If you live in the US, odds are your kids have what feels like too many toys, even if you don’t have a lot of disposable cash. Just 3 percent of the world’s kids are Amercian, but they own 40% of the world’s toys—and worse, they only play with about 5 percent of what they own. And yet every December we add to the overstuffed toy chests. Our goal here is have a joyful, giving-filled season—without feeling like we’ve got a massive stuff-hangover at the end of it.
My first tip: Buy gifts for the kid you’ve got. It’s so easy to get caught by a cool gift that would be perfect for the kid you imagined you’d have, or the kid you used to be, or the kid you think your kid would be if she would just give coding or soccer a chance. Don’t do it. Those are the gifts that will sit unused. You probably know what your child would like most to unwrap. Buy that, add a book and a pair of pajamas and something else the child will love and use and stop there. Don’t buy gifts that push your child to be something he’s not—or, while we are at it, gifts for a child who’s much older than yours. I know your kid is smart and advanced! But it’s still no fun to be frustrated when you don’t have the dexterity or patience for a toy—and then next year, when it would be perfect, it’s already abandoned in the back of a closet.
Finally, Stop when you’re done. I used to think the over-stuffed stockings on our fireplace were a sign of my failed character—that I couldn’t stick to a budget, or spoiled my kids. Now I know they’re a sign that I live in a world where everything is designed to encourage me to spend more, buy more and have more. Retailers know you’ll grab that super-cute extra snap watch or that Pokemon mug at the register. That’s why it’s there. So don’t fall into their trap. Keep lists of what you’ve bought. Stuff small bags with your stocking stuffers so you can see what you have and that you don’t need more. Make a game of going into the big box store with just three things on your list, and coming out with nothing but those three things—and your storage and your savings account will both be happier in January.
Want access to more resources like this? Join the newsletter and stay up to date.