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How do I simplify Christmas without looking like Scrooge to the children?

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
In the past few years we went a bit overboard over Christmas. I always try to keep things simple but they have a tendency to sprial out of control.

Last year we had a really big Christmas because I got a lot of skiing and boarding equipment (I told the kids not to expect this every year) We also got our daughter a laptop because she's finally getting serious and going to college (her other two grown sisters have laptops as graduation gifts but this dd didn't go to school so she didn't graduate) Sorry to go into that rabbit hole but it made Christmas look extravagant last year and I don't want to keep doing the overthinggey Christmas.

My SIL who is very comfortible financially does the "Three Kings" Christmas. I really love the concept (Jesus got three gifts from the Maji so that's a good number of gifts to get for Christmas. I've also seen the traditional Victorian "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read"....um....four things.

But when I mention these things to my children they *groan* and they're not even really materialistic.

I'm thinking three nice things for the kids. I already, for example, got Jon (16) a snowboard jacket, a helmet, and I could get him something for his car (like a coupon for an oil change or some cd's)

Does that sound cheapie to anyone here? I have started school this year and I must write a pretty large tuition check right before Christmas. I will be paying for *books* right after Christmas and we just installed a bathroom so we're, ahem, broke.

I think the kids are regressing to the stage in development where you say, "we don't have money" and they say, "go to the ATM machine you know it "gives" you money"!!!

Sorry this is long but I'd love some other ideas.

Debra Baker
post #2 of 49
Maybe you could focus on what everyone would like to *DO* at Christmas. Like: ornament making, caroling, cookie baking, craft project, indoor/outdoor decorating, visiting friends/relatives (especially elderly), shopping for a less fortunate family, driving and looking at Christmas lights, brunch or dinner together and a walk in the snow, etc.
post #3 of 49
I'll be watching this thread for ideas. My dh thinks I'm a Scrooge 'cos every year I suggest cutting back, though it never works.
post #4 of 49
I've been dealing with this, too. It's difficult to stay sane in a culture that continually says, "more, more, more, bigger, better!"

One of the things that I did last year when cleaning up from Xmas was to put all of our Christmas-related books in one of the decoration bins. We will read one per night as a kind of "advent" calendar. This may not work for older kids, but perhaps a variation? I also put all of our Christmas CDs in the bin and we take turns picking our dinner music through the month of December.

I like the idea of the "Magi" gifts - three per person. One thing we do is donate the equivilent of what we spend on the kids to Toys for Tots or other organization. Last year I spent $60 on my son, so I bought another $60 in toys for the Toylift. This helps keep expenditures on the more modest side. This year we have two kids we'll be celebrating with and we've set a budget of $40 so the total amount we'll donate is $80.

I know these things are more for younger kids, but I hope they help. Older kids should be wise enough to know that not every Christmas is, needs to be, or should be a thousand dollar blow out. There are unique circumstances that may be dealt with, but teens should know that stuff doesn't equal love - at Christmas or any other time.

Or are these the naive musings of a mom with younger kids?
post #5 of 49
A family we know has a only handmade gift rule. I would really like to try this. For Christmas last year, my friend got a MOUNTAIN of cream puffs from her DH. Their rule is you can buy the items needed to make the gift, but must make it. I also like the idea of focusing on doing as a family, like the pp, bake cookies and deliver them to the local nursing home, hospital, vet office, or dentist. Invite your kids friends family over for a brunch, focus on giving to the community. Most churches/synagogues know of families, elderly who could use a hand , anonymous or not. Scroogeness is state of mind. Those are my ideas...
post #6 of 49
apparently my post was eaten by the browser?

sorry if it comes back --

we do the magi gift thing here. last year was the first year. I found it remarkably freeing. Everything I'd bought before was reasonably priced, but I was certain this time I'd thought it out ahead of time.

It sounds like maybe you are ok with that, maybe your kids want more of a say? Meaning present just what you did to us -- you'd like to focus on family stuff, you don't have tons of extra cash this year and what do they want to do? Maybe they do want to do gifts, but somehow else?
post #7 of 49
Thread Starter 
Last night dh and I celebrated our anniversary and we were able to go out to eat dinner together. One of the things we discussed was the issues surrounding this thread.

DH was appalled at the resistance my children were giving and suggest getting them nothing. He swallowed that bite and thought better of it but I think I'm going to stick with the Maji thing and the children will adapt their thinking around the concept.

