The Christmas Strategies

Laura’s post made me think that it might be time to review Elizabeth’s Christmas Gift Strategies for Maximum Non Insanity Especially if You Live In A Tiny House.  This is my patented tried and true method,  as someone who tends to both Go A Little Crazy At Christmas Time and is also Someone Who Very Easily Becomes Someone Who Wants to Go Away to a Desert Island for all of December and Pretend Christmas Doesn’t Exist.

1. Divide and Conquer:

a. I clean out the toy shelves (when my kids are asleep or else they FREAK OUT) and donate all the extraneous stuff sometime in November.

b. I know this makes me sound like a dick, but I open everything that comes into this house from someone else. Some of it I donate unopened. Some of it I save and put in stockings. Some of it goes under the tree to be opened Christmas Eve, and some of it I save out and give the kids on certain days on the advent calendar because no one cares about a book about trees on Christmas morning,  but it seems pretty fun when you open it on December 10th and then go on a family nature walk to look at trees.

c. I maximize the gift giving times so that the sheer volume of stuff can be spread out. I put “open a present early” on a few days on the advent calendar. I do a treasure hunt for a gift (also on the advent calendar.). We open family presents on Christmas Eve but Santa presents on Christmas morning. St. Nicholas brings presents on December 5th.  So it’s spread out as much as possible.

d. I try to reduce the amount of stuff that we personally buy for our kids to just the things I really want my kids to have that I know no one else will buy them, and through the magic of Amazon Prime I usually don’t buy those things until the week before Christmas.   I still buy them too much stuff because I am always worried that they won’t have enough presents, ridiculously, but I try to remind myself over and over that it’s ALWAYS too much stuff.

2. Good Stuff Goes In the Stockings. I used to buy all this stuff, wrap up EVERYTHING, and then put it under the tree.  Then I’d go buy MORE useless crap that no one really wanted at Cost Plus or Target a few days before Christmas and fill the stockings with that stuff. Now I try to save everything that would fit in a stocking for a stocking. I buy actual good presents OR things we just happen to need anyway, and those go in the stockings, so things like scarves, umbrellas, binoculars, pajamas, nice candy, band aids, commuter mugs, playing cards, stuff like that. No more junk in the stockings.

3. Adults Get Gifts Too. One year we did the whole “let’s not get each other anything” thing so we could shower our children with crap they didn’t need, and it was just depressing.  We do sometimes buy each other BIG things later on in the year instead of in the worst financial month ever, but we always get each other something, and not something crappy. For example this year I am getting boots from Mr. E, and something from the kids, and Mr. E is getting a coat from me and something from the kids.

4. Buy, Send, Done (Preferably Early, Rather Than Later). This is new to my gift giving philosophy, but it’s really helping this year so much.  Last year I found so many perfect presents that seemed too expensive. So instead I fretted and dithered and made lists and then bought other stuff, so much “not quite right” stuff, even, that I spent more than I would have had I just gone with my original, expensive idea. I am SUCH a bargain shopper but sometimes you just have to buy yourself a sense of peace.  That’s my Christmas gift to myself this year. So I find something, I send off $125 worth of beach towels, and then I don’t buy any more little stuff to patch in what I am worried is a crappy gift. I am DONE with the one thing.  I buy the one overpriced thing, even if I have to close my eyes while I push “Place Order”, and then I am DONE.

This is seriously the best thing I have done for myself in a long time. Buy, send, done. I am so close to being DONE with my shopping and now I feel like I can just exhale and enjoy Christmas for a change instead of fretting. I do almost all of my shopping online, I ship it straight to the recipient, and I don’t enter the mall, at all, ever, except for one fun day of shopping with Amy.

5. Less Is More. Last year I bought Eli a giant lollipop, bigger than his head.  He didn’t eat it.  I also bought him all manner of blinking flashing nonsense, and the only thing he really loved and that has stood the test of time is the bike he got from Santa.  So, that’s what I am focusing on this year.  Less junk, less over the top, less excess.  Just a few nice things, less batteries.



9 Responses

  1. yes yes yes. I feel like I have fallen into the number of gifts trap, and now we have too much stuff, and I need to scale back to way fewer gifts per kid, but I’m worried that they’ll be disappointed. Even though I was wrapping stuff like individual pairs of socks, just to give the effect of super magic pile of presents.

  2. EVERY YEAR I’m jealous of your pre-opening gifts policy. I love living close to family (obviously) but that means all gifts are opened in front of the giver, so the kids know exactly what they got AND the giver usually advocates opening the packaging and letting the kids play with the toy. So frustrating.

    Obviously, I still donate some of it and they often do forget. Sometimes it never comes in the house at all – I just leave it in the trunk to donate! It’s getting harder the older Margaret gets, though. I rely on there being SO MANY presents she doesn’t miss half of them never showing up in her room.

  3. I love your “buy, send, done” philosophy so much, I may have to borrow it. For the past few years I have agonized over prices of things I really wanted to give and patched together stuff that was just ok. Didn’t really save much $$ and definitely did not enjoy the giving process as much. As for the kids… I start off really strong and then the 2 weeks out pressure starts and I go into panic mode of not enough. This year I vow to hold out because it always is really enough. Thanks for sharing your strategy, I got some good ideas.

  4. This is so helpful, thank you! The part that I really want to do but am not currently doing is donating gifts from family members. I just feel SO GUILTY doing that, since some people don’t have a ton of money and I know it was probably hard for them to save up for Christmas. But then I also feel SO GUILTY about how fortunate we are and that my kids have SO MANY THINGS when other people don’t. ACK!!

  5. I’m curious about what you tell people that send gifts to your kids that they never see because you donate them. I love the idea but I guess I’d worry that it would come up some how and it would be awkward. Or maybe you tell them that you’ve donated their gift?? Just wondering 🙂

  6. I really like the spread the opening gifts out idea. Growing up, we could open one gift on Christmas Eve, and that was it. Christmas Day was a smorgasbord of presents. Spreading it out also makes the whole month seem fun, not just a big frustrating tease to the main event.

    Last year I went a little bonkers, and poor 18 month old Xander was so overwhelmed and STILL hasn’t played with everything I got him. This year my plan was/is: one big present from Santa/us (we haven’t distinguished this, yet), and a few fun small things for the stocking. Of course, there will be more because I always buy more, but the plan seems to be helping me stay on track.

  7. I stumbled upon an end-of-season sale at Lands’ End in March and shopped for all of my in-laws in one fell swoop. The clothes were marked down to $7 each, so I got my MIL and FIL each sweaters that were originally $99, plus stuff for the brothers and sisters-in-law. I am SO PROUD of myself. Whole family, done at once, affordably. Squee.

    I got my 18 month old a travel MagnaDoodle for Christmas…and then gave it to her a month ago when we desperately needed her to be content during dinner at a restaurant. I am begging my in-laws to get her lessons at Little Gym instead of more plastic toys we don’t need. I’m hoping to continue getting her only one or two presents for as long as possible!

  8. Your Christmas Strategies make me feel sane just reading them. I love your attitude. Please keep posting them as my Katherine gets older so I remember to not be crazy in the coming years. 🙂

  9. This year I worked hard on getting the kids what THEY want and not what *I* want FOR them. (You know, the stuff I didn’t have as a kid that I want them to love but they aren’t interested in.) Also, this is our first year doing stockings, so we’ll see how that goes.

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