I am a giver. I am a buyer. I am the consumer most stores target.
Scratch that; I WAS the buyer and the spender and the shopper. I am still a giver.
I was born into the role of a shopper, and for the past few years I have battled with myself on how to end the cycle so that my children do not fall victim to our consumer-driven society. Having 5 babies makes buying something quite expensive because it is never just one thing that is bought. But if you only have one child, you can still completely relate to over buying.
In 2017, I made a huge decision to cut Christmas down. It was, no joke, HARD. I actually cried several times. I am assuming now that I was going through holiday withdrawals, which is pretty funny because I’m the one who HATES clutter, plastic crap, and has the entire house stripped down and undecorated within days of Christmas ending. I also need everything to have a place in the house or I will donate it. So, I had this internal minimalist vs consumer battle that lasted months… all the way up until the week of Christmas.
We planned a trip with some of our extended family, and we drove about 10 hours to the mountains. Before even arriving, the kids were cheering that it was the greatest holiday ever – in their entire lives. My heart began to swell and I completely relaxed and gave into the trip. We had 3 feet of snow and a complete white out on Christmas. We partook in mountain activities, and John and I even spent a day snowboarding together. There was an afternoon of bitter-cold snow tubing for the kids, snowball fights, and homecooked food. We read books and played games together, and listened to Papa play the guitar at night.
My computer was in the shop, so I was disconnected for the most part – and it was GLORIOUS.
We did have a few Santa gifts, but nothing outrageous or expensive. The kids opened a game for the Xbox, Barbie dolls, hair chalk, puzzles, and a few other small items – WHICH THEY FLIPPED OUT OVER.
In the past, this reaction would have only lasted until the next present was opened, with the previous 30 tossed behind them… at the end, they would say, “Are there any more to open?” There were meltdowns and lost pieces, trash everywhere, and too much money spent. But this year? The money was spent in exactly the right places.
My kids are still playing with their few items from us a week after Christmas, and if they are done playing with them in a month or so, I won’t lose my shit because I didn’t overspend on any of it.
What We Learned
Gifts should not include clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, and other things that the kids need. Those should be purchased when the needs arise. Gifts should simply be a few of the items that will make them so incredibly happy. That’s it.
An experience tops the charts when it comes to the magic and spirit of the season. It can be as expensive as you make it, but you can request family gifts be giftcards to be used on the trip. My kids received one from a set of grandparents and had a blast shopping at the mountain gift shop for sweatshirts and hats!
Become a Non-Things Giver
So here is my plea to you. Decide NOW – in January to make a change. It will be a struggle. It will suck when the sale e-mails start coming, but decide now to let go of all of the THINGS. You don’t need to know where you will go or what experience you will give, that can be pondered about for awhile. You may want to invite friends or extended family; you may want to go just with your kids; you may want to host a smaller Christmas at home and then head out for New Year’s on the road (or in the air!). The key is to make sure that the experience or trip is not far away. Kids will not understand that.
I loved having the kids help plan this entire trip. They knew they would only be getting a few things, and we built the trip up for about a month before going. But next year, we may change things up and surprise them with a trip. (Although packing for a family of seven can’t be done secretly… or can it??)
I’d also love to hear how you plan to leave the things behind throughout the year. We are planning trips for birthdays throughout 2018, vacations in the summer and camping in the fall, and I haven’t been to Target in 6 weeks. (SIX WEEKS) Nor have I ordered anything on Amazon in 4 weeks… but I’d rather order one thing online than be tempted by the entire store and screaming children.
Go ahead and take the plunge. It sure as hell feels good to not have holiday guilt (or spending guilt) hanging over me this January!