Today is Black Friday. The perfect day to talk about gift giving.
I heard a statistic on the radio the other day: The average amount that American parents spend PER CHILD on Christmas presents is $271. $271!!!! I came home and told Hubby “This once again proves that we are not average.” And I told the kids, “Get used to it. Your parents will never be average!”
Do you know how many sheep/pigs/chickens/garden seeds you can buy with $271?? Sorry, I’m a farmer. It’s how I think.
And what do you buy for $271? My mother in law (a saint of the highest order) sent the WalMart Christmas flyer home with my daughter to look at. A completely innocent gesture. So we both laid on my bed as we looked at it. A giant mountain of plastic, otherwise known as the Barbie Dreamhouse, is only $179 this Christmas season. ONLY??!! Do you know how many sheep/pigs/chickens/garden seeds you can buy with $179??? Again, sorry, I can’t help myself. She and I (and by she I mean my daughter, certainly not Barbie) had a long talk about gifts and that I had already purchased her Christmas presents and none of them are listed in that book but she would love them anyway.
So, if I’m not using the WalMart Guide to Covetousness and Jealousy as my shopping guide, what does our family do?
1. I buy presents early. When I am done with my Christmas shopping, I AM DONE. I am not lured into oh-this-would-be-so-fun or she-would-love-this.
2. Each child gets three presents from their parents. One fun, one practical, one clothes. This year each child is getting a game: Spot It, Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, and Connect 4; a new toothbrush; fun pajamas. That’s it. They have grandparents, aunts and uncles who also remember then at Christmas time. My husband has a firm “no toys” rule for gift giving with his family. We have successfully avoided many of the “bells and whistles” toys with this rule. Instead, we suggest clothes, books, puzzles, etc.
3. We do not do Santa. At all. My kids know who he is and that is represents a Christmas theme. But we do not go to the mall or write letters asking him for things. Santa does not give them anything. If they receive a gift, it is because Mom and Dad or Grandpa and Grandma or whomever chose that gift for them, spent valuable time or money, and deserves our appreciation. And we do not use Santa has a behavior modification tool. Our children need to behave because they are members of this family and children of God, not because some guy in a red suit may or may not bring them their over-consumerized hearts desire based on their status in the naughty or nice column.
We know a couple that spent over $600 on their kids last year. Kids that are the same age as my two youngest. If you spend $600 on them when they are 3 and 4 years old, what will you spend when they are 13 and 14?? Where is the reason and joy and wonder of Advent and Christmas? I can’t seem to find it in $600 worth of presents.
4. For everyone else on our Christmas list, we do food gifts. In a popular magazine, there was an article that listed the people in your life and what amount of money you should spend on them. We don’t have a doorman, but we do have a mailman. His name is Bob and he’s wonderful. But he is not $50 present wonderful. That’s what this popular magazine, shipped to hundreds of thousands of homes across the country was suggesting we spend on a gift for our mailman. So, if Bob is reading this post, I hate to burst your bubble, but you are not getting a $50 gift from us. There will be a gift from us, but it will be delicious instead of expensive.
What are some food gift ideas? My nieces and nephews get their own popcorn cakes every year. I make them in 9×5 bread pans so they ship easy and the kids love them. I’ve done it for 5 years now and they look forward to it every year. They call them their “popcorn bricks”, some eat them all in one sitting while others save it and eat it slowly. The non-kids on our list receive a food gift as well that changes each year. Always something we can make at home as a family. Last year we did caramel corn, the year before a variety of spice mixes, this year it is lefse and Ritz cookies. Because that’s what Hubby said he would want for Christmas. Right now, the food list is at 37 households. Can you imagine if we bought $50 for all of them? Do you know how many sheep/pigs/chickens/garden seeds you can buy with $1850??? It’s real money, folks!
5. We ask our kids to help us make the Christmas giving list. That is in direct contrast to the Christmas Gift List. Here is a list of people we want to remember at Christmastime, rather than a list of things I want. I love that they think of people that maybe I wouldn’t have, but my kids want them remembered by our family.
6. Our kids help us make the food gifts and we distribute them together. They have a lot of fun, usually spilling the beans about what it is because they are so excited to tell how they helped make it.
7. If you are not into homemade gifts, there is a way you can make a real difference in the lives of people here and around the world. Choose an organization and make a gift in your Christmas list’s name. Let them know that a gift was given in their honor. If you need a jumpstart: consider sponsoring a child or meeting a critical need through Compassion International or Big Oak Ranch – two organizations I love.
My hope is that this list can help simplify your gift-giving this year, and the years to come. Take a breath. Make a list. And them make some Christmas cheer in your own home.
Day 29 Homework: What is your gift-giving strategy? How can you simplify that this year? How can you give gifts with more significance and less pricetag?