Christmas is 6 months away – but it won’t be long before you start seeing stuff pop up in stores ALL over. Come August, there will likely be at least one or two stores that is already talking about Black Friday … and Christmas decor will start to go up in Hobby Lobby, Target and even Walmart.
Over the last few years and with each child we have we have been on a mission to get rid of excess stuff in our house – and lives. And I’ll be the first to admit, that has been HARD at times!
The last few Christmas holidays, we have not given gifts to our kids – and we feel like we have done pretty good.
What Prompted This?
MANY things honestly – and I think a combination of all those things and events that unfolded prompted us to go a different direction and we haven’t looked back.
The “gimme” mentality is rampant during the holidays. It’s just as bad during birthdays, in fact, for some people it’s bad all year – they just can’t say “no”. It can be super hard for kids to look beyond the marketing hype of the holidays and remember the real reason for the holidays.
It’s not the gifts that are important but the significance behind the gifts that helps reinforce the holiday spirit. It’s not that we are trying to deprive our kids – because we aren’t :)
Each year, I become more firm in my choice to avoid gifts, when I see the commercialism and hoopla at the stores – last winter, I headed to Target for the first time in months and couldn’t find a cart.
That should have been the first clue to turn around and leave, but it wasn’t :) I never go there anyways, but I had to have really needed something to walk in, and I wasn’t in there long before it started..
Kids fighting with their parents over toys that they felt like they needed. Parents throwing stuff randomly in their cart. Kids stomping their feet… teenagers with headphones in their ears as they demanded “this and that”.. it just put me off entirely. I remember thinking to myself .. “really? Is this what the holidays are now?” and then leaving the store entirely .. I forgot why I had even walked in there.
Though we can’t quite stop the gifts from grandparents/family…. no exchanging will be done in our immediate family. Here’s a few of the reasons we will skip the gifts:
- Our kids have too much stuff. And quite honestly, they won’t play with them. It’s true – they play with a rare few toys, and the rest will get tossed in the toybox, broken into a million pieces and will lay there for days or even months before I just get tired of picking them up (in pieces) and opt to toss them completely.
- We prefer to go somewhere and do something as a family in lieu of material items. An experience is something they tend to remember longer than a gift – after they open a gift, the excitement wears off and 15-30 minutes later, they are already over the toy.
- We want an experience that is focused on Christ at the holidays. Not on less meaningful items like gifts.
After going without gifts for the last few years, our kids haven’t asked for gifts at the holidays – they have come to the realization that more “stuff” doesn’t make them happy. Spending time with Mom and Dad does. And spending time going somewhere special is what they get excited about.
Why Stuff Won’t Make Them (or you) Happy
For so many people, we equate giving with happiness – it’s no different for our kids as it is for us. We are a consumer driven culture… it’s something that is pounded into us from the onset of birth.Many people will buy things just to fill a void when they are unhappy OR bored.
We always see people who have downsized and gotten rid of stuff – those little house people who live a simple, realistic life – but in reality, many Americans can’t help themselves from buying more.
Perhaps for many, it was a really great deal. It might of been something we needed, or, perhaps we justify the purchase because we worked SO hard – when in fact, we are purchasing items to solve a much deeper problem in our lives.
And although stuff (gifts) aren’t evil… a love of things can be quite consuming. It only gets worse as we get older – a bigger house, a newer car, a newer iPhone, all those things can quickly make us forget about the things that really matter around us.
And it’s not just Christmas, but it happens with birthdays too. It also happens during the year, when the kids get together with cousins and friends.
The kids see their cousins, and the competition begins..
“My mom buys me LEGO sets every day.”
“I have a TV in my room. You don’t.”
” I went to McDonalds and got the NEWEST toys in my Happy Meal. My mom takes me when I want to go. Does yours?”
“I can play Minecraft and watch TV whenever I want at my house.”
The bickering starts – and it’s clear that contentment is not there – but a void needs to be filled. And toys are the void … though they only fill that void in their life temporarily.
Most kids can’t remember a majority of the items they got for Christmas or their birthday last year. But they WILL remember a trip, or an experience that you took them on. Right?
Alternatives to Gifts
If you are avoiding the gift giving … a great option is to give them the gift of time with you and time as a family. You can take any of these trips HERE in Arizona and California in lieu of gifts – they would make great experiences the kids would remember far more than any toy.
Not in Arizona? No big deal – you probably have places you can put together for a day trip or an overnight trip, or even a mini 2-3 day trip that aren’t going to break the bank.
Last year we went to Bearizona with the kids here in Flagstaff – we stayed in a hotel and went for dinner that night.. the kids had a blast. We’re already trying to determine what we’ll do this year, but we’re thinking of heading to Colorado for a weekend or San Diego for some time.
By planning early it allows us to set a budget that won’t break the bank – traveling with 7 of us can be expensive if you wait until the last minute. Yikes! :)
The point of this post was not to tell you that you can’t buy gifts – or, that you shouldn’t. It’s to determine alternative ways to find happiness through the material things that so commonly flood store shelves, commercials, billboards and television screens.
Gifts can be important, but the relationships you have are even greater.