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How the Smiths Avoid the Holiday Spend-a-thon

The holidays and spending generally go hand-in-hand. I know our family starts planning in October or November who we have to buy for, what we are buying and go from there. There generally is no set budget amount, more like anything goes. And we, like many other parents, didn't want our kids waking up sad or disappointed by the lack of presents under the tree. As a result we would just buy and buy, perhaps gifts they didn't even ask for just to be sure there was plenty to unwrap. [are you nodding along??]

Never mind the loads of presents our kids would get from relatives: Christmas Eve with my husband's extended family; Christmas morning at my in-laws; and finally, a last stop at my parents/family.

I would spend days after Christmas finding homes for all the new things. Pure ridiculousness. It never really hit me until a few years back I was cleaning our bonus room shortly after the holiday. There were MORE presents that I had apparently missed. Presents that clearly hadn't been touched and were still in boxes. Not only was I a little angry but even more so embarrassed. The reality hit me hard... that there are children in this world who have no Christmas because of circumstances beyond their own control, and here are my children who have clearly been overindulged. That is when I knew Ben and I had to rethink our gift giving approach.

We were essentially throwing money away. Our kids clearly didn't value the gifts they were receiving. It was apparent by the lack of use of some of the gifts that they didn't care whether they received them or not. It had clearly come to a point where they had SO much stuff that it didn't matter whether it was Christmas or any other day. There was this expectation with our children that essentially everyday was like Christmas, that whenever they wanted something, they got it.

SUPER EMBARASSING as a parent. Like total parenting fail?!

It was our own fault. We programed these little people to have such expectations. We go to the grocery store and they find something they "need" - BUY it; we go to the mall just to walk around and there is something more they "need" - BUY it; a trip to Target, one more "need" - BUY it... Insanity.

So now here we are.... how on earth do you reprogram your kids after constant giving/giving in? And how do you get them to appreciate Christmas gifts when they seem to have EVERYTHING already. We, or at least I, was on a mission to change things. While perusing Pinterest one evening I found an idea for the "Four Gift Rule." I told Ben about it and he laughed. I ignored his laughter and passed along the plan to the kids. The next Christmas they were going to get FOUR main gifts: something they want; something they need; something to wear; and something to read.

As the holiday season approached that year, I reminded them of our new plan. Their something they "want" was going to be brought by Santa and all other gifts they would normally get from him were going to other kids whose parents couldn't afford gifts. The remaining gifts, need, wear and read, would come from Ben and me. Let me tell you they were EXTREMELY crafty in deciding what items can fit into those categories. They were also extremely thoughtful when it came to writing their lists. No more gifts that just sit around after the holidays. Each gift received is totally appreciated.

{Camryn's list the first year: Want: American Girl Doll; Need: Vera Bradley Backpack; Wear: Dresses; and Read: AG Doll books. Notice dresses and books as plural... she's no dummy!! Another year she had UGG boots as her Need and a North Face fleece as her Wear. Some may debate that doesn't work but it's however they want to craft their lists.}

I have to say that implementing this plan did not go without all kinds of feedback from others that I shared with. Many friends/co-workers couldn't believe we would do such a thing.

"How do you only buy your kids FOUR things?!"

"Our kids would NEVER go for that..." and the comments went on...

The reality was they weren't truly receiving only four things. Four categories of gifts but usually not four things. Not to mention they have stockings and other smaller gifts that we find that they may enjoy. And truly... why was I trying to justify our new plan to others, it was our plan, not theirs.

Well, I am happy to report that it's been several years since we implemented this system and there has never been a single complaint from our children. They haven't run away or disowned us. Nothing. Well nothing but the SERIOUS question as to Santa bringing their "Want" item and us simply standing-by "If you don't believe, you don't receive."

What's your gift giving style? Budget, no budget? Do you give experiences rather than things? I would LOVE to hear from you! Send me your tips/tricks for gift giving/planning via my website (through the Free Organization Tips link)

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