The theme of trying to live simply seems to be everywhere, except during the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Then, simplicity seems to be thrown aside and “buy all the things!” takes over. And then after all the shopping pressure, you add in the pursuit to decorate your home in holiday perfection (what do you mean you don’t have five Christmas trees each with a different theme?), the demand to bake picture worthy treats (I’m looking at you, Pinterest), the expectation to attend so many events and parties, the desire to create special memories – all within a month’s worth of time – well, simple is hard to find.
One way our family has tried to keep things simple(r) is in choosing gifts for our children. We follow a couple of rules:
- No batteries. With very few exceptions, we don’t purchase any items that require batteries. Sometimes we break the rule, but it’s a rare occurrence.
- No toys that do all the work for you. Toys that only allow children to sit and watch and not actively engage in are not toys. I prefer things like dolls, play silks, animal sets, blocks – classic style toys.
Other guidelines we follow help us to keep our gifts to our children simple and also helps to reduce their expectations.
We generally follow Something You Want, Something You Need, Something to Wear, Something to Read.
I stumbled on this several years ago and it really helped me simplify our shopping and giving. We don’t give our children a lot of things during the year, so I tend to go overboard at Christmas (and birthdays), but sticking to this theme helps me stay a little more balanced.
Sometimes it really does mean four gifts, sometimes it means more (especially if a child has outgrown a lot of his or her clothes, we’ll double, triple and quadruple up on the Something To Wear category). But I try to stay within the categories and within limits.
Another guide is to buy Tools Not Toys.
This means we give real cameras that take real pictures instead of a play camera (unless the child is very small, but then there are usually other things that would make a better gift). We give real sewing machines that sew through real fabric and the stitches stay in place rather than toy machines where the stitches fall apart or that don’t even stitch at all. When one of our children is interested in learning how to do something, we’ll make the tools needed part of their gift. We give looms for weaving and knitting needles and nice yarn for knitting.
Following these doesn’t completely keep me from overdoing it, but it does help me stay on task and within budget.
Which is the other Very Important rule: Don’t Buy Gifts with Debt
It took me a long time to learn that one. It took me longer to pay off my mistakes. Please, set a budget and stick to it.
Do you have any tips for keeping the holiday season simple?