Have Yourself a Merry, Minimalist Christmas

When I was six years old, I distinctly remember constantly re-writing my Christmas list to Santa. It was the same 5-6 items that I was asking for, my little and innocent mind changing the priority of the toys.  My parents had smartly taught me that my Christmas list wasn’t a free for all, listing every toy that caught my eye in the dog-eared, highly used Sears catalog. Instead, I should select the toys that held the most important place in my heart and the ones I want the most. I didn’t need my parents to proofread my list–I intuitively knew that asking for more than six toys was going overboard.

My, how things have changed.

It is not uncommon these days to see individuals in parenting forums proclaim a $1,000 gift budget per child is appropriate. (My wallet just screamed in horror after I wrote that sentence.) For many of us, myself included, we may have grown up simply, and our desire to give our children the world is normal. It also isn’t wrong in itself. But I think I can safely say that some of us have gone off the bend in our gift-giving. I think my wake-up call was when I saw a friend gift their child a highly expensive item when said child didn’t even know these existed. There is no judgment, but instead, a reflection of how far consumerism has reached us parents.

Even as an adult, there comes a certain burden in receiving gifts. Many well-meaning relatives wish to buy you a gift and sometimes it’s not something you need or want. But you are thankful and feel obligated to keep the gift and make a spot for it in our home. What this amounts to is a gift dump into your house after Christmas, desperately searching for a place to keep gifts you may never touch again. It’s not about being ungrateful, but more the fact that as adults, sometimes our wants are very slim.

One of the best-unintended benefits of minimalism is you automatically save money. Especially for parents who still have a somewhat new child, you are living your best financial life when choosing this route. Your child doesn’t even KNOW if they should expect a lot of gifts or not. A toddler doesn’t know what they are missing by receiving 5 gifts from you instead of 10. And while the temptation is so great, I myself have to remind myself that there are future Christmases and Birthdays so no I do not need to buy all the gifts. Plus your future self will be so thankful you made the conscious decision to strategize gift giving. Less indeed is more. If you need a slight nudge on where to start, look no further than the following suggestions.

The four gift rule

Focus on four areas of gift-giving for your child: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This is a well-balanced approach to gifts where you don’t feel you may be spending needlessly on a limitless amount of toys. You can even use this approach with a younger child. By starting this habit earlier, your child will become accustomed to this smaller mix of presents, which can hopefully stave off any unhappy feelings on Christmas morning.

Start a gift-exchange with friends, your siblings, your co-workers, etc

There are so many various groups of people we love. In an ideal world, it would be perfect if we can give a gift to every single loved one. For most of us, our wallets (and husbands) would not allow this. Enter the gift exchange. In today’s high-tech world, there’s no reason why you can coordinate a virtual gift exchange complete with wishlists. My personal favorite free website and app to use is Elfster. Not only are you going to save money from having to buy every single person in a particular group a present, you know exactly what your secret Santa wants. This means fewer gifts to take home, and happiness guaranteed.

Experiences, not goods

You’ve probably heard it before, but asking for experiences can be way more satisfying than receiving a physical gift. Try asking for a membership to the zoo or Children’s Museum to save you some change. Or make it more personal, a date night to a cool place (The Bougie Bar or the new Board & Brush. A gift card from Airbnb could be used for a number of experiences. You may get pushback because some gift-givers are adamant about giving a physical gift to open. But if you express how much you’d rather an experience, you can find yourself going home with one less present.

Whichever way you choose, I stand in solidarity with you as we fight the clutter and instead focus on creating memories and experiences during the holidays.

It can always be a challenge when our loved ones wish to shower us with physical gifts, but a little bit of communication can go a long way. I wish for your Christmas to be as jolly and minimal as possible!

A kid at heart, Katie loves all things writing, Harry Potter and musicals. At any moment, she is down for either a cup of coffee or margarita. Her passions are building and improving her community of Lafayette, where she was born and raised, and teaching her one daughter to have a British accent. (Not so successful at that last part yet). She spends her day as a nonprofit ambassador, helping nonprofits amplify their mission and creating more social good.