21 November 2008

Christmas Wrapped: How to ratchet down holiday gift-giving stress

Christmas Wrapped

The final extracurricular project I'm part of is a holiday-themed FM/Target collaboration. A bunch of FM authors (including me) are contributing their stories and tips for simplifying the holiday season. The result? Christmas Wrapped.

While I may not be qualified to dispense advice about Christmas gifting (my family celebrates Hanukkah), that doesn't stop me from suggesting a few ideas for stemming the holiday madness in my first post: How to ratchet down holiday gift-giving stress.

Note: Like the other FM collaborations I've done, the project is sponsored, but the content is independent. In some cases, you'll see ads on Parent Hacks pointing to these projects, but I'm never paid to directly promote a particular product or brand (FM never asks me to, nor would I consider it in any other venue).

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When our son was still little enough not to understand Christmas, my husband and I made up our minds not to start the Christmas Crazies in our home.

He grew up in a country where each person received one gift on New Year's Eve, but I grew up in pretty typical American family where the deeper the pile of wrapping paper at the end, the better! I heard from a friend at church that members of her family receive 3 gifts each - to represent the 3 gifts the wise men gave baby Jesus. That seemed like a fitting way to remind everyone why we celebrate, and a practical way to cut down on the "Gimmee!" factor. It also cuts down on shopping, overspending and stress.

It's a big relief not to have to worry about it so much anymore. We all set and stick to limits and we all know what to expect.


We did something similar to the three gifts rule:

1 gift from Santa
1 gift from us

The Santa gift is supposed to be something you deeply want, that will resonate, that maybe mom and dad wouldn't normally just up and buy you. One year, it was a video game (when we normally don't do video games, but recognized one that would satisfy the craving as well as suit our intentions). Once, a guitar for a child who loves music (outside our price range, but obtained through our school's network of parents).

The gift from us is something from their wish list, general.

The huge pile of gifts is at my in-laws house, though they have trimmed it back FAR after staying around one day while I sorted the toy library. It kind of set in their minds how many of the things they gave are just taking up space. A lot of space. It was a good illustration of what the over-buying does to our lives.

My dad's family does a pollyanna child-to-child (at the grandkid level), NO gifts other than minor consumables for the rest of the family (a pound of nice coffee, say). My mom does one gift per person, which still ends up being a fair number, but most are oriented toward 'things to grow on' - books, art supplies, project materials.

I'd love to do more hand-made stuff, but time limits me, especially with three local sets of grandparents, plus siblings/ILs numbering into the teens (literally, and those are just the ones we actually gift with), and the next generation. Oy.

One of the other stress-reducers: We try to buy gifts from places we go. Every-other year, we have a family reunion in the summer. That year, we buy all the gifts at whatever location we're gathered. Gets the majority out of the way WELL in advance. But that's just every-other year. Any small visits otherwise might not provide a good source, so the intervening years can be trickier. And I still lose gifts, or look at them later and realize I was off my rocker when I bought that item.

Amazon and other wish lists are also a good option for simplifying, if your family is wish-list-y. My family is not, my DH's is very much a list kind of family (though it is okay to go 'off-list').

Last thing for de-stressing the holiday. We move the feasts. That is, rather than trying to do all the events on one day, we have a standing arrangement - my mom does 'her' Thanksgiving the Saturday after Thanksgiving proper, and my dad does his Christmas either one of the weekends before Christmas, or the weekend between Christmas and New Year's (when they're not on a weekend). That way, for each family, their kids can go off to the in-laws or other parent's for one celebration and STILL join in with all the family on the alternate day. No swapping annually, no trying to jam three christmas events into one day (only two, but at least they're not too far apart). We also keep the stockings at the in-laws' houses, rather than ours. It keeps the focus in the early morning on just the simple gifts, and not the frenzy of opening stuff and more stuff.

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