I hate to be the person to tell you that Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away, but Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away. Typically I like to ignore Christmas until after Thanksgiving. However, this year the finances are much tighter than they have been in a few years so by planning ahead, I can be sure to give heartfelt gifts to the ones I love without emptying my bank account. Here are just a few tried and true tips from our house.
Exchange names for gift giving. If you have presents to buy for 12 nieces and nephews, you may easily find yourself spending more than you should or buying "filler" presents to check the box. Our solution in our family is that every cousin's name goes in a hat and Madeleine picks the names out one-by-one to see who will be giving a present to whom on Christmas. With only three gifts for my family to buy now, we can better focus on finding the perfect present for each name picked and no one is worrying about their children sending their sister's family into the poor house because of gift giving.
Focus on thoughtful gifts. For years we have made photo calendars for each grandparent. Last year I was so overwhelmed with life that I didn't get to it and there was great disappointment on Christmas day. Typically photo calendars run around $20, but most photo processing websites will have specials or discounts if you purchase early or if you purchase more than one. I usually upload around 20 pictures and switch the photos around for each grandparent. That way everyone is looking at a different picture each month. Adding your own captions helps personalize the calendar. "It's your birthday this month, Nana!! Happy Birthday!!" under a picture of Junior blowing out candles on his birthday cake is sure to bring a smile to Nana's face.
Let your kids make some executive decisions. Letting your children take ownership of a gift allows them to truly experience the joy of giving themselves. For Carter's birthday this year, Ethan was determined to get him an ice cream cake. I will never forget Ethan's face when he carried that candle lit cake to Carter. Apparently Ethan has not forgotten it either because he still brings up that ice cream cake. It was his idea and he was committed to it. Because of that, Ethan had as much joy giving that cake as Carter did receiving it.
It is possible for less to be more. Teaching your children that a gift from the heart is more important than what something costs is an invaluable lesson that they will carry with them forever. You only spent $10 on that photo coffee mug, but the fact that your kids picked out that special photo because they thought Dad would like it best can mean more to Dad than a gift which costs ten times more.
These are just a few of the things we do. What things have you done to keep your heart in giving without having to dig as deep into your pockets?