gluttony & the holidays

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gluttony [ˈglʌtənɪ]: n.  derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, intoxicants or wealth items to the point of waste.

November 2011 003 1

My son came home from his “fall” party last week with armloads. Of candy, frosted donuts, pencils, bubbles, spider rings, bead bracelets, glow in the dark paraphernalia and some sweet parents and grandparents had made some of the cutest buckets and goodie bags and Halloween crafts you have ever seen, probably spending hours on them. And he tossed them aside like they were yesterday’s graded worksheets.

It gave me a little pit in my stomach.

My daughter’s mirror broke this weekend when it fell off the back of the door. (7 years bad luck??) She just kind of shrugged and said, “you only paid a dollar for it at a yard sale, right?”


Another daughter left her coat at school. My husband told her she needed to remember to bring it home or she would have to use her money to pay for a new one. She didn’t see why that was necessary because Grandma gave it to her for her birthday….we didn’t pay for it. Besides she had another one she could use…

mom headache.

I think of my Grandpa. How he tells us about Christmas’ during the Great Depression. How he got an 8 pack of crayons and a tablet of paper and spent all day coloring and was happy as a lark. My Grandma that saves every ziploc bag and container and washes them out and re-uses them again and again.

What they must think of kids today..

You know I love thrifting and deals and upcycling, but 10 cent boxes of crayons and coats for $1 at yard sales have come back to bite in this regard. We take full credit for what we teach our children and I know it begins with us…my husband and I have talked and want to change some things around here, especially with the holidays coming up. What should be the simple, most thankful, most worshipful time of the year sometimes turns out to be the most gluttonous.

but I would love to hear from you..can I ask you a few questions?

What are some successes you’ve had with teaching your kids about the value of a dollar?

With the you do the 3 gifts? Or how do you keep things as simple as possible?

What about gifts from aunts/uncles/cousins/grandmas/grandpas/etc, etc.??

Do your kids pay for their own clothes?

Do you serve others together as a family?

Any other thoughts?

Thank you…



  1. A former co-worker of mine told me how they do Christmas at their house and I kind of liked it. Each child gets 5 gifts, something to play with, something to wear, something to read, something to listen to and something to watch. I thought that simplified it a lot. Plus he said their kids got so much from other family members that they didn't feel bad at all

  2. Thatgaljill1/7/14, 10:54 PM

    Our son is 6... My husband and I do "Santa" only or maybe one other small thing. He's a cub scout and his pack and school have regular service projects we participate in as a family. We give him an allowance that he divides between save-spend-save, and while we don't make him buy all of his own things, he definitely has to use his spending money for things that (we consider) frivolous.

    I couldn't control what my parents and siblings buy him even if I try (and trust me, I've tried)... but I've been told not to take their pleasure at doing it, so I keep my mouth shut and hope they don't go too far overboard.

  3. i admire your insight and i think this is a very interesting topic.  i only have a four year old daughter, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.  personally, i kind of feel the opposite of other posters.  we did the "three gift" thing for her second christmas.  but i got to thinking, shouldn't this principle be applied the other 364 days of the year?  this one day i can indulge her (within reason)--this is her only childhood.  the three gift rule feels kind of contrived, kind of like when you start giving gifts to adult siblings and it's like you're just "trading money".  then christmas becomes a formality.  what if one year your child only deserves one gift, are they still though entitled to three?  unintentionally, christmas becomes more about the gifts.  sometimes i think we over analyze parenting.  i've received birthday party invitations with "no gifts please", and i think how can you teach your child to give if they don't receive.  it wasn't the crayons and notepad that made your grandpa "happy as a lark", i'd wager he was happy before he had that gift.  while your grandpa's gift seems so small to us now, at the time he was probably indulged.  it's important for kids to know that money is all relative.  what may be a "great christmas" (in terms of material gifts) to my daughter might be a major let down to the kid down the street.  to teach me the value of a dollar, my parents would allow a certain amount of money for an item, say $30 for a pair of jeans.  if i wanted a more expensive pair, i came up with the rest of the money.  or i could find some for $15 and keep the rest of the money.  one thing i've been evaluating lately is how much "stuff" we have.  Please do not take offense to this, because i'm also speaking to myself. but, why does your daughter have more than one jacket?  to simplify, i've been trying to focus more on quality than quantity. one nice jacket, if it's a crummy $1 mirror perhaps we dont need it and we use a different mirror.  let me reiterate, i'm so guilty of the overabundance of stuff and the rush from a "deal", but those were the examples given.  all apologies for the long comment, but i think this is a very important topic.

  4. I was just about to comment about the birthday thing.  My mom told me about something she had heard on the radio where the birthday was a big deal, the children received a lot of presents on *their* special day, not Jesus' birthday.  We do the three gifts from us, plus one from Santa, plus Christmas Eve jammie's.  I guess that would actually be about 5!!  One year, we found my daughter a doll from the thrift shop for $2.  She was similar to American Girl Dolls, but far less expensive.  We cleaned her up a bit and bought a new outfit from Target for around $10.  She now has a real AG doll, but wouldn't you know, she still plays with her much less expensive counterpart.  All this to say, don't rule out the thrift shop!!

  5. I can remember some of the gifts I recieved for Christmas - - and my parents did a good job of getting us some fun stuff but without overdoing it.  But by far the memories that stick with me the most are the years (almost every year as a child) that we chose children from the Salvation Army Angel Tree at our mall.  We'd choose a child or two and had so much fun shopping for them!  Those memories of thinking of others stuck with me until adulthood and I got so excited the year my husband and I were able to restart that tradition! 

