My survival strategy for holiday gift-giving with kids - Part 1

My survival strategy for holiday gift-giving with kids - Part 1 ::

There’s so much to say about this topic that I split it up into a three part series.
Part 1: What to shop for and Why we do it that way.
Part 2: How much to spend already!
Part 3: When and where to shop.

I love the Christmas season.

It’s truly one of my favorites! I love the magic, the wonder, the lights, and the excuse to binge eat chocolate. And having five children means I enjoy the first three 5x over.

I see the world anew every time my 3 year old gets giddy when we drive by a decorated house. And I secretly grin when my very-adultish almost-13-year-old plans a family trip to park in front of our neighbor’s house for at least 20 minutes, enjoying the perfectly synchronized light display and Christmas music concert coming through the car’s speakers.

But there is one part of Christmas that every mom dreads.

I have yet to meet a mother that loves the gift planning, shopping, and wrapping. Sure, most of us love shopping. But shopping for children for Christmas is not the same thing.

Moms usually fall under one of the following categories:

Mom 1 : Hide under a rock.

This is the mom who just can’t take it, ignores it until the last possible moment, and spends the week or two before Christmas racing around; or delegates it to another family member: husband, mother, oldest child, etc.

Mom 2: totally on top of it.

She gets all the shopping done months in advance, usually culminating on Black Friday when she ecstatically crosses the last items off her list and kicks up her booted heels for some well deserved R&R.

Only to realize with horror that daughter #2 or son #3 has departed from the ‘plan’ and changed their mind. And are now confidently telling her that “It’s ok Mom. Santa will bring the right thing.” Sure. Sure he will.

One solution is, of course, to tell them no changes to the ‘plan’, a.k.a. the wish list, after a certain day. But if you have kids like mine, that doesn’t fly very well as they change their minds every 2 minutes.

By the time Halloween or Black Friday is over, the item I bought on Clearance in September is no longer even on their radar. They’ve moved on. Imagine the disappointment on Christmas morning when they unwrap an item that they haven’t cared about in four months.

Mom 3: Wait until December and scramble, hoping you get good deals.

Refer to the kids I mentioned under Mom 2. This has become my survival strategy for a few years now. But no more….!

Mom 4: Sit, breathe, and be strategic.

Last year was a breaking point for me. We had just bought a house so we were a little thin on cash. My children had these grandiose visions of what Christmas would mean for them, and we just didn’t have the bank balance to make it happen.

It’s times like these when the right solution seems to drop in your lap, or in your Facebook news feed.

I was introduced to the 4-gift strategy of Christmas.

I admit, they had me at ‘strategy.’

The benefit of being strategic is that I can manage the needs of 5 children. That’s good because I just don’t have the time or energy for a lot of extra running around and stress.

For those who haven’t seen this gem in their FB feed yet, the premise is to only buy four categories of gifts for your children:

Something they want,

Something they need,

Something to wear,

Something to read.

How to do it:

To get everyone on board, we sit the kids down in a family meeting and go over the four categories and remind them that we do actually use a budget. We don’t disclose to them what it is, because of what I’ll cover in Part 2 of this series.

As a result, they review their lists and remove items that they don’t really want, thereby making my job easier. And they increase their likelihood of getting the one gift they REALLY want.

See what I did there? I taught them to be strategic too! Instead of treating Christmas like their own personal binge-fest, they’re learning to prioritize their wants and needs and to decide which items are worth some careful planning and waiting.

I also add in stocking stuffers and Santa gifts to our Christmas gift-giving. The gift from Santa is one item from their list.

My Results:

After implementing the 4-gift strategy last Christmas, the holiday season was definitely more enjoyable for me. My kids were perfectly, wonderfully happy. There may have been one or two items they wanted that weren't under the tree, but they know they can save up their $$ and buy it themselves (which they frequently do).

And for me... Less stress, less running around, less pressure to get this gift or that item. More focus on giving with meaning. More focus on the real purpose of our Christmas celebrations.

Keeping it simple does that for us moms. It allows us to keep the focus where it belongs.

It’s easy to let the fabulous holiday marketing into our wallets and separate us from our money, our goals, and our priorities. Instead, let’s be strategic and let everything else go. All the expectations, the comparisons, the gift guides, the fancy “trappings” of a must-have holiday.

I’ll be focusing on making sure my kids have a great mix of magic and gratitude all rolled into one glorious month.

And I’m doing it without sacrificing what is right for my family, for my wallet, and for our financial peace-of-mind come January.


Watch for the rest of the Parts in this series. Subscribe to the list and get notified in your inbox.
Part 1: What to shop for and Why we do it that way.
Part 2: How much to spend already!
Part 3: When and where to shop.