We Switched to this Simple Holiday Gift Plan and We Love it


In case you hadn’t noticed, Christmas is coming.

As in, there are now less than two months left to get the tree, start the shopping, finish the shopping, wrap all the presents, drive to the in-laws house, overeat, wake up the day after Christmas wondering where you’re going to put all the stuff, and then settle into that post-Christmas malaise that inevitably overtakes us all.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted just writing that.

As a parent, Christmas is a strange time. We want our kids to have everything they want, but we also want to be able to afford groceries.

How do you balance giving your kids a magical experience, with maintaining a grip on reality, and not ending up facing a mountain of debt after Christmas? How do you balance giving your kids a magical experience, with maintaining a grip on reality, and not ending up facing a mountain of debt after Christmas? Especially with all the stuff the grandparents give them.

A couple years back, mostly out of necessity, my wife and I instituted a plan we came across. This plan has allowed us to teach our kids about gratitude, help them combat materialism, all while still giving them what I hope is a magical Christmas season.

It’s simple, and it’s really working for our family. Here it is:

Something they Want

The first gift we get our kids is something they want. This could be something they’ve talked about all year or something they mentioned a couple weeks ago, but it is usually completely impractical. It’s a doll, or a bow and arrow, or a lightsaber, or something equally ridiculous. It’s fun to give our kids something they don’t really need, and limiting it to one item keeps things manageable and affordable.

Something they Need

Depending on your kid, this one can be decidedly less fun. Last year, we realized that our oldest really needed new sneakers. So we got her the brightest, loudest pair of Nikes we could find online. She loved the bright colors, and she needed shoes anyway, so two birds, one stone.

Something to Wear

Last year, both of our oldest daughters needed raincoats. We live in Portland, Oregon, and rain is a way of life here. They had warm coats, but those warm coats were down, and when they got wet, they tripled in weight. What kid wants to wear a ten pound soaking wet coat?

So we got them both raincoats. It wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t magical, but during the first downpour after Christmas they both really appreciated those coats. And surprisingly, neither of them have lost them, nearly a year later. As a parent, that’s a major win.

Something to Read

As a bookworm, this gift is the most fun for me. Our oldest is a voracious reader. I went to the library exactly seven days ago and got her nine books, and she has read them all already. She burns through books, and at times, we have to pry her away from them and force some social interaction on her. Just like her daddy.

I believe in the magic of books, and I want my kids to experience that as well. So one of the gifts every year is a book of some kind. For our oldest last year, it was a National Geographic book called 500 Facts About Everything and it’s literally a book of random facts about the most random things and it’s amazing.

Maybe for your kid, it’s Where’s Waldo?, or Berenstain Bears, or Harry Potter. It’s been proven over and over again that reading is highly beneficial for kids. So whatever it is, get them reading.

That’s the plan. Simple, right?

One caveat: we usually include a stocking full of useful things, and one present from Santa, but for the most part, we’ve stuck pretty well to this plan for the past few years. Besides, the grandparents always spoil the kids rotten anyway every year, and you need a new car to take home all of their stuff.

This year, consider simplifying. Your kids need you, not more stuff. Spend that time and energy making the Christmas season a magical one. Make gingerbread houses, go look at holidays lights, watch Christmas movies (Arthur Christmas is fantastic!) Lighten up on the stuff a bit. You may just find simplicity is exactly what you need to enjoy the holidays again.