Gluttony of Gift Giving

As I complete my Christmas shopping, I’m thinking again about the “gluttony of gift giving”. Yep, you read this correctly – I’m almost finished with my Christmas shopping for 2009. My goal each year is to be 90% done by Halloween. I know most of you are not surprised. I shop all year and keep a spreadsheet of the inventory in my “gift” closet.

Recently a few different friends asked me about our Christmas gift “traditions”. I’ve blogged briefly about this in the past, but wanted to write about the topic again. Here’s how it works in the Wade household (for now).

We stole a gift-giving “model” from some friends that seems to have worked for them and their three kids. We’ll see how it goes as the years go by and our family grows. At our house, mommy and daddy will buy 3 presents for each child and they will be wrapped under the tree Christmas morning. (My friend tells her kids that Baby Jesus got three gifts and so do they…makes sense to me and my frugal budget loves it!) These gifts are toys…not socks, not a new shirt…TOYS. And then Santa will bring one unwrapped larger gift. There may be years when the Santa gift is one even bigger gift to both girls.

I also believe that these same friends of ours make their kids each pick out 3 of their “old” toys in October/November to donate to a charity in order to prepare for the arrival of their new Christmas toys. A good way to clean a few things out and get your kids into the spirit of giving.

Another question I’ve gotten…then how much do we spend? No more than $100/kid. $50 for the Santa gift and $50 total for the 3 presents from us. Although that’s the budget, frugal me spends much less. For example, last year Stella’s Santa gift was a Cozy Coupe I got for $35 the day after Thanksgiving. Now I realize we have not yet reached the age where electronics are “critical”. Not sure what I’ll do when Stella wants something like that – we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. And yes, I’ll shop at Mommy sales and on Craigslist – even for Christmas. However, so far I’ll only do that for our girls, not for other gifts we give.

Stockings? They are empty on Christmas morning. WHAT??? Yep, EMPTY. Our stockings are filled when St. Nick comes the night of December 5th. So far he brings things like holiday pjs, holiday books/videos, and a few other small items.

Christmas Eve we go to my grandmother’s house and Santa comes to see all of the children. So I get to pick out another toy (gift from great-grandma via Santa) and have it wrapped for that evening for each of the girls. It’s a fun evening.

The grandparents do a great job of not overdoing the gifts. I would say we are extremely fortunate in that area. I hear from other friends that dread the mountain of toys given each holiday. The kids usually get a few small items to open and then money towards either a zoo membership or swim lessons, etc. This works well for us.

The girls also get gifts from their aunts and uncles and some close family friends. I look forward to that. I think it’s important for them to learn about appreciating others and picking out specials gifts for their cousins and friends.

Andy and I got out of the habit of gift giving to each other a few years ago. Instead we’d get something for the house – a new kitchen table, a new camera, etc. and call it “Christmas”. Now that Stella is getting older, I want her to see us exchange something, so I think we’ll reinstate the gift exchange – on a tight budget, of course!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy exchanging gifts. So those of you that are saying “bah-humbug” about me and my 4 gift under the tree limit – you are wrong. I love nothing more than buying the perfect gift for someone, especially my kids. I just also look around our house at all of the STUFF we already have and ask “how much is too much?” We are so fortunate to 1) be able to buy things when “needed”; 2) have great people around us that give us TONS of wonderful hand-me-down toys that are in mint condition; 3) have family and friends who splurge on the girls at birthdays and other gift-giving occasions; 4) have grandparents who spoil their grandkids all year.

That is why I keep Christmas to what some people consider a “minimum”. If I didn’t limit myself to the 4 gifts – I’d go CRAZY. I’d buy and buy – especially since I’m a deal finder.

Am I worried about when Stella and Charlotte are older and start comparing Christmas gifts (and the number of them) with their friends? Nope. I know growing up my friends had different traditions and different types of gifts from Santa and I never really thought a whole lot about it. I was just told that Santa knew what each kid really needed and that families chose to celebrate with gifts according to each family’s needs. Plus, they will definitely not be deprived. There may only be 4 gifts under the tree for each kid Christmas morning, but if you add up all the other gifts they’ll receive over the holiday – WOW. They are LUCKY!

As the girls get older they will also be much more involved in the other gifts we give – whether they are store-bought or homemade. Although we try to show appreciation all year long, we also focus on certain things at Christmas. These include gifts to the daycare center, an Angel Tree family and tips to service providers.

So I hope that answers the questions I’ve gotten recently. As the holidays get closer, I’ll be back with more discussions on traditions. Thought I’d start here as I “wrap-up” my gift buying this year.

Your gift traditions/limits?? I’d be curious to hear about them…

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