How does a Parent Survive during the Holiday Season?

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Christmas Eve is upon us. We all know the time of year. A time for family gatherings and a time to share gifts with the people that we love and cherish. Every year, I have been a part of gift exchanges and purchased gifts for nieces and nephews, but this is my first year purchasing and feeling the pressure of Christmas morning for our very own daughter.

This year, our daughter is two. For her first two Christmases, we didn’t feel the need to get her a perfect gift. Instead, we felt like she wouldn’t know or understand the difference. Therefore for her first Christmas, we took a gift card to Target and found a car seat that she would eventually need (the gift card only covered a portion of the car seat). Her first Christmas present from her parents was a car seat (aided with the help of a gift card). Very practical in our opinion.

Last Christmas, we were in Nebraska for the holiday. We made a decision that we weren’t taking all our presents to Nebraska. Instead, we found a toy chest and had it delivered to our home after we returned. She had a great Christmas receiving gifts from everyone else. She didn’t even notice or wonder about a gift from her parents.

Some of you may think we are crazy or cheap. Maybe we are, but we felt like there was no need to get her random little things. She would be getting those things from everybody else. Instead we focused on something that she would use. It was a win-win in our book, practical and usable!

This year, however, the tides have turned. We are spending Christmas in Texas at our home. Our daughter is two and understanding more about the holiday than ever before. Sure, she is still probably a year away from fully understanding, but this year is her first Christmas grasping the concept of presents, stockings and Santa.

Therefore, there is this unneeded pressure for us parents to make Christmas the most amazing time of the year for our kids. My wife and I felt this pressure as we were trying to figure out the gifts that we would get for our kids this Christmas.

As we were shopping for gifts online, I made a statement to my wife, “I can see why people go overboard on Christmas!” I made this statement after spending a couple hours trying to find the best gift. As I continued to search the internet, I kept finding the coolest toys and I wanted to get almost all of them for our daughters. However, you must come back to reality and realize that you can’t buy everything. To be completely honest, I don’t want my children feeling like they need everything.

Therefore, I had to refer back to a list of beliefs that we set about Christmas:

  1. We don’t want to set a precedent that we can’t match or must out do each year.

  2. We don’t want our kids to expect amazing Christmas gifts every year.

  3. We don’t want our kids to mindlessly want more and more stuff.

  4. We don’t want our kids to become spoiled brats and get everything they want from their parents.

It is a fine balance to give your kids and family a great Christmas, without going overboard. I now truly understand the pressure that parents feel at Christmas. The whole idea of keeping up with the Joneses and always having the best new toy are true pressures that parents feel (I don’t feel like I totally understood this until this year).

For every parent feeling that pressure, I want you to know:


Your children don’t care as much about the stuff as they do about spending time with you. Therefore, instead of stressing about the best gift to give each child, give them the gift of time! Your kids will love that more than anything you can give them.

With that being said, here is a list of gifts that we got for our girls this Christmas:

Our Eldest:

  • Bike with training wheels

  • Books (2)

  • Backpack (Our daughters current backpack is breaking at the seams)

  • Pants and Socks (Stocking Stuffers)

Our Youngest:

  • Bookcase for her room (purchased using points my wife earned at her work and cost us nothing)

  • Books (3)

  • Pants and Socks (Stocking stuffers)

Both of them:

  • Play Kitchen (purchased using points my wife earned at her work and cost us nothing)

  • A big book with a plane that goes in circles on different trails in the book

We decided on one big gift from us to both girls (a bookcase for our youngest and a bike for our eldest). For the Santa gift, we decided on a play kitchen. Our daughter loved playing with my mom’s kitchen in Nebraska over Thanksgiving and we felt like she would love playing kitchen at home (It was a bonus that we were able to get it for free).

As I was wrapping the gifts earlier this month, I thought that we had gone overboard on the gifts for our girls, however, looking at our Christmas gift spending I am relatively surprised. We are actually under last years Christmas spending and we have one more kid. Currently, we have spent $400 on gifts for the holidays.

$400 may sound like a lot, but that includes gifts for gift exchanges, gifts to nieces and nephews, gifts for our daughters, gifts from our kids to us and the purchase of our Christmas Card. I feel like our spending on our kids is a small amount of that total spending (mainly because we were able to use rewards and points to get many of the gifts for free - 2 big items and at least 3 books).

Despite my general happiness with our lower Christmas spending this year, I am still reflecting back on our gifts and wondering if it is too much? I was brought to this questioning as I was listened to an episode from ChooseFI a couple days after we had finished our Christmas shopping.

In this episode, a voicemail was played. In this voicemail, the caller suggested different ways that they save money on Christmas. She (the caller) suggested a strategy that they (her and her husband) use with their kids and led my wife and I to a great conversation. This family gives each kid 4 gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

In our conversation about this strategy, my wife and I liked the concept and were pretty close to this concept this year, however, we are giving our girls more than one book. We like this idea and are considering implementation next Christmas, with a slight variation.

We would use the 4 gifts from us and add in two from Santa: Something they want, something in their stockings, something they need, something to wear, something from Santa, and something to read.

Now, I know this article posts the day before Christmas and you are already done with your Christmas shopping. You can’t stop anything from happening this year, but you can start to think about possible changes for the future.

Looking towards making a change next year will bring so many benefits to your family. First, you will have less stuff lying around your house. I am all about finding ways to get rid of stuff and the best way to get rid of stuf is not buy any in the first place. Second, you can turn the focus of Christmas from getting stuff to giving. Maybe you can find a way to give your time volunteering over the holidays. There is no better gift than giving back to the less fortunate.

Third, you will save money, because you’re aren’t wasting it on gifts that your kid won’t even remember in 10 years. Lastly, use the holiday season to give your time to your kids. Don’t just give them the latest and greatest toy and head back to work. Instead, be there and be present in their lives. Play a board game or watch a movie as a family. You never get this time back, but you can take control of this time by being with your kids over the holidays.

I’m interested to know, is our $400 spending total on Christmas gifts high or low? What do you spend on Christmas gifts? Could you find a way to cut back?



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