I recently added a new bin to my recycling area, Thrift Store Donations, I find this box is full almost every week. My kids are inn-undated with stuff. Not for one second do I want to sound ungrateful – we so appreciate the gifts and hand-me-downs we receive from everyone, but it has gotten to the point that I say no to well-meaning friends and neighbours without even looking. We just have so. much. stuff.
About 10 years ago I asked my siblings and parents if we could scale back. The new system was simple, draw a name, spend $50 on something they will love and spend $15 on a stocking stuffer for everyone else. This was a change from our previous holiday spend of $50-$80 per family member. That went well for several years, but then we all got spouses, I moved to another province and found myself stressing and buying $15 novelties for family members then spending another $15 on shipping. Plus I now had in-laws to shop for so I was scrambling and stressing to shop for wonderful gifts for my partner’s parents and their respective spouses and my partner’s step-siblings – it was getting out of hand and expensive again and I never felt like I was getting it right anyway.
Then we had kids and expanded our friend circle to include other families, now we were buying treats and gifts for the parents and kids. They were doing the same. Now we were really into the Christmas spending cycle and feeling pressured to keep up with social expectations and spending in-line with our peers and relatives. The holidays were becoming a stressful blur of buying, wrapping, post office trips and rushing everywhere.
So last year while I was on mat leave we made a change. I knew I would be leaving a corporate job and starting my own business. I knew we would have two daycare bills very soon and our budget needed help, and most of all I knew my gifts were not bringing the joy that the advertisements promised they would.
So we took a leap, I was actually nervous that friends would be upset with me or think I was cheap (I am), but I called and texted each of my friends who I knew would be planning a gift exchange with us and simply said ‘hey guys, since the kids get so much stuff why don’t we skip gifts for each other and the kids and do something fun instead?’ It was stunning. The responses were fast and loud “OH MY GOSH YES!” “LOVE IT” “SLEDDING AND HOT CHOCOLATE!”. We felt so much better, so much lighter and really had fun with our friends. So this year we are taking it even farther. We have already told our families no gifts. We asked them for an optional small amount of cash to put toward programs and ski lessons for the kids instead of gifts and clothes. We have opted out of my family’s secret Santa.
At home we will shop at the thrift store to fill stockings, we will give a new set of pyjamas on Christmas eve and my 4-year old will probably get ONE, just one, coveted special terrible, commercial, made in China toy. We plan to have a nice family breakfast with strong coffee and a panetone loaf, bacon and eggs, and maybe some pancakes with maple syrup from my hubby’s family sugar shack in Quebec.
This year I will not carry the massive financial and emotional burden of overdone gifting. The baileys in my coffee means that mama will have a very merry Christmas as well, while the kids will remember how much fun we had because mama and papa will not be internally screaming thinking about the line of credit. So bring on the minimalist holiday cheer! We’re ready for much less, but so much more this year.
Hi! I’m Kat, the mom of a wild, beautiful, truck and adventure-loving little four-year old boy named Mac and a fair, flexible, sweet pea named Mia-Rose who is almost one. I live in the beautiful hamlet of Dead Man’s Flats in the Rocky Mountains about 5 minutes from Canmore. I recently launched an online new & resale baby boutique called Tiny Campfire. Originally from BC, I have lived in the Bow Valley for the past seven eventful years: I fell in love, moved in together, had a baby, bought a home, bought a second home, had a second baby and started a business and I have loved (almost) every second of it.