For the majority of our life together dh and I have been poor. Desparetely poor at times. Our older children knew this and understood why they weren't given a lot of material stuff. Now we are quite comfortible and the younger children are starting to suffer from the same cultural materialism common around here (likely everywhere else in the US as well.)

Warning: I'm feeling in my bones this post is about to get long so beware.

I have several European friends and these people seem to have much smaller scaled birthdays and Christmases. I don't feel a sense of deprivation or loss but this is just normal to their respective cultures. I am especially close to one family (my boys' best friends and my close friends) I've been to her house on Christmas Eve morning and she was preparing the goose similarly to me preparing the turkey (they emphasize Christmas Eve and we're more a Christmas morning family) and there was the same sweetness of getting ready for a family celebration that exists at our home.

I think I like what someone said about focusing on activities. I am going to ask each one what they love *doing* and make sure we get around to doing those things.

I have five children still living at home and two married and one in the Marines. We have a lot of traditions around Christmas. They still have Grandmom, two Grandads, sisters, uncles who are generous to them. I will likely be buying a computer for them for Christmas because they *need* a new machine so I'm not getting off cheap (by scaling down I'll still be spending $1,500-2,000 this year for goodness' sake but if you do the math that will add up to about three larger gifts for each individual child.)

Why are they guilting me for this (I'm re-reading this post and am realizing) That's more than the tuition for the two classes I'll be taking after the Holidays!!!!

Oh well.

Debra Baker
post #8 of 49
Our kids each get three gifts from us. We've done this since birth, though, so it's all they know. When I was little I thought we got tons of gifts each, but now my mom tells us we each got three. Honestly it seemed like so much more.
post #9 of 49
When I was 15 or 16, my mom announced that she didn't have the time, money or energy to "do" Christmas anymore. The family now does one gift per person from each person. Now that my sister and I are married, it's one gift per person from each couple.

We still do family stockings however. When my mom quit her job as Santa, we started doing a rotating stocking plan. That is, each year a different individual is in charge of stuffing another person's stocking. For instance, I might do my sister's, my sister would do my dad's, my dad would do my mom's and my mom would do mine. We really enjoy this, as it can become a collection of small gifts either on a theme or just separate things collected especially for that person over the course of several months. The year after I got my bike, my dad stuffed my stocking with a bunch of bicycle equipment. The year I finished my dissertation, my BIL got me a collection of things to relieve stress: pampering teas, silly stress ball, etc.

I was generally offended that my mom "quit" her job as Santa, and when I was in HS and college, I took over the job of decorating the house and making Christmas cookies. My sister decided that the lack of roasted chestnuts in our house was an offense to her being, so she took it over.

The result? Christmas suddenly became something for our family to work on and enjoy together.

Similar attempts I've made to scale down Christmas among my ILs have met with abject failure.
post #10 of 49
Growing up, we did the 3 gift thing. We had 4 people in our family, so the explanation was that we got one gift from each of the other people. Our stockings were always full of small items, though, that didn't count toward the gift count. That was always my favorite part! It never bothered me, but my mom started the tradition when I was starting to get more expensive presents, so I was able to understand why she was doing it.

I've been thinking about doing the same thing in our family this year. Every year I say that we're going to spend less money and every year I spend more than I should. This is the year, I just know it!
post #11 of 49
Growing up - it seems like I must have gotten a lot of gifts, but was never satisfied with what I got. My mother is VERY concerned about appearances so we always had a lot of gifts under the tree - but I think most of them were an attempt to look like there was a lot to open. I don't know if I'm a scrooge or just simplified, but Christmas and Birthdays have both become very small scale here. I only have one small child, so it's easy, but I don't like having a ton of presents. Since we've been together, DH and I usually decide on something we want together - like a nice set of pans or something else for the house - and have very limited gifts for each other.

Last year we went to my parents' and so did my sister - with her four children. It was absolutely chaotic and we ended up taking Jack to another room to open his three or four gifts. He was very overwhelmed by his cousins' frenzy of gift opening and I was afraid he'd get trampled. DH and I had opened our few gifts before we left to avoid the excess baggage in the car - so we didn't really have anything to open. I liked it a lot.

I'm tempted to go "no gift" this year and concentrate on spending time together and having fun meals and activities.
post #12 of 49
With my family, we always got practical gifts for Christmas. We always got new clothes, and then we would get other useful things. One year I got a sewing machine. Another year I got a bicycle. They were bigger items that most people normally had, but we got them for Christmas.