    A few years ago we helped out a local family with a young child with Down syndrome and another child who had been in an accident - some of our family and friends also donated money and presents for this family.  Get your kids involved and teach them natural "high" that comes from blessing someone else's life! It's addicting! ;)

    Ever since our own son Grant, who has Down syndrome was born, the plight of special needs orphans around the world has been on my mind.  Just last year I found a great organization, Reece's Rainbow, that raises funds and awareness of specific children with Down syndrome & other disabilites that need families of their own. Where they were born, these children are given up and forgotten in orphanges. If not adopted, they go to mental institutions where their life span and quality of life drop significantly.   My new tradition now includes being a Christmas Warrior for one special kid each year!  We help raise money for each child because there are a number of families out there that would love to adopt a child with DS, but the inital cost can be overwhelming. These funds go towards that child and the family that adopts them, helping to offset the cost and get them a home of their OWN that much sooner!

    Here's a link to my Christmas Angel - Lawrence 2H, you have to scroll down to find him - and the other kids waiting for homes!

    If any families are looking for a good cause to get behind, this is a wonderful one!
    (sorry for the long message!):)

  6. Lorifergusonlucas1/8/14, 8:07 AM

    I also have five children ...but they are 22-29 years old!  I read each
    of your responses, as I loved your post and was curious to what others
    had to say. We did not do the 3 gift Christmas.  We really didn't (and
    don't) have a set number they receive. But I think it is also the
    "other" things that go along with Christmas that we made sure we did
    each year.  Some of them may seem insignificant, but as my children have
    gotten older and moved away, they all come home for Christmas and are
    VERY vocal if I have not carried on our traditions. That is what warms
    my heart. Still.  We lived far away from all our relatives, so we made
    sure that Christmas Eve was a big family (just us 7) day. We played
    board games. We did 500 piece puzzles. We watched new movies that we
    gifted them with early. At the end of the day we made a birthday cake
    for Jesus and went to candlelight services. Before Christmas Eve we set
    aside a day JUST to make cookies and candy. I bought all the supplies,
    put the cookbooks on the table and we let the children have free reign
    to make whatever they wanted. My husband and I made what we wanted as
    well. I also bought containers and we would always deliver at least 12
    buckets of candy and cookies to unsuspecting people. Because I work at
    the school I always knew a family that could use help. We would gather
    things (secretly) and make sure that family had at least as much as we
    did. Several times my husband and I were not too embarrassed to let the
    children see us cry for the families we had picked. I guess I am trying
    to say that while we had 5 growing children that were very very active,
    but we found ways to celebrate Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving
    until January 3rd (one of our daughter's birthdays.). Our ways are
    simple but special. Just writing this makes me so anxious for our season
    to start! Love your blog. 

  7. My dad is a doctor and I have always been impressed with how little we got for Chrustmas compared to what it could have been. My parents also involved us in some sort of secret giving every year. They would share the situations of the families we were ding dong ditching and helped us to see how much we truly had. My husband and I have continued this for the 3 years we have been married, we always ding dong ditch Christmas dinner to a family in need. I don't remember hardly any gifts from my parents at Christmas, but I will always remember how much fun we had leaving food and running away from doorsteps. It had instilled the true Christmas spirit in me.

  8. I'd like to chime in on the thank you seems like kids just don't write them any more :(   When I  was a child, I could play with all my stuff on Christmas day,  but starting the day after,   nothing could be played with or worn (I loved clothes)  until I wrote a thank you note.  When I was too young to write, I drew a picture.    It was a great habit to develop and it has served me well in life.   I still write thank you notes  - even if just to a coworker who has gone out of his or her way to help me.   

  9. Natalie Cox1/8/14, 8:07 AM

    Last year I dreaded Christmas.  I hated that my kids just got everything thrown to them in excess.  The message was all wrong.  We gave our kids two presents last year (a need and a want) because they still get one from each set of grandparents and that's PLENTY.  We also told the kids we were taking part of their Christmas fund to buy things for those "less fortunate".  They helped us shop, pick, wrap and give.  It was a great experience for them and I wasn't left with a nasty taste in my mouth as the holidays ended.  It was such a positive experience last year, that we're doing it again this year.

  10. Samantha M1/8/14, 8:18 AM

    I'm so glad you posted this. I read all of the comments with interest. I loved the story behind the white envelope project.

    It's so hard to know how to handle gifts and giving and gratitude with children! I think some years we do well and others, not so well. I can easily get carried away because I love shopping and wrapping gifts, and there have definitely been some years when we've gotten to the end of the gift opening and it has just felt like too too much. And it is so disappointing when we see the lack of gratitude, either in our own kids or in others. We have taken the opportunity when we've been able to afford it to choose an angel off of an angel tree and to do Christmas gifts for a child in need. But even that experience has been difficult at times. I always look through the angels hanging there to choose someone that we might be able to identify with in some way and it has been shocking to see tags hanging up there for an 18 month old child whose "wish" is for a sophisticated gaming system and a computer. What? Or some years it seemed like every single child on the tree wanted a bike and a cell phone. These kids have been on the tree for years and ask for a bike every time? I don't know...I try not to over-analyze, but I worry about what is happening with these gifts and I worry about these kids. 

