I've finished my Christmas shopping, all except one small gift. Why do I mention it? Certainly not to make you feel bad if you haven't started, nor allow you to feel smug if you finished in October. I still have lots of work to do on my handmade gifts. I just want to share our simple way of giving gifts to our kids. Now, I know, some families don't celebrate Christmas, some don't give gifts, and some just go shop at the dollar store, and they all probably spend less than we spend.
Our gift principle is based on the basic fact, as Jesus acknowledged in the gospels, that a father does love to give good gifts to his children. We love to see their smiles as they open their gifts. Just as God has lavished His love on us in Christ, we lavish love on our little ones and a Christmas gift is a small tangible way to love. Yet, our children have so very,very much "stuff," that in truth they don't need anything at all. Our compromise has been to give each child one gift at Christmas. (We also do stockings, but don't do Santa, with very small items; and gifts between siblings.)
Twelve years ago, when Ally was one, we bought her a $10 Bible story book. Back then it was all we could afford. But we used that little book through four babies and she was happy. By the time we factored in gifts from Grandparents and Great Grandmothers there were more than enough gifts. Then as the years went by, we just stuck with our one gift principle, even in years when we could afford more.
A month ago, Bryan and I sat down and wrote, on paper, the one gift we wanted to buy for each kid. We try to think of really useful things. Things they'll use long term, but seem interested in at the time. We try never to buy toys with batteries. The principle isn't just about the lowest cost, we pick high quality items that we'll be happy to have around. We pick toys that allow open-ended play, think of Legos or dolls. Then armed with a thoughtful, specific list, we begin shopping. This is sort of like making a list before going to the grocery store; it keeps us from getting carried away. Now, this is a little flexible. Our girls are getting new bedding this year, and we let them choose it with us, so strictly speaking, there is more than one item. Someone else is getting more than one item - but I can't reveal why. But all in all, it's pretty simple around here.
We don't buy the popular toys, or the gift of the season. We don't shop Black Friday. In fact, I make it my mission to hardly go to the store at all in December, not even for groceries. I hate the crowds and the Christmas displays. Best of all, we don't pay for those Christmas gifts in January, or February, or for the next three years, in credit card payments.