Now with my family, I send them a list of things I'd like that are practical but not must-haves - things that I'd like and would be nice to have. I would like some more nursing clothes, a pottery style pie dish (for lack of a better description), stuff like that. Money is always great too - last year I got enough money from various sources that I was able to buy a serger which I've used to make diapers for ds.

With dh's family, I always dread the gift exchange. There's no communication ahead of time about what you'd like for Christmas so we end up getting stuff we don't want and don't like. I mean, they'll buy a 49ers shirt because they think dh likes the 49ers (he did, but not anymore), and it's an XX large and DH wears large? I mean, what is the point? If it was up to DH, we would just see them for the holidays and skip the whole gift thing. We would still get his mom something, but everyone else wouldn't be on the list. I just hate getting junk gifts. If it isn't practical, if it isn't something I will like and use, then don't give it to me. If you must give me something, get me a gift certificate. I'm so close to boycotting the whole gift thing all-together, at least for dh and me. I know dh would emphatically agree with me, but I'm going to have to be the one to stick my neck out. If they want to get things for ds, fine, but dh and I don't need anything.

I will say I do make it a point every year to do something special for charity. It's on my list with the names of everyone I buy a gift for. I plan to have my children do that as well. This year, I'm knitting up some hats to donate to the American Cancer Society. Granted, I'm going to use yarn I have and don't need, but it's better knit-up and worn on someone's head who needs it than sitting in my closet wasting space. I'm also in direct sales and I always donate the limited-edition product that I didn't sell during the past year. Women's shelters are always very happy when I make my donation because I give things these women would never be able to treat themselves to otherwise, and it makes me feel good to. I could do a sale for my customers on those items, but that's too much work IMO and I love donating to charity. I hope to teach my children to do the same in their own way.
post #13 of 49
I'm so glad to see this post. We're scaling back on Christmas gifts this year, also, especially with our dds.

I'm so tired of them receiving gifts that don't get played with, and we have so many celebrations with family (our Christmas here at home, my mom's, my dad's and then with dh's family) that it's overwhelming. I end up having to find space for it all and spend way too much time "shoveling out" what they received last year to make room for this year's stuff.

I'm buying them a couple of items this year (the amount to be determined, but probably three) that they will really enjoy. If they question the amount, then that will be my explanation - I figure it's better to receive a couple of things that you'll really enjoy rather than lots of trinkets.
post #14 of 49
I wanted to scale back this Christmas, and made the mistake of sharing this with my Mother. My plan was to buy the fisher price castle for BOTH kids ( 4 and 16 months then ) and ask that my Mother buy each one of them something that went along with the castle and maybe a book ( because she goes WAY OVERBOARD with gifts every year, as does my MIL ) .

So..I spoke to her about this goal..then I took my son inot the store and we walked the toy aisles and he saw the castle there. I asked him what he thought of it and he was not impressed at all.

I called my Mom to share this fact with her and she blew me off and told me that it was Too Late as she had already laid away the castle and all the extra stuff she had found that went along with it.

So.... now I am really angry that she is buying and shipping a vast array of toys we don't want and won't have room for and she blew me of for a second year ( last year she bought an entirley new set of Thomas tracks that were plastic and made noise AFTER SHE KNEW we had the wooden SILENT, no batteries required set ..she wanted to 'one-up' my MIL though..we ended up returning the un opened stuff to toys r us and getting him something else to go with the wooden tracks. )

Growing up she had this...really odd...idea of what Christmas morning was supposed to be and look like. She also insisted that we leave all of our stuff opened under the tree for everyone to see after wards.((.sort of like killing a deer and hangig its corpse from the big tree in the front lawn instead of out back..." See my kill, ain't it great' thing..))

My MIL will give my kids a slew of shit..my Mother is planning to do the same. We have 3 different places to go n Christmas eve and Christmas. There is no time to open our OWN gifts in our OWN house. My kids get rushed every where. It makes me incredibly angry that not only do I no get to spend time with JUSt my family on the holidays...but that also now I really feel as if I cannot purchase anything for my Son or Daughter because there will already be soo much STUFF piled under the tree from everyone else that it will be ridiculous.

The only thing I plan to get my son now is the following :

A set of wooden and metal musical instruments from Melissa and Doug brand wood toys.

A new engine for his Thomas set.

Maybe a book.

And maybe a huge ornge bouncy ball from Wal-mart that he keeps begging me for. I could get one for 2.50 and he would be thrilled for hours to have it.

For my daughter...well......

She will be getting her OWN engine as well,,because there is only one engine and Paul will not share it for very long or very well. I want her to have her own anyway.

