First, before I start my little rant, let me make it very clear that I love to give my kids gifts for Christmas and when married was the one who had to be told to ease up a bit at times. I start thinking about their gifts in July and have been known more than once to be the last guy at the check out on Christmas Eve. That out of the way, here we go.
I came home yesterday to no fewer than 13 catalogues from various retail outlets in my mailbox. A good majority of them were targeted toward kids. When my own kids got home from school they proceeded to pounce on them and started circling everything they wanted for Christmas. Add that to the hundreds of e-mails I get from every retailer on the planet offering “50%, 60% up to 120% off!,” along with all of the clothing trends they bring home from school and you start to feel like you’re an idiot if you DON’T go shopping when they open the doors at 4 am.
As parents we want our kids to have a great holiday. We see the gleam in their eye as they tell you about this great new robot Barbie app they just found and our heart melts. How perfect their Christmas would be if we got that “one” extra gift on their list. This is precisely when you need to STOP yourself dead in your tracks.
I could get into a long op-ed about the commercialization of the holidays, but honestly I don’t think it’s anything new. I remember as a kid dreaming of presents and “things.” Circling pictures in catalogues, dropping hints every second I got, writing my letters to Santa; and of course all of the big “sales.” All of it existed even back forty years ago. To me it’s simply about being smart. And it all starts with writing down a budget and sticking to it. Pay attention to what your kids are asking for and write them down, price them out and definitely look for deals. Just be realistic about what you can afford, plan it out and stick to it like glue. Do NOT go to the store without at least some number in your head of what you’re going to spend on gifts this year. Because like all parents, you’re going to be tempted, to buy twenty four one extra gifts. You’ll feel obligated to take advantage of that once in a lifetime sale that happens every Friday after Thanksgiving. The reality is, that despite what they’d like you to believe, just because Wal-mart has it at fifty-five percent off tomorrow night from 7-9 doesn’t mean you have to go buy it. Especially if it’s not on the list and you’ve already reached your limit.
Retailers would love us to forget that shopping is just one aspect of the holidays. (Yes I’m likely kissing goodbye potential sponsors, but honestly I’ve already turned down a couple who didn’t fit the purpose of this blog). Our goal, in my humble opinion, should be to create positive memories for them. To find ways to make it fun. Each year we celebrate the elves that visit our home during the holidays. We’ve got pictures of our annual sledding trips up north at the first sign of big snow. Videos of our now traditional hunt for the perfect tree that we cut down as a family. They are moments that are to me, the greatest presents I can offer them. Moments of being together enjoying the spirit of the holidays. I’ve come to convince myself that the presents come second to those memories and moments of adventures, laughter and being together.
Trust me, your kids aren’t going to remember all of the presents you buy them. Honestly, I probably remember two or three gifts from my first thirteen years. One was a rod hockey game (perhaps the greatest Christmas present ever). Another was my first stereo complete with build in cassette deck. Beyond that I really have to sit and think. And don’t forget; you’re not the only person buying them presents. There’s their mom, their grandma(s), grandpa(s), aunts, uncles; trust me, they’ll get plenty. And there’s nothing wrong with a little coordination. Sharing lists and planning it out to make sure the staples are covered. This is another time when maintaining a good co-parenting relationship with the ex can be a huge plus. Working together you can make sure this part of their holiday is a huge score. And yes I’ll say it, it’s more about the kids than who’s right; so perhaps the greatest gift you can offer your kids is to suck it up and talk to the ex if at all feasible in your current scenario.
My point is, we get so inundated by so many entities telling us to spend, spend, spend that it’s easy to get ‘wrapped’ up in it and forget what it is that we’re supposed to be doing in the first place, which is being happy together on the holiday. So by all means go and shop. Just know you’ll have a lot more fun doing it when you give yourself some boundaries and a game plan. I mean, come on, don’t you think removing the financial stress of the holidays is one way to ensure that you’ll be much merrier and more able to enjoy the holidays with your kids? Now if you’ll excuse me if I order on-line by midnight I’ll save an extra 40% off my entire order AND get free shipping!