Christmas Planning – Simple Gift Giving

With flakes of snow in the air, Banana and I thought it was time to peel frost-burnt jack-o-lanterns off our stairs. As I hauled the fall decorations away, I cringed with the knowledge that Christmas is next. Some of our neighbours already have their lights strung on tress and the City of Edmonton’s official light-up is tomorrow.

I’ve been thinking about ways to simplify our Christmas. Especially when I think of some of the simple living and idle parenting concepts:

– Consume less
– Time is more important than money
– Don’t waste money on holidays
– An idle parent is a thrifty parent
– An idle parent is a creative parent
– Reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born

Here are some ideas about how to simplify Christmas gift giving:

1. Always favour gift exchanges over buying for everyone within a group (friends, family, workplace, etc.).

2. When giving, try to remember the simple living gift giving rules: make the gift consumable or temporary (eg: flowers). In other words, don’t give people more stuff.

3. If you are buying gifts, give with meaning. Don’t just buy a gift for the sake of feeling obligated to give a present, give something really thoughtful.

4. Make it a Kijiji (or Craig’s List/E-Bay/garage sale) holiday. So, instead of buying from stores, challenge the family to find gifts second-hand.

5. Consider giving the gift of time (or an experience). For example, for their Christmas gift this year, we are taking our nieces and nephew to the Fort Edmonton Park Christmas event.

6. Set a budget and stick to it.

7. Do a charity exchange – donate $x to the charity that you think best suits the person whose name you pulled out of the hat. Plus, it’s a tax write-off!

8. Make Christmas about the kids – no adult gift-giving.

9. Discourage people from giving your children more stuff – if people really want to give, ask them to donate the money instead.

10. Or, ask for money for your child’s education or savings account.

11. Set gift-giving standards early so that children don’t have unreasonable expectations (for example, Santa only bring one present). My sister has a friend who came up with the great idea of following the tradition of the three wise men. Her son gets three gifts: one from Santa (something frivolous that he really wants), a practical gift (eg: new PJs), and a gift with meaning.

12. Make the adult stocking stuffers practical – eg: only toiletries.

13. Always re-use gift wrap and bags.

14. Consider a homemade gift exchange.

15. Share food and drink over the season rather than spend money and time shopping for gifts.

16. Do a re-gift Christmas. Get the kids to pick out toys to give away to other kids. Everyone gets a new toy with no money spent!

Do you have other ideas? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

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10 Responses to “Christmas Planning – Simple Gift Giving”


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  4. 4 roma November 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    This is a great post and i love the ideas particularly the three wise men one – perfect and also gives kids a bit of insight into the true meaning of Christmas! We normally have a Kris Kringle with my husband’s (big!!) family, and last year we suggested either a charity gift or a handmade gift, but the idea was knocked on the head because some of the family just wanted presents (and these were adults!). thankfully they allowed us to give a list and both my husband and I did just put Charity Gifts on ours which allowed us to at least reduce the amount of stuff in our house! We also made some Dukkah (you can be creative and make labels as well like my husband did) to add to the other gifts so as people understood what we were trying to do/say… I guess, though, some people don’t appreciate the idea of simple gift giving!

    I do also love the home-made gift idea but it doesn’t just have to be Crafty – i am with you on not being creative – but you could create a nice little hamper of your home made food including some dukkah (really easy to put together), some of your lovely bread, cookies, sauces, condiments etc and although a bit of hard work and planning, it turns into a great hamper and perhaps some great fun times with the kids (as they get older!).

    • 5 Mama Tortoise November 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm

      That might be a whole other post – how to convince your family that simple gift giving is a good idea!

      You’re right about a little hamper. The Bear and I have already started to do some baking – all the little cookies and things will be wrapped up for the teachers, babysitters, etc. So satisfying too!

      Thanks for the story, Roma. Now I’m going to go look up ‘Dukkah’

  5. 6 Mama Tortoise November 14, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Kristy – we did that one year too with a group of friends. Another great idea about keeping things simple. I imagine that it would work well with kids – a sort of toy exchange! And it would be really easy to involve the kids in something like that. I’ll add it to the list.

  6. 7 Kristy November 14, 2010 at 8:41 am

    We did a re-gift Christmas one year! You had to pick something from your home to wrap up for family members. It was hilarious.

  7. 8 Mama Tortoise November 14, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Ahhh, the dreaded ‘homemade’ Christmas gift idea. At least, some of us less-crafty people dread it! You’re right, though, that’s another easy way to cut back. And food sharing is always good 🙂

    I’ll add them to the list!

  8. 9 Hope Manuel November 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    How about making gifts, you have to start early, like Jan. but it can be surprisingly creative and sometimes hilarious. I really agree with pulling names from a hat, and a dollar ceiling. I also think that not just one person provide the “big meal” a combination of offerings can be enjoyed on the “big” day.


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