Three Ways to Scale Back the Holidays This Year


Americans spend a lot of money on holiday gifts each year.  A lot.  A recent Gallup poll revealed that the average American planned on spending around $786 this year on gifts, the highest level of spending since 2008.  And that’s just the *average*.

Around 30% of those surveyed said they planned on spending over $1000 in gift giving.  In our own household, things reached critical mass last year.  Somehow, between all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, I lost track of everything I had purchased for the kids.  Add in the gifts from grandparents, relatives and friends, and it amounted to a huge pile of STUFF.  Even the kids were taken aback (and when a seven year old and a nine year old comment that they are overwhelmed, you know it’s too much!).

So this year we are giving less.  Not only because our pocketbooks can’t take it, but because we are consciously trying to dBaking Cookiesownplay the commercial, materialistic aspects of the holiday season.

3 Tips to Scale Back Your Holiday Gift Giving

Here are some ideas for scaling back your holiday gift-giving:

Holiday Scale Back Tip 1: Draw Names

We are only fully implementing this idea this year.  Everyone in my husband’s family, and he has a large family, puts their name into a drawing.  Kids give to other kids, adults give to other adults and there’s a dollar limit for gifts.  This way, we are only buying a total of four gifts instead of in the past, when we had to purchase upwards of twenty.

Holiday Scale Back Tip 2: Give Three Gifts

Some parents only give their kids three gifts.  There are variations on this, but usually it is something the child really wants, something they need, and something for their “mind” (like gymnastics classes, a trip to a museum or a special day out with mom or dad).  We are doing our own spin on this with our kids this year: we are giving them something they want (we had them make a list of items with a price limit of $75), something they need (fleece-lined snow boots and jeans for one daughter, boots and snow pants for the other), and something to read.

Holiday Scale Back Tip 3: Give “Experiential” or “Homemade” Gifts

When my kids were babies and toddlers, I honestly would have appreciated a gift of an hour of babysitting over expensive perfumes and precious metals.  And I would have equally enjoyed a homemade casserole or even a fully prepared box of mac and cheese!

Sometimes the best presents aren’t things One Christmas, my husband dug down into the back of a closet and found a treasured poster of mine that had sat rolled up in a tube for years.  He framed it.  Wow!  That was awesome!

Another time, I weeded my mom’s flower beds, planted flowers and mulched for her for one Mother’s Day.  The point is, you don’t always have to give someone something fancy or expensive.

Read  This Christmas, Don’t Give Gifts; Make Memories for more ideas on alternative gifting this holiday season.

In the lead up to the holidays, we have had lots of discussions with our girls about how we are scaling back this year.  We have emphasized that we are going to concentrate on travel and togetherness rather than more “stuff.”  They seem to get it, and it definitely helps that Grandma and Aunt L are flying in for the holidays. I’ll be baking cookies instead of shopping.  And instead of wrapping a mountain of presents, we’ll be soaking up the atmosphere and the decorations at the local Christmas markets and holiday celebrations.


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