We knew when we got married, we wanted a large family: “6 kids, give or take a few.” said my husband. We also knew we were going to be lifelong missionaries somewhere outside of the USA. When you combine those two family characteristics, there usually isn't a lot of extra money to spend on gifts at Christmas. Early on we had to come up with a plan: our Family Gift Guide. Here is what we do:
We love family fun, so every December we plan some sort of Advent or Christmas Countdown activities. One year I put aside books all through the year so that we could open a new book each day leading up to Christmas. One year we did a candy advent. This year we're going to do a family activity with Melk each day, and we also always have a Nativity Advent Calendar. If you haven't ever done this, check out all the great ideas on my Christmas Pinterest Board.
Something they want
We take suggestions or wish lists from our kids or watch what they are looking at in the stores the couple of months prior to Christmas and usually choose one larger toy gift or a couple of smaller toys, trying to spend around the same $ amount on each. The amount having been pre-determined in a private budget discussion between me and my husband.
Something they need
Needs change with each year and each child. So this one is subject to life, education and the interests of each child.
Something to wear
We ALWAYS get new pajamas for the kids each year. It's our Christmas Eve tradition. But we also look for something they may need for their wardrobe: new shoes, new dress pants, etc. Some years I've even made a Christmas dress for the girls.
Something to read
We're crazy about reading around here (if you haven't noticed, hehe.) So we get them each a new book at Christmas, or sometimes we substitute the DVD version of a book they have read recently.
Stocking gifts are also a tradition. Christmas morning the kids can open their stockings as soon as they are awake, but the official gift time comes later in the morning with the whole family. We usually set a $ budget or a # of items per person budget to fill their stockings. There are some great stocking stuffer idea lists here! Stockings are also generally the only gifts my husband and I exchange. I fill his and he fills mine. You can fit some really great gifts in stockings! But we do occasionally also surprise each other with another gift.
When money has been really tight, we have opted to get one larger gift that the whole family can enjoy together, and then set lower budgets for smaller individual gifts, or forego one or two of the individual gift categories altogether. Ideas for a family gift might be a family game, movie, outing, or outdoor game or activity equipment.
We believe that children should be encouraged to give at Christmas and not just expect to receive. So each year (from about age 4 and up) we help our children make a list of at least one thing they would like to make or get for each of their siblings for Christmas. Then we help them make that happen. They may do extra jobs to earn money to shop with. They may have secret crafting times or we may chip in to help them get the things on their lists. The kids get such a thrill out of the secrets and the wrapping and the surprising each other. Some years we also add cousins and grandparents to the list, but usually make gifts or ornaments to send them.
Extended Family Gifts
Due to the nature and location of our ministry, we usually do not travel during the Christmas holidays. So, generally there are also a few gifts under the tree that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins mail in.
What kind of gift guide do you have for your family gifts? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
This post is part of the 20 Days of Ultimate Christmas Lists Series on Paradise Praises. Subscribe in the box below to be sure you don't miss a single post! And don't forget to enter the Holiday Encouragement for Moms Giveaway!