Our Holiday Gift Giving Philosophy and How We Simplify Shopping


Before we moved to Vermont, my husband and I had our holiday schedule streamlined. When we had kids, we decided that we would not run around and try to see everyone on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We would visit with one of our families on Christmas Eve and the other family on Christmas Day. Luckily for us, my family always had a larger gathering on Christmas Eve and my husband’s family always had a large dinner on Christmas Day.

It was smooth and predictable. We knew exactly what to expect every year. That is how we like things in our household.

Now that we are living six hours away from our families, our holiday schedule has needed a bit of adjustment. However, our holiday gift giving practices have remained super streamlined.

First up, we have a strict policy for Santa gifts. Santa only places 3 gifts under our Christmas tree. One present for each of our boys and a larger gift for them to share. Because Santa only brings three gifts, they tend to be on the larger side. Our children are still younger, so we have managed to assert some subtle and not so subtle influence what exactly they ask for/get each year.

In past years, gifts have included: an art table to share and a bike for each boy; a spaceship tent to share, a Jurassic world playset for one and a guitar for the other; and a kitchen set to share and kid-sized chairs for each.

church street, street, christmas lights

This is our strategy:

  1. We decide on a budget that is manageable for our family that year (it changes from year to year.)
  2. About 2 months before Christmas, we assess our boys’ likes and dislikes and we decided what we will get them. We then begin to talk to them about asking Santa for those specific things. (This year, they will each get a new big boy bike and they will receive the Hotwheel Ultimate Garage to share.)
  3. We write letters to Santa together and make sure to specifically ask for the things we know they are getting.
  4. We do not buy anything in a store. We order everything online and preferably from Amazon. It is best when it all comes in one single box. In fact, we avoid bringing them into as many stores as possible so they don’t change their minds before Christmas. This also means no commercials on TV.

This may seem super controlling and/or cold, but, here’s the thing… they still get ALL THE STUFF. They get multiple toys/games/clothes/gear/gadgets from grandparents and aunts and uncles. In addition to that, they also get loads of toys ten days before Christmas for my oldest son’s birthday.

Like I said, we like things streamlined. And, we loathe clutter.

holiday gift giving, presents, gifts

We’ve also come up with a strategy to streamline gift giving for other family members and friends:

  1. We make a list of the people to which we will be gifting.
  2. We decide on a budget that is manageable for our family that year.
  3. We divide the budget by those we will be purchasing for. Some family members, like our parents, get a higher percentage of the money pot.
  4. In the past, when we lived close to our family, we purchased gift cards to restaurants. We enjoyed doing this because we liked choosing a restaurant for each person that we thought they would enjoy.
  5. Now that we no longer live in the same vicinity, this isn’t a possibility. Instead, we like to gift unique Vermont souvenirs. We like to find gifts that we think our loved ones will appreciate and will remind them of us, up here in VT.

Of course, it feels great to give gifts, but, I’m sure your family members would never want to receive a gift that was financially difficult for you. Right? Giving is great, going broke doing so, not so much.

Please share your tips and philosophies on holiday gift giving!



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