Seems like this is the time of year to blog about Christmas shopping. Everywhere I read, bloggers are sharing their thoughts on this. Well, I had planned on doing the same, so I guess great minds think alike. Then I wondered if I have anything original to add to this discussion. Probably not, but it's my blog, so I'm going to add my two cents anyway.
1. Shop throughout the year. Oh, wait, I know that's one everyone has heard. And it is easier said than done. Even for me. I am usually pretty good about doing this, but this year I fell down on the job, and now I am regretting it.
At the very least, if you don't buy stuff throughout the year, set aside money throughout the year, so that when November/December roll around you have most/all of the money you need to buy the gifts. (This method has its advantages too if you get loss leaders this time of year.) You can put it in your savings account, create a special bank account for gifts, have an envelope that you add money to every pay period, whatever. But plan for it throughout the year. This is critical if you, like me, have 4 birthdays in your family in November and December. Thank goodness this baby is coming in the spring!
2. The Christmas Kora turned 2, it was like a toy store blew up in our house. Between gifts from us, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., our small house could hardly hold it all. After that we decided to change how we did this. Then I read somewhere about a family that only gave each child three gifts, just like Jesus received three gifts from the Wise Men in Matthew. We decided then and there that if it was good enough for Jesus it was good enough for our kids. So from us, our kids only get three gifts. One of these is always books.
Sometimes they might share a particular gift if they both want it. especially a more expensive one. For instance, last year, Brynna and Hailey received the Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses Magical Dance Castle. It was about $80-$90 retail last year. Well that was more than I would spend for one gift on any one child, but I got the best deal I could find on it, and gave it to both of them. They were thrilled. They share a room and all their Barbies anyway, so it was a perfect match.
I have heard of other ways to limit the gifts. One lady I knew had a different system. They gave four gifts: one each for their spiritual, mental, physical and recreational lives. So a child might receive a study Bible or devotional book (spiritual), a leisure book or CD (mental), a pair of roller blades (physical) and then something fun like a toy of something for their hobby (recreational). However you do it, they children are much more appreciative of the gifts if they are a few thoughtfully given ones, rather one on a sea of other gifts.
We do, on top of those three, put one or two smaller things in their stockings. These are usually small toys (my pretty Ponies work well), jewelry, nail polish, a small stuffed animal, etc. This also in no way limits what they get from the extended family. But it has helped us enjoy our Christmases more. I can honestly say that our girls have never asked why they don't get more, as we choose carefully to get them things they really want.
And as a note, we do not do Santa with our kids. There are no extra toys under the tree, even at grandparents' houses from Santa. We have our reasons for that, but that is another blog entry.
3. Keep a list. On December 26, make a list of some kind of everyone you will need to get gifts for the next year. Keep it handy so that throughout the year you can write down ideas of something you could get them. Maybe something someone gave somebody else gives you an idea. Maybe you are talking on the phone and something they say gives you an idea. WRITE IT DOWN. Then check it off when you buy for that person. Also write down how much it is so you can keep track of holiday spending.
4. Give group gifts. If you have cousins or couples to buy for, don't feel obligated to buy each one of them a gift (unless you have all the money you need for that type of thing, in which case, I think I am a long lost cousin). I have bought movies, books, games, art supplies, and even made a tent for gifts for all the kids in the family. For couples, think of home items they can both enjoy (maybe a nice pair of candlesticks with candles for mood setting), movies, gift certificates for a date night (if you live in the same town, offer a night of free babysitting for them to use it!), or items they are both interested in (maybe they are both readers or both collect something). You'll spend less than if you try to buy two gifts, you'll be less stressed, and it will be just as appreciated.
Don't know if this has helped anyone else, but these tactics have helped keep me and our family sane through the holidays, and out of debt. It also helps keep our focus on the real meaning of the season, while still enjoying some great gifts.