    The times I've enjoyed the most is when we have been able to identify a family in crisis through our church and have been able to put together a nice Christmas for them. It isn't a family who is expecting anything, but they are in some great hardship or need. We gather all the trimmings of a nice Christmas dinner plus a few bags of regular groceries (cereal, bread, fruit, etc.) We make sure every child has a new pair of Christmas pajamas because my kids love their new pajamas every year. Everyone gets a new outfit to wear. If coats are needed, then that goes in there too. And then there is something special for each person in the family, a new toy for each child, a gift card for the adults, etc. But as a parent who has seen Christmases with plenty and without, I know one of the biggest gifts to those parents is just having the experience of seeing their kids feel like normal kids for a day and feeling the relief that, at least for a few days, they have what they need and can enjoy some time together.

  11. Disclaimer: my twins are now 25...and they have grown up to be amazing people who have good heads on their shoulder and bright futures ahead.  When they were younger, we indulged them at Christmas and on their birthday( which happens to be DEC 26Th! Talk about overload...). One year my then six-year-old daughter asked why poor kids didn't get presents-weren't they good? Yikes! I had to think fast and told her that while Santa's elves MAKE the stuff,  parents have to PAY for it.

    So that became the also the year we included the kids in Angel tree shopping :) We've done that ever since-we let them pick names from the salvation army tree and go CRAZY with shopping for someone who would otherwise not have much, if anything. 

    Once they were older, we'd do one "bigger" gift, and a few small fun things. Money, though is not a X-mas issue; it's a year round one-and it's very personality driven. I'd rather have an experience than a thing, and my kids are the same way at this point.

    My daughter is really good with her $$$, however, a saver, etc. My son spends it as he gets it. He's figuring out that that's not the best way to be financially sound, but hey-everyone learns in their own style. You can only set the example, and then hope its strong enough for them to follow. 

    Kids by nature are greedy and want everything the see YESTERDAY. They are not born appreciative. They develop that part of who they are as they age and experience life, so don't be disappointed in a young kid who seems destined to be a Kardasian, LOL.  The majority turn out just fine :)

    PS-take that thrown aside candy to the food bank-with your son-and have him donate it. Same thing with never used toys, etc-get them involved with the donation of it. That could help a bit. :)

  12. I think about this every year.  For those of you that do the 3 (or 4) gifts - how does Santa play into it?  Does Santa visit your family?  We are scaling back this year - way back. I'm trying to find balance in it all.

  13. I come across situations like that and it just kills my soul, my mother in law sent my daughter a get well card for a sore throat she had last week, she opened looked at me and said "ahhh, no $$" what???   during dinner last night I asked kids how their lunch was that day and if they liked the new Snackwell snack bar I gave them, son said he ran out of time and threw it away, daughter ate half, huh???  I also bought both kids a a full length mirror, son's friend fell on his during a wrestling  match in his room, it never phased him, daughters also broke and how is still a mystery, they don't have another one, they didn't care enough!!!  I need help too haha!

  14. Awesome post! I have 3 kidos, we do one main gift and a couple of other practical gifts.  Stocking are filled with practical things as well.  We have always tried to teach our kids about giving to those who have less.  Every year each one of them pulls a child's name from our church's Angel Tree for Christmas.  THEY have to use their own $ to purchase that gift. It either comes from their 'fun fund' or their savings, but it has to come from them.  Our little one is only 5, so we pay for her Angel tree gift, but are teaching her early that it is good to give to those in need.   Yearly my husband receives a gift card from his employer for the holidays.  Instead of using it for our family, we gift it to our church along with a little cash so they can buy items to go into holiday food baskets they are putting together for families.  I ask grandparents & relatives to keep it simple, but it doesn't always work that way.   This year my husband & I have opted not to purchase gifts for each other, but instead adopt a family for Christmas and spend the $ on them. 

  15. This is the question I have as well. This will be my baby's first Christmas, and I want to be consistent. We've been thinking of foregoing stockings and Santa at Christmas and doing the traditional European St. Nicholas Day at the beginning of December (even though we're definitely American!) with a few small toys and candy in shoes, to still teach the story of Santa but separate it from Christmas a little, and then doing the 3-4 gifts at Christmas (we'd been thinking of doing a want, a need, and something for the future, ie, money for a college fund, but I really like the want, need, wear, read idea, too). I am also wondering how to handle the Santa question when the kids figure out that Santa goes to someone else's house but not ours.

  16. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    This is exactly what I'm talking about: she has 3 jackets because we got one as a hand me down from a neighbor, and 2 others were from a crazy good sale. It's too much! She needs one, even if it is an amazing deal. If she loses it, she needs to replace it with her own money. I love your idea about giving them the money for a basic, good pair of jeans. If they want the trendy or designer stuff, they have to come up with the rest. Really, it comes down to me simplifying and setting the example (and making sure there are 2 pairs of pjs, not 8 and 1 coat, not 3) which I'm trying to work on...
    About the birthdays, I actually love it when they say "instead of a gift, we're trying to raise some money for xxx charity, any type of donation would be appreciated." Because what kid needs more toys? And then they sent cards afterward saying what they did with the donation and thank you for coming and playing...
    Thanks for your thoughts...LOVING these comments!