A couple new board books.

And thats about it.

In their stockings I will probably get each one of them one or two new cookie cutters or molds or other toys that can be used for playing with play-doh..

new toothbushes& toothpaste ( until they get old enough to crab about this!)

Maybe a box of raisons or something to eat thats small...and has nothing artificial in it.

Some sort of little tid bit that looks interesting.

When they will get a chance to open the stocking and gifts from us, I don't know. maybe New Years?

I feel guilty also because I bought Emily the fisher price Noahs ark as well...I may just save this and the extra animals for her 2nd birthday next summer now.

This and the castle would be too darn much right now.

And what to give Dh.......shudder...... :

Debra, I think what you want to do sounds fine. I would like to impliment something similar ( three gifts only type thing ) and scale back here as well. I don't think you are being hard on them or scrooge-ish..I think it sounds fair and reasonable. When my kids are 14 and 11..and I face something similar ...I hope someone is behind me telling me it is ok to not go out and spend 400 bucks per kid just so they feel like they got 'enough' stuff for christmas . Right now I am doing ok to get them under 50 dollars each!

pardon me for using your thread to let my mind wander and create my x-mas list !!!
post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 
I think it's sinking in because I brought it up last weekend and Jeanette (the 14yo) was all indignant that I had suggested she was resistant.

The problem with older kids is they start wanting expensive things.

post #16 of 49
I think it sounds like you are doing a great job, Debra. Do you have any ideas for Jeanette? I think the computer is a good idea as a joint. Would Jeanette like to spend the day skiiing with you? Or another kind of activity? Or lessons of some kind?

I am watching this thread too!
post #17 of 49
Thread Starter 
Jeanette is a very sweet and wonderful teenager.

We ski together. We are both karate-ka.

I was thinking about getting her a silver charm bracelet and picking out charms that reflect her. She skis, is a brown belt in karate, she plays the violin and is nearly fluent in German. She is an honor student and reads voraciously.

Along with the charm bracelet I will likely get her some clothes and books.

The boys are much more challenging for gifts. They usually want video games. I may get them one family game but the computer is almost a given.

I also have grown married children. Jen and Kev asked for a shop vac and a charger thingamagningey (Jen asked for an ipod but I don't think so) Jess wants clothes and I want to help her with books (she's a fulltime student) and Jo is a Marine going to Iraq early next year (Jan or Feb) and she asked for a digital camera. I think we'll get her one as a joint Christmas/birthday gift.

We will ski together, we usually watch a movie and go out to dinner Christmas eve. We bake and also go drive and look at light displays. We give gifts to needy children as well.

I have asked the kiddos to tell me the things they love to *do* and I will be sure to include everyone's favorites.

post #18 of 49
I actually suggested to my family that this year we select one person and just buy for that person instead of everyone; my brother and his wife are LOADED and I feel like I am throwing good money after bad buying them a present (b/c they already have everything they want/need, and what they don't have I can't afford), and my mom is a Buddhist (my dad doesn't care one way or the other).

That suggestion was interpreted as me being cheap, which does wonderful things for my already crappy self-esteem when it comes to that sort of thing. I have not quite figured out what to do, but I refuse to buy more clothes for a woman with enough to cover a small country, or a box of golf balls for someone who has 20 boxes already. It's wasteful. My mom will get some knitting things, and my dad doesn't care what he gets. If people ask what we want, we will ask for experiences (tickets to the play, games, or memberships) rather than things.

For our family, we will adopt the Victorian suggestion above; it seems much more in line with what I believe (everything you need, and a few of your wants) and with what I value. Who knew?

Thanks again for the thread; maybe we should start a support group...
post #19 of 49
When I was growing up I always got less than my friends. Some years I think it was due to financial reasons, but mostly I think it was simply because my parents weren't terribly materialistic or caught up in the need/desire to show their love through expensive gifts. Sometimes I felt ripped off at Easter and Christmas when other kids got so much more. I did feel like my parents were being cheap, but as an adult I have nothing but appreciation that they didn't raise me to value posessions to an excessive degree.
post #20 of 49
We're scaling back this year as well. I think we'll be going with the 4 gift thing. I know the kids will get clothes and toys from the rest of our family so I'm not real worried about those. Stocking stuffers are more practical things like toothbrushes.

We're also starting to do some volunteer/charity stuff this year so they can start to understand that Christmas isn't about getting gifts so much as giving. Or that's the hope anyways.
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