While songs in every mall can be heard singing, "it's the most wonderful time of the year," parents everywhere are stressfully running from store to store, maxing out their credit cards to get through their children's never-ending wishlists. Christmas has become a time of consumption, especially for parents with young kids. This is not only expensive but time-consuming and stressful.
That's why this mom of eight said enough is enough and refused to get her kids any more gifts for Christmas. Is Angie overly-frugal and depriving her children of holiday joy, or could her way actually be for the best? This is how it went.
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The Mom Was Overwhelmed
Angie, who is known for giving "decluttering" tips on her social media, made a video explaining that she had enough of Christmas shopping. Many of her kids happened to celebrate their birthdays around that time, and the gift list was becoming stressful. She explains: "I felt overwhelmed with the amount of stuff."
To remove some of the stress, the mom decided to stop buying gifts altogether. Angie is convinced that this will make the holiday experience better for everyone, her kids included.
The Gift Of Giving
The video received mixed responses. After all, gift-giving is considered one of the five love languages. It shows generosity and makes people feel special. It allows them to receive things they might never be able to afford or justify for themselves. Plus, gifts can be inexpensive to be memorable. Gifts can be sentimental as well.
For Angie, refusing to buy gifts for her eight kids helped her to save $700 a year.
New System Of Family Unity
It's not like Angie canceled Christmas for her kids altogether. Instead, she created a new Secret Santa system to buy gifts, focusing more on giving and family unity. She believes this helps the siblings be more mindful of each other:
"Here's what we do, each kid draws a sibling’s name and they 'buy’ for them. They have to think about what that person would want and pick it out. They like what they get more because there’s less…." Angie continued, “They also look forward and wonder throughout the year who will get who—and even talk about what they would pick each other.“
Angie believes this has taken away some of the stress from the kids as well, as they previously were overwhelmed with stuff they didn't necessarily know what to do with: "I just noticed that when they would open a lot of presents, they only noticed the one they really wanted and forget about the rest."
A Solution For Big Families
Angie has turned the Secret Santa exchange into a whole family experience. She and her husband Paul sit down with each one of the kids and scroll through Amazon to help them find the perfect present online: "They'll think about what siblings they have and go 'oh search this' and 'I know that's what they like best as that's what they play with."
Many who have watched her video praised her. One person wrote, "I have seven siblings and we've done this for the past 10+ years. It's always a secret until Christmas unless someone slips up. It was and is so much fun, and I’m so glad my parents thought of it way back when.“
Many thought Angie's strategy was the ultimate solution for big families.
Do Kids Need Gifts?
Not everyone agreed with Angie's approach though, with some even critiquing her festive frugality as "cold." This begs us to ask the question, "do kids really need gifts to be happy?" If you think about it, kids get bored easily, and the novelty of a new toy quickly wears off.
Research has found that less is more when it comes to giving children toys. Michael Malone, a Professor of Early Childhood Education, says that "more" is just a myth, explaining that "Our work shows that having fewer toys is associated with less solitary play and increased sharing. Conversely, too many toys can cause a sense of overload."
Kids Become Adults
Kids depend on us to be shaped, but we all were once kids too. It's the experiences we had as children that formed who we are now as adults. According to a study from the University of Missouri, Columbia: "children who expect many and expensive gifts can suffer negative social and emotional ramifications that extend well beyond their childhood." As adults, they were "more prone to credit card debt and compulsive shopping, feeding an insatiable hunger for more."
The more we teach kids that they need "more," they will internalize the idea that more is always better. But as the old saying goes, money doesn't actually buy happiness.
The Consumerist Side Of Christmas
Christmas time didn't always look the way that it does now. It was around the 19th century, with the increase of middle classes and the decrease of prices for material objects, that people started to shift to buying more gifts. Christmas then increasingly became about consumption.
In 2022, the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts growth of 6% to 8% in U.S. holiday sales for 2022 to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion. In 2021, holiday sales already grew 13.5% and came to a total of $889.3 billion!
Experiences Vs Gifts
What's better than toys? There are two kinds of gifts that can be given at Christmas. The joy on a child's face receiving the latest video game might be satisfying, but what's an even better gift are experiences. It's experiences that ultimately shape our identity and make us better people.
Experiences range from getting off work early to watch an extra movie with the kids or as the mother of eight does, relocating funds to spend them on family trips out to the museum or zoo throughout the rest of the year. She added: 'We spend more time having experiences rather than stuff. As an adult I think you remember more the things you did rather than what you got."
As the novelty of new toys fades, the memories of happy family experiences last a lifetime.
Align With Your Values
At the end of the day, what matters most to you? Sure, some material things bring convenience and comfort to our lives. But we also need to be wary of the materialist side of popular culture that focuses on stuff more than people.
When celebrating the holidays this year, be mindful of what you're celebrating—and how. Try to introduce experiences that align with your family values, like quality time or gratitude. This should be an enjoyable time for everyone, not just the children. There are many activities available that don't cost a cent, from baking as a family, building a snowman, or strolling around the neighborhood to look at twinkly lights.
Less Stuff, Clearer Mind
Life goes by quickly, and as we get older we realize that we're surrounded by stuff. Your home is likely filled with material things you don't even remember you have anymore. Maybe they once brought you some sort of satisfaction or instant gratification, but now the only purpose they serve is taking up space. The more space stuff takes, the more overwhelmed you'll feel, and the less space you have for the nonmaterial things that make the difference.
These are the ideas this mom-turned-decluttering coach lives by. Minimal space for her leads to a clearer mind. She states: "living a more minimal life allows you to let go of what doesn't really matter and embrace things you used to hold tight control over because you realize what's actually important."
Create Memories That You Will Cherish
While there's nothing wrong with the Christmas tradition of giving presents, ask yourself what you're going to remember at the end of your life. Is it going to be the latest iPhone version that was gifted to you by your partner or the way your partner made your holidays feel special by being thoughtful? The fond memories you make next to the tree with those you love and care about most are going to be what shape you and determine your happiness in the end.
During the holiday season, we spend time with our most cherished people. It's the people in our lives that make them fulfilling. This is a great time to question if the people in your life are depleting your energy or reenergizing you. In any relationship, always look at how you feel and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?