  17. We do three and three.  Three gifts from us and three from Santa.  And the kids know that it is only three because that is what baby Jesus received.  Nothing is super extravagent and I usually make one of the gifts we give them.  They also exchange names (we have 4) and pick out something thoughtful for each other, with a small dollar amount.   Our church does a reverse collection and each child picks one (reverse collection means you pick form the collection basket a small piece of paper with a charitable organization and donation ideas.)  At their school (catholic) they often have several philanthropic opportunities both during the holidays and throughout the year.  My kids are often responsible for using their own money to donate or purchase the items to donate.   For other times during the year if they want something special or a toy, etc we often defer to their allowance.  They each receive a small monthly allowance and this is for extra spending and donations.  But I can tell you it all but got rid of the "I wants."  When they start "Can I have...." I suggest they buy it themselves and usually they say they don't want to spend their money on it (and I say me either!) 

  18. Ashley Gross1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    One of my most favorite things about Christmas is my family tradition that you can read fully about at I'd suggest watching the video. Although only the adults participate in "sacrificial giving" and all the kids get 1 present from each one of the cousins (everyone walks out with 6 presents), The White Envelope, is highly looked forward to even by the kids! It has truly given each of us a sense of giving and how fortunate each of us are to have a family that is so generous. Each year the kids ask to open the envelope before any presents are even opened! :)

  19. No advice here because my Landon is only 4 months old, but I *love* this post and look forward to hearing what everyone else chimes in with. Great topic!! :)

  20. Lauraneill1051/8/14, 1:15 PM

    For gifts from their grandparents we've asked for money to put in to their college savings fund instead of gifts. This isn't going so well since both grandparents are far away and just want to buy gifts. Their great-grandparents always send checks so I am trying to show it to them then go to the bank with them to put it in to their accounts. Hopefully this will start working better soon. I'd love to just give them a $10 as a stocking stuffer to put in the account as well. 

  21. Tori Johnson1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    Hey girlfriend! Although I'm still a kid myself... {just turned 18} I know a couple things that really kept me and my bros in check every year around this time... We each got one BIG present with a couple other little ones. In our stockings- mom ALWAYS puts the same things.. Underwear, socks, and fruit (and sometimes a little treasure- a itunes $10 card, a gas card, a pair of nice earrings). HAHA! Don't know why.. but I loved it! Another thing that I loved is that as far as buying- we were in charge of raising $ for the gifts we bought. and we had to get each sibling and our parents something. Of course, as we got older, the presents got nicer, but it really taught us to get to know our siblings and really get them something they would love! {I personally, always made my things) Hope this helps!


  22. We give our children 3 gifts for Christmas.  One of those gifts are usually new pj's Christmas Eve, one a craft type gift and one thing they have on their list....which is not too expensive (we have four children).  We always have a family gift under the tree, which is usually a board game....although one year we purchased a Wii (to be used as a family). 
    As for gifts from aunts/uncles and grandparents.  We tried something new last year which worked out wonderfully.  We decided for every family to "make a donation to the jar" and then went shopping on line through our local missionaries site.  We were able to purchase goats, seeds, seedling trees etc. for those less fortunate than us in a poverty stricken country.  My sister-in-law gave each child an envelope at Christmas which thanked them for making a difference in other peoples lives and stated what was bought with the donation money.  My children loved the idea (ages 8,6,4 and 1) and were happy to do it.
    Ontario, Canada

  23. Barbara Ann1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    I have 3 boys- ages 8, 5, 2- and I got so fed up with their whiny, "gimme" behavior. But then I stepped back, slapped my forehead, and blamed myself (and my husband, of course!) for indulging them and for shaping those behaviors.  So, despite many protests, I had to make changes.   Now, they only get toys or "wants" on their bday and Xmas.  If they want something, they pay for it with their own $$, from saved bday $ or chore $.  This helps them to really hone in what they actually want for the long term, rather than an impulse toy that sits in the corner and then eventually gets donated bc it is never played with.  It has helped ME by having a handle on the toy clutter and organization.  It is manageable now, which saves me a major headache.

    Xmas will be interesting this  year, in terms of what the kids will expect.  I'm thinking of doing 1 major present that the whole family can enjoy, 1 want present for each kid, and maybe a book for each.  Their needs: socks, PJS, etc, will not make for exciting gifts for them, so why should I wrap them and give myself more work?  I do wonder about the stocking issue, as all 3 still believe in Santa.  So I look forward to what others have to say.

    You hit on an interesting point in the comment thread; the idea that we have 8 of one thing when we can get by with 1 of that thing.  So true!  I have been bitten by the bargain bug and really have a hard time passing by on deals that seem like a steal!  But beyond the initial buy, it does set an example to kids that "things" are easily accessible and a man even brings the box to you!!  I struggle with this in a big way and I need to rein in my purchases.  

    Thanks for a great post!

  24. I don't have children yet but this is how my parents and my husbands parents did presents. We only got "free" things (gifts) on Christmas or birthdays. If we wanted anything any other time of the year we had to buy it ourselves with money we earned through chores. We also only bought clothes once a year (right before school) unless it was absolutely necessary. When we were older we were given a budget for clothes that we could spend at the beginning of the school year or save.  It made Christmases more fun because it was the only time you got anything superfluous, and the "want" gifts always came from Santa (even through our teen years).  That is how I plan to deal with my kids. 

  25. We have four girls (the oldest is 10) and we have been doing 3 gifts for years.  We tell them that they can ask Santa for 3 things they REALLY want...but that they need to ask for (relatively) small things in order to give Santa more time to make toys for boys and girls who aren't as blessed as our family is. Then we take the extra money we would have spent on big gifts & put it toward some sort of service project or Sub for Santa.  We let our girls do extra chores for money to help buy gifts for an angel tree, then I have them choose two or three things that they are willing to get rid of (we send them to D.I.) from their current toys to help others as well.

