Friday, October 03, 2008

The Christmas Shopping Rules

Since TX Mommy asked, I thought I'd post them here.

I love Christmas, but we try very hard to not bust our anti-consumerism stance or our budget at Christmas. As such I've developed some rules.

Our Christmas shopping rules are that:

-I buy things dirt cheap on clearance throughout the year for the Gift Closet. These include things suitable for baby gifts, adult gifts, and kids' gifts. They're usually things that would cost $10 to $30 that I get for $1 to $5 on clearance/sale/couponing. Also may include things that we recieve and wish to "re-gift" (we put a post-it note on saying who we got it from so we don't re-gift inappropriately.) Occasionally something smaller than $10 like a nice candle that I get on clearance with a coupon. These are also used for baby showers, birthday gifts, etc., and mean I always have something on hand for an "emergency gift" too. After-Christmas sales and the Sears, JCP, and Gymboree clearance-on-clearance are heavy contributors!

-"Santa" brings one new toy or game or etc. per kid. One. Period. If it's really large, it's a joint gift. Budget is about $20 to $30 per kid for this gift and if we can we get it cheaper; that means we need to know who wants what from "Santa" well in advance, and Santa stops listening after about early November most years. ;)

-"Santa" also fills the stockings. Stockings are re-used from year to year and each person has their own, of course. Stockings will contain a tangerine each (it's not Christmas without the tangerine! Like I used to, Ems and Bridey will go for the tangerine before anything else! When we were in Richardson they were Clementines because nothing else could be found but out here they HAVE to be Satsumas!); some candy (including at least one piece of See's chocolate; another tradition), mostly bought on sale with coupons; one or two beauty or hygeine item each (examples from past stockings include dollar store hair bow sets, fuzzy socks, toothbrushes, Disney "magic towel" bath mitts, etc.), and occasionally some stickers or a small $1 toy. This is rooted in what was in stockings when I was young and is very tradition-oriented. Stockings are always opened before presents! Babies of course have special stocking stuffers-- they get a small toy or a paci, maybe a hat or some cute socks or a hair bow, possibly a bib or onesie (thrift store or $1 bin at Target), and a baby food dessert (like Gerber's Dutch Apple Dessert, for instance), which we usually do not buy. Budget is about $5-$7 per stocking per kid, less for adults.

-Kids' gifts from us will consist of some clothes, some books, and a few small toys or some videos. These are all purchased at the thrift store, used, with the occasional exception of a heavily clearanced outfit. We very much do not want to buy new for the bulk of these gifts.

-Kids' gifts to each other may be chosen from the thrift store once they are old enough to shop (Emma started at around 3) or may be picked out from the Gift Closet (with guidance from me) before then. Babies do not "give" gifts to their sibs, this is only for kids old enough to want to give a gift to the others.

-If a situation arises in which kids are giving gifts to friends, they need to earn the money and spend their own money toward it, if it's their own idea. They may choose one from the Gift Closet if it is a socially mandated gift (going to a church party and have a Secret Santa partner, or something like that, would be an example.)

-With the exception of children, all relatives (grandparents, aunts, etc.-- meaning our parents, my sisters, etc.) and close friends get a home-made (or home-assembled, at least) gift of some sort, often consumable. These are mass-assembled as a family project.

-Nieces, nephews, and second cousins' gifts are bought on clearance or chosen from the Gift Closet; on my husband's side the cousins each give to one randomly selected cousin so instead of each kid recieving 2 gifts (since there are 3 sibs with families) they each only get one from the cousins; cuts down on "stuff." We send cards to each other but do not give gifts to each other.

-My darling husband and I don't give formal gifts to each other. Instead, we discuss something we really want, often something the whole family will use, and buy it together, on sale or, preferably, used. Likewise, we don't conspire to have the kids buy gifts for each spouse in secret (unless we happen on something perfect at the thrift store.) We have too much stuff already. (If they wanted to do it in secret and made it or spent their own money we'd let them, of course, but we don't instigate it.) Some years we may choose to save our money and later put it toward a vacation or a date instead.

-As much shopping and planning as possible should be done early! If I can be done with all things that are to be bought and have the materials for our project by November, I'm happy. Usually at least something is done last-minute but it does at least cut down on the haste and stress, and makes for better deals!

We do participate in the Hatrack gift exchange each year, but the limit on that is $10 and make-it-yourself is strongly encouraged, so we never break the bank. Following our Christmas shopping rules for family and close friends of the family means that we have more time and money to spend on something fun like that! We usually go out and do all our Hatrack shopping in one day, box everything up, and mail it. I like to get it done well before the deadline. :)

So in re-reading some of the rules I think some of the wording is not as clear as it could be... If you need clarification just ask! Of course the rules get "bent" here and there-- but we try to stick to them when possible! I really like keeping things as simple as possible. We have found that we all really appreciate the thought behind gifts more than anything, so do our families, and that the kids could not care less if their stuff is used when they get it. In cutting back on the Christmas budget and stress, we are able to appreciate Christmas itself more.


Kira Marx said...

I love your rules (which are perfectly clear, btw). I constantly read and hear about people spending hundreds of dollars on Christmas and I think it's awful. We don't celebrate Christmas, but we have the same pitfalls with Hanukkah. We don't do presents at all right now b/c Aerin is too little, but we plan to just do one little token each night when she gets bigger.

One of the ways we keep the toy situation under control is to have an Amazon wish list. We direct people there when they ask. There is a significant number of toys that we don't allow (Bratz dolls, etc.) and this avoids any hurt feelings.

It's so great that your family is on board. I get a lot of grief for my rules. I think I'll forward your rules to some key people :).

Amber said...

Good gracious, that is some list of rules you have! After spending $2,500 on our plane tickets to Canada, we have one rule for Christmas: no presents for each other because we don't have any money left!

txmommy said...

that's a good list. I think it's really good to have expectations set up from the start and to celebrate in a way that is most meaningful to your family. I like the way you thoughtfully parent.

Anonymous said...

I love this list. I don't think I could follow all of it, but I could probably use some of your tips. I already have a "gift tub" (similar to your gift closet) and have shopped year 'round for gifts for years now. This is largely due to the fact that my son, three of my brothers, my dad, and my son's paternal aunts & uncles all have birthdays within a month of Christmas. It's simply impossible to find two gifts for each person so close together. I too realized you can find some awesome deals that way. I got a framed Pokemon poster for my brother one year at dollar tree that still had the $10 price tag on it from another store. I haven't been able to get really good deals on used stuff though. The few times I've bought things used and THOUGHT I got a good deal, I ended up seeing the same product at BigLots or Dollar General for even cheaper! Where do you shop for used?

Anne/kq said...

We have The World's Awesomest Thrift Store, which I will take anyone who cares to visit us on a tour of, any time! (Seriously, my friend came out from OK and that was one of our "tourist" destinations!)

We happen to live in an area that sees a lot of really rich peoples' donations to the thrift store, so we luck out.

I also check Craigslist if there's something big I want, and have had some luck at yard sales and better at estate sales.