those who have less. It can be a moment to teach your kids to give what they no longer need to those less fortunate than themselves, or to explain that by receiving fewer gifts, your family can also offer something to those who have no one to give them gifts.
3) You do not make the decisions for your extended family
So, you’ve decided to go gift-free at Christmas. Great, but that is a personal decision. 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.
Proposing to buy joint gifts (everyone chips in and we buy one good 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) Try a different gift tradition
There is pleasure in giving and receiving, and Christmas is a perfect time for families to show their gratitude for each other. But Christmas does not have to be about store-bought gifts. It can also be about offering fewer and more meaningful gifts.
Here are six alternatives you can try:
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.
Offer experiences: Research has shown that kids with fewer toys are more creative and better decision makers. They also have better critical-thinking skills. They find it easier to come up with ideas to deal with their boredom and do not always rely on external sources (toys or you!) to keep themselves occupied.
Instead of offering your kids more toys, why not offer experiences? For example, you can offer tickets to visit something or even lessons (music, art, yoga, etc). Subscription boxes are also a good alternative for kids because they help teach important skills such as creativity, independence and critical-thinking skills all year round. Here are a few ideas to check out:
Joint family gift: 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!
Used gifts: While not everyone may be comfortable giving used gifts, they are an economical and environmentally sustainable option.
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’s members preferences. Below is a FREE TEMPLATE with three designs you can print out and use with your family.
Your 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!
If you’re still keen on giving toys, remember to select fewer and longer-lasting toys.
Six ideas to Keep Christmas simple by spending less
- 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 and this.
- Instead of buying an advent calendar, make your own advent calendar. 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 three years.
- Instead of giving treats, do one thing every day as a family together 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! (you may have missed the first few days, but no one’s checking) The best thing 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.
- Make your own Christmas tree instead of buying one. My family has been using one like this one for the last few years.
- Instead of an advent calendar, read an advent book. So many kids think that Christmas 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 are Jotham’s journey, Bartholomew’s Passage, Tabitha’s Travels and Ishtar’s Odyssey.
- Stop giving Christmas cards or make your own.
I’d really love to know how your family is spending less at Christmas. Please leave me a comment in the comments section below.