  26. Marjoleine1/8/14, 1:15 PM

     Hi Melissa,
    I have been reading your blog for a while now and I really love it, but  I never left a comment before. But there has to be a first time for everything. In Holland, where I live with my husband and 3 children, we celebrate Sinterklaas (that is also a man in a red costume with a white beard, the difference is that he brings his gifts on December 5th) I always try to include some usefull gifts like pj's, cloves, a book.And we make surprises for eachother. That is also a dutch tradition: It is something like secret santa, but you don't only by a present, you also make a  special wrap and a poem. For instance : when you have to buy a present for a person who's always putting on can make a fake-mirror in which you hide the present. In the poem you tell about how she is always busy putting on make -up and tease her a little with that. It really fun, and it doesn't cost much!
    Maeby an idea?
    greetings from Holland,


  27. tara caracciolo1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    I totally understand his! About two years ago we strated to change things drastically...really because we were forced to but man was God lloking out for us. We used to spend an enormous amount of money on Christmas! Now we do three gifts only. It was hard at first but it is now expected from the kids. Last year we started something new. We woke up Christmas day and read the story of Jesus' birth then headed upstairs to get dressed. Before opening anything we drove down to a park and fed the homeless. We talked with them and shared food, coffee and gifts! What a reality check for us all. Good luck in whatever you change.

  28. Ami Berlanga1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    Thank you for this post. I have been having the same feelings about Christmas, and the gifts, and the excessiveness of it. Lots of great comments and suggestions. :)

  29. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    Thank you, Jeridee! I haven't read it yet, but have heard good things about it...your thoughts on service are right on.

  30. What a wonderful post :) My children are still young 3 and 4, so I haven't implemented the 3 gifts for Christmas yet.  But I think it's a wonderful idea.  And I agree we teach our children a lot, although I am sure your children are wonderful.  It's just they will always need a good reminder.  I hope that my children will learn from my example and see that I try to serve others as much as possible, at home, church and doing our every day errands in the community.  And of course, during the holidays.  Sorry I didn't answer any of your questions, but I wanted to tell you what a wonderful post, it helps the rest of us remember what's truly important and the traits we want our children to acquire.  Good luck!

  31. We do the 3 gifts this way:  Santa brings two, Mom and Dad give one.  That way, when my husband lost his job a few years ago, we explained that we couldn't buy Christmas that year, but Santa was still able to bring two small gifts.  If that's all they expect, that's all they will want.  And we told grandparents years ago that ONE present per child was more than enough.  They have since been respectful of how we want to raise our kids.

  32. A tradition that my parents taught me and that I am passing down to my kids whether they like it or not :) is when they receive money they first pay 10% tithing, then half of what's left goes into a savings account to be used only for college and the other half they can spend as they wish. Also, by the time we earned a reasonable amount of income we also paid for our own clothes and things we wanted.  I was able to pay for a ton of college with that savings of mine and avoid a TON of debt!  It's amazing to see how much all of  those $5 here and $20 there deposits added up to as a kid.  Amazing! 

  33. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    you are so wise to start young! I'm talking to the grandparents this year to see what they think...:)

  34. I am not where you are just yet, because my girls are 3 and 16 mths, but the idea of this has been spinning in my head because I don't want to get to that place where toys are thrown about in excess, and where they do not take care of and appreciate what they are blessed with.  This year I decided to implement this system: 3 gifts from Santa (one bigger, two smaller), one gift from Mommy and Daddy, and one gift from sibling, along with stocking treats.  I think this will help us keep control, yet also allow our girls to have a fun, exciting Christmas Day AND be involved in the giving (i.e. sibling gift).  It's something you can't just worry about at Christmas, but it needs to be on our thoughts all year long.  We just started sponsoring a child from Compassion International, and we will talk about him all the time.  I also hope to take them on Mission trips, so we can instill a sense of care in them.  My end game here is caring, loving, giving individuals.  :)  I am sure that is your goal too. 

  35. Excellent food for thought! I know my 5 year old takes a LOT for granted. My Nannie is 100 years old and still talks about the Depression. She saves a lot of things, and while it used to be on the excessive side, I feel like we could learn a lesson from that generation about hard work, the value of a dollar, gratitude, etc. I know that for us, putting together "shoe box gifts" for Operation Christmas Child has been great for my girls to see that many other children around the world don't have it as good as they do.

  36. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    you are so wise to start young! I'm talking to the grandparents this year to see what they think...:) I love the 4 gift ideas as well.

  37. I think this is something all families struggle with. My Mom always says that holidays are about expectations and we got three gifts every year.  Nothing really huge or elaborate so we knew not to be dreaming that we were getting a really expensive item.  I remember always being really happy with the gifts I received.  

    At our house we've tried to make holidays more about traditions and experiences than gifts.  My husband and I usually only buy our kids two gifts since they get things from the Grandparents too.

    I think making kids earn their own money helps.  It's amazing how many times they want me to buy something but it's not worth their own cash!

