Keeping junk out of our Christmas traditions

This Christmas is the third year that we’ve had a very lean time around the holidays, so I’ve become pretty adept at keeping too much “stuff” out of our holiday season. We limit the kids to two presents each from us (one from “Santa” and one from us), and stockings are usually full of colouring books, stickers and small games that come from the dollar store. It’s really easy to give and give and give each year but for us, we’re more interested in experiences and teachable moments than presents.

We’ve become this way out of necessity more than anything, and we’ve picked up a few really smart tips along the way. Here are some of my favourite ways to trim the fat around the holidays and keep your wallet from weeping:

Homemade Avent calendar:

There are a few really smart ways to do this, and this year, I’ll be doing this: Since our tree goes up on December 1 each year this year, we’re starting a “good deed” advent – 24 nice things (with some duplicates) for Henry to do over the time before Christmas. Some include: “hug a sad friend,” and “help prepare dinner.” They are little things, but they get him used to doing something nice, right? Other options we will do in future include story advent (wrap 24 already owned books for a different story each night) or a daily craft advent. The possibilities are endless, and most parents have all the materials necessary to make these calendars in their own house.



Ditch expensive gifts:

Our kids don’t know how much things cost, and will destroy anything without thinking (especially stuff they love), so why spend a lot of money on expensive toys when less expensive ones will do just fine? Case in point: last year, Henry asked Santa for a Buzz Lightyear doll. I found one for $24. Matt was tasked with picking this doll up. He came home, instead with a $75 collector’s edition Buzz which Henry instantly smashed open. Moral? Don’t buy the expensive toys.

Give back:

It’s important to me to teach our kids about the value of giving, so this year, we’ll be preparing donations to Toronto Book Bank, CHUM City Christmas Wish and Red Door. I want my kids to really understand that they are very lucky to have everything they do and not take it for granted, and although they are young, I firmly believe goodwill starts at any age.

We used to travel to family every other Christmas, but the last few years have involved us staying close to home, and I’m really enjoying that tradition. Matt works a lot, so having him here for a few days over the holidays is a welcome change. Watching holiday movies, going for snowy walks and just generally enjoying each other’s company is something that we really love doing. We spend the holidays reconnecting as a family unit, and for that, I’m most thankful.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

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