  38. We only have a 19 month old but we have talked about some of these things and how to hopefully avoid them. With Christmas we have decided to go big. Not huge, but big. My husband grew up with big Christmas's and loved them. So to off set that we have decided that we will have big Christmas's and they get nothing else the rest of the year, other than the things that they need (and birthdays). It is a little hard with such a young child because every few months they are in a completely new stage and are entertained by new things so we keep it to a minimum. This is also something that we are trying to follow for ourselves too.
    I hope to somehow convey to my kids the value of a dollar. I spent some time at an orphanage in Brazil and experienced some amazing things there that really opened my eyes. I hope to find service opportunities here locally to open their eyes and make them aware of how grateful they should be for whatever they have and hopefully want to give too.
    I started paying for all of my own clothes at 14 and I think that was a good thing. If I didn't have money and needed something they would buy it but nothing extra. I also bought my first car and paid for the insurance and gas. I pretty much paid for everything by 16 other than food and rent. It taught me how to spend money.
    I hope that helps, it is always nice to hear what other people are doing. Good luck!

  39. We pick 4-6 angels off the angel tree every year (one for each kid and maybe some extras) and have the kids go with us to pick out the gifts. We explain why we are doing it and so far they have loved it. It helps them to remember others and be sensitive to other kids. I hope it becomes one of their favorite parts of Christmas (the oldest is 5).

  40. Kathyscottage1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    It is hard to raise children who don't take the things they live with for granted. As parents, we provide for their needs (and beyond) and they grow up thinking these things will always be there when they want/need them. At Christmas time we didn't limit our gifts, but we never, ever went into debt for them (which was a limiting factor in itself) and we didn't spend a lot. Some of the best memories are when we would choose a charity, make a donation box and contribute to it for the month before Christmas. It meant a lot to my girls to plunk their money into that box and even more to prepare it to send off for the poor children who needed it. I think until our kids have to work, and pay for their own needs they will never understand how that system works.

  41. I'm going to make note of this book too...sounds interesting. :) Thanks!

  42. I have answered that question, about Santa, in this way.  "Yes Santa is real, it is you and me and anyone else that gives to those in need or gives just because they love the person they are giving to, with no thought of getting in return.  The spirit of Santa is very REAL."  A few years ago my husband lost his job (like so many others) and we were blessed by "Secret Santas".  About this same time is when my children were asking the ? about Santa being real,  I could not tell them no because every gift was signed "from Santa".  I felt like this answer gave them the truth, something they could believe in for longer than their young childhood and they would never be disappointed when they find out the truth because this truth would never change. 

  43. Lauraneill1051/8/14, 1:15 PM

    I struggle with the other 364 days of the year as well. I'm so quick to buy us things when we "really" want them or "need" them, that if I was to give a "need" for Christmas it would seem silly. I'm trying to get my mind in the mode of NOT buying something right away throughout the year as "needed" or "wanted". I really enjoy spoiling my kids on Christmas, but if I'm spending the same amount on them or the same quantity of gifts that I may spend on them over a 3 month time period, am I really spoiling them? As a result I feel like I need to go bigger and bigger at Christmas just to make up for the fact that they never have to wait for anything they want during the rest of the year. I think instead of scaling back on Christmas, I could really scale back all year long so what I'm currently doing for Christmas seems so much more special. 

    I'm also all about having my kids help pick out and wrap presents and as soon as they can put a crayon to the paper I have them help with thank you notes. My 5 yr old HATES writing thank you notes, but I tell him the importance of it and have him help me hand write each one. While we're writing we talk about the person who gave and the nice gift they gave. I think he's really starting to pick up on the importance of being thankful. During trick-or-treating it made me so happy to see he was the only child in the group staying behind at each house to say "thank you so much for the candy!" 

  44. Something my husband and I have started doing for our children is gifting them with an experience insted of a thing.  There is still money involved in the gift, however, there is not a toy that they will grow tired of, will break and be discarded.  This last year, we took one son to a Globetrotters game and our other son went on a train trip.  Each gift gave them memories rather then something that would break.  They can't remember what toy they got last year, but they can remember what they did with Mom and Dad 3 years ago.  Because they are usually scheduled events, they also have the anticipation of the event to look forward to.  Almost just as fun as the event.  Memories are worth far more then plastic toys!

  45. rnestingen1/8/14, 1:15 PM

    My son's first Christmas was last year and we did 4 gifts ... something he wants, something he needs, something to wear, and something to read. It worked out really well and we hope to continue the tradition within our immediate family - now if we could just get the grandparents on board :)

  46. This is so hard....  Last year we decided to focus on the true meaning of Chirstmas with our kids and giving back instead of getting so much for ourselves.  They are still young 5, 3, & 1.5, but my oldest LOVED picking an ornament from the spirit tree (an oranament with a local childs age, gender, and "wishes" printed on it) and buying gifts for other kids his age that need extra cheer.  It was such a success we decided to sponser a family through The Salvation Army this year!  We are so excited!  Good luck and I can't wait to read about your solutions, I think most of us need help with this!!!

  47. Can I just add: thank you notes.  Thank you notes.  Thank you notes!  Great way for kids to learn to show gratitude.  It takes time and effort.  We write them for almost everything.  Someone gives us their old hand-me-downs, I make my child write a thank you note.  Every Christmas gift from a person, besides Santa but come to think of it we should include Santa, gets a thank you note.

    I also agree with the gal that 'counting' three gifts seems to make the holiday more of a formality and like 'trading money' with family members.  I give my kids things I want (italicize) them to have - for some that is a little more than others.  We don't count or compare.  My kids are two young to know what they really want - bc that is usually just some toy they saw a commercial for and will last for a half an hour.

  48. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Thank you, Barbara Ann (I bet you never get sung to!) We've made it clear to my daughter that we are not going to buy an ipod touch. she is saving for a used one now and it's been so good for her!

  49. Treasia Stepp1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    I love the post today.  It brings back so many memories of raising my two children and the Christmases with them when they were younger.  We always tried teaching the value of a dollar to them both.  We simply bought them what we could afford and nothing more.  If they wanted designer shoes and clothes, then they had to work to earn the money for it themselves.  This made them have a deeper appreciation for the items they purchased.  I taught my daughter at a young age to shop the clearance and sales racks at clothing stores.  To watch the item at full price and keep checking back to see when it hit the clearance racks.  She still does this today and is in her 3rd year of college. 

    At Christmas we always sat the children down and gave them a specific dollar amount that we were spending on them.  Then they would give Santa a list with the items they wanted in the order  they wanted them first.  They would either choose large gift, or several smaller ones.  We would also find a "Angel Tree" in our area and the kids would take their allowance and shop for gifts for that child they chose.  As well as a adult from the local nursing home.  They loved buying the nursing home gifts and watching the faces of the person who they bought for opening the gift.  It did seem to teach them a lot about giving to others.

  50. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Wow...what a great idea.

  51. I love this post! Great timing too.  This is one of those things that I (unfortunately) start thinking about once the season is in full force & it is hard to make big changes at that point.
    Like someone else posted, we do 3 gifts from Santa for each of our kids, since that is what Jesus received.  We have told our kids that on His birthday, Jesus has chosen to share with us, and Santa just helps celebrate. We downplay Santa as much as possible, but our kids have fun believing. Once they are older we will explain the spirit of Santa, and continue to carry out that anonymous generosity, especially at Christmastime. I think my kids get that part, and they like helping others.  The problem is that my husband & I (and the rest of the family) spoil the crap out of them.  Not just at Christmas either.
    I too am definitely guilty of the gluttonous mentality you're talking about & I see it in my kids too. I'd love to change that.  Again, love this post! I have the 'Entitlement Trap' on my list & we will totally do the White Envelope this year. (Ashley, thanks for posting that-made me cry!)
    I can't wait to read more!

  52. Oh, Melissa.  What good questions you've raised here.

    We've never done the "3 gifts" thing, and I don't think I'd want to go that route--too much pressure to get just the right gifts, I think.  But I don't have a good alternative, so I must say I admire the fact that some people do take this approach.

    Christmas is strictly our immediate family--Jack, the boys, and me.  After my mom died in 1999, my family stopped getting together at Christmastime.  Jack's family was never much on Christmas celebrations.  So it's just the five of us, and I'm sure we go overboard.  But for the most part my boys seem to know the value of a dollar, and I think they're thankful for what they have.  I'm quite sure that we're all spoiled.

    Operation Christmas Child has been a great teacher for my kids over the years.  It's run by Samaritan's Purse, which is part of Billy Graham Ministries.  You pack a shoebox full of gifts to be delivered to a child in need somewhere in the world.  It's a great teaching tool, because you get to choose the age and sex of the child you want to bless.  We've always chosen boys the age that my boys were at the time.  It never ceases to move me when I see my boys thinking about the fact that this shoebox is ALL a child is going to get for Christmas.  

    Bless you for thinking about this and gathering responses!  Love you!

  53. Hayley224781/8/14, 1:18 PM

    It helped with our kids grandparents when we explained that we were scaling back, and we didn't want them to out-do us or Santa, so if they could buy fewer/smaller gifts that would help us.  It worked great, and the extra money they want to give on top of the kids' gifts goes into their college funds. 

  54. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    We really want to do the clothing budget with our two oldest teach them how to budget, to let them see how expensive clothes are, how you can get nice second hand items, and hopefully have them take good care of the clothes they do buy. Thanks for your input, Emily!

  55. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Thank you, Marjoleine! Love hearing how other countries celebrate as well :)

  56. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Thank you notes are something we are bringing back..big time! Mostly because I've been a slacker because it does take time and effort (times 5) but what an excellent way to slow down and be grateful. I like the idea of not keeping track as is never going to be equal or fair!

  57. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    It is. And I think it's always good to begin with the end in mind (Stephen Covey)...thank you!

  58. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    I think most grandparents are if you talk to them beforehand...this is what we're thinking of getting, would you like to go in on it, etc.

  59. This is an issue I have been trying to decide how to tackle as my son gets older.  After this year (he is three and a half), I fully intend to scale back and teach him about the importance of giving as opposed to receiving and how to be a good steward financially.  There are many great posts here that I will use.  In closing though, I do find it ironic that the advertisement under this blog was the toy manufacturer's  toy a day giveaway...

  60. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    So true...the little things add up quickly! I like your saving system.

  61. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    LOL:  "so don't be disappointed in a young kid who seems destined to be a Kardasian, LOL.  The majority turn out just fine"
    I hope so!

  62. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    I know. Darn never know which one will pop up, funny that it was toys :) It would be nice to keep this blog ad-free, but if I'm going to take time away from my family to keep it up, it needs to give back (financially) to my family.

  63. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    So, so true. I read an article where they asked children in October or November what they got for Christmas last year. Most could hardly remember one thing!

  64. Liz Player1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Hi, Melissa.  I'm a first-time commenter, long-time reader.  I'm also a Latter-day Saint and don't think I live too far from you--not sure, though.   Anyway, back to the topic. I worry about perpetuating that tradition of gluttony to my kids at the expense of teaching them something better, no matter how fun it is.  Have you heard of Advent Conspiracy?  Check it out at  Their promo videos (up on the horizontal menu) are really excellent--  Since watching their videos, I have re-thought how I'm using my resources and how to best teach my kids to use their to find and help others find joy.  Advent Conspiracy led me to which isn't really user-friendly but has great ideas that we will implement this year.  Like a family who does an "Elves Workshop" in which they craft things for their siblings with their parents' help--on Thanksgiving Day the calendar is pulled out to schedule in tutoring and creating the following weeks .  And another family who eats simple dinners of beans and rice (representative of the meal that a great number of people on this planet enjoy) for the two weeks before Thanksgiving, and then at Thanksgiving dinner they determine what charity will receive the money they saved on their grocery bill during those two weeks of simple dinners.  Other people posted really simple ideas for gift-giving.  Waiting with bated breath to see what other people suggest for a simpler, more joyful holiday season . . ..

  65. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Thank you, Lauren!

  66. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    So this.

  67. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Love that white envelope touching! Thank you, Ashley!

  68. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Love that goal.

  69. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Awesome. I think they appreciate those gifts even more if there aren't as many! And I love that you used part of the fund to help others..

  70. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Your parents did it right! Love hearing how others do it. Don't you think it would do us all good to go live in a less developed country for a month?

  71. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    I think thank you notes are a fantastic idea. As I've gotten more kids, I've been more slacker in this area, and it's something I want to require. I agree also that it is more about scaling back the whole year! Thanks, Laura :)

  72. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    I love hearing things like this!

  73. Iammommahearmeroar1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    I second the Entitlement Trap.  Also, here's something we did last year that made a HUGE difference to us and my boys seemed to love it too.

    I'm new to your blog, but a friend sent me the link to this post.  I love your thoughts here.


  74. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Thank you, Amanda! I've never heard of the shoeboxes, but I know there are plenty of opportunities to serve others that we are going to try to work in this year...

  75. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM


  76. melissa*320 sycamore1/8/14, 1:18 PM

    Love:" we've tried to make holidays more about traditions and experiences than gifts..." It's so true. I like the idea of letting kids know how many gifts they will be opening on Christmas morning, so there are no unmet expectations or visions of 20 presents in their lap that they open and then toss aside to the next one... :)

  77. Some are shocked but one thing we have done is not exchange gifts with the extended family. We do a Christmas Eve gift exchange (kids only, $25 value). The children each get one gift from whichever Aunt/Uncle/grandparent has their name. That's it.

    They do not even get gifts from their grandparents (unless said grandparent has their name).

    This keeps my shopping down because I'm not buying for dozens of people - nor are we receiving dozens of gifts from them. It sounds awful but it's wonderful.

    We do not do "3 gifts" at home because our home is the only place they are really receiving Christmas gifts. I'll be frank, I have yet to hear of a family practicing the "3 gifts" that doesn't end up saying "but of course they get gifts from other people." So it's not really 3 gifts so much as "3 gifts until we get to grandma's."

    Otherwise I find that as my kids have learned to earn money (12 and 14) they appreciate the value of things more.  When I offer to let them use their own money from their saving accounts to buy this or that that "only" cost so much - it's amazing how different their take on it is.

  78. Oh Melissa, I know your pain. Sometimes I winder where we went wrong. By trying to give our children a better life, read more, than we had, we have created our own little monsters.  My eldest is the worst. She has the impression we can give her money or things whenever she feels she "needs" them. I have taken the route of almost always making her wait. Wait until I can get cash over for your allowance; I'm not making a special trip. Wait until I get to the thrift store for binders; fix the ones that are falling apart for now. The other tactic that gets used a lot is one of sacrifice. If you want to go to the movies this weekend, we aren't going to be able to put that money into the vacation fund.  As for Christmas, we have done the three gifts, we have done the one need, want, wear, and read. And its all worked. Their expectations, fortunately, for the holidays are pretty reasonable. This year I think we are going to do stockings for each family member in the household. So we would each get three. We will set a spending limit for each one. The purpose isn't content but quality. What will bring a smile to someone? What have they really been wanting? or What do they need? etc Gifts from others I can't control and don't try.

  79. I loved this post because it rings true in my family, as well.  My goal for 2012 is to have a family service project every month.  And not just dropping cookies off at a neighbor.  I'm hoping for more WORK.  I feel that helping others teaches us to appreciate more.  (Like your first commenter said!)  Now I just need to find some creative ideas to serve with small children.  That's the tricky part.

  80. Man, my son is only 7 weeks old, so I'm having a hard time thinking about how I would handle these things. I feel like kids now are feeling more and more entitled, so I will try to make sure he feels grateful for what he has. Good luck to us!

  81. Jane Carver1/8/14, 5:54 PM

    Wow, great post. My 18 year old accidentally used a bank credit card, thinking it was her debit card she uses for gas, etc. She was upset she has to pay the bill...tough lesson. So here is the Christmas idea I wish I'd implemented years ago-4 things; something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. Santa can bring them the "want item" or bring a surprise:) We used to go CRAZY when our four kiddos were younger-big mistake. My husband always said experiences were the best gift-going to a holiday show together, etc.

  82. Yes! I've heard this before and think it's GREAT. Not only does it narrow it down for the parents (and make it "easy" to think of gift ideas) but it's great for the kids so they have some sort of expectation.  You get them 15+ gifts one Christmas, then next year if money is tighter and they "only" ;) get 5 each, most kids will feel slighted.  I like this idea so that they have a general idea of what to expect.


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