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Why My Kids Love That We Are Not Buying Christmas Presents This Year

I love Christmas! Giving and receiving gifts is one of the highlights of our family’s year. In my mind nothing beats it for family togetherness and sharing expressions of love.

no Christmas presents As a parent though, I’m often hit with a January hangover. My headache comes from watching the majority of the presents I bought for my children lie dormant in a corner of their room. I would say that over 80% of the toys my wife and I purchase the kids each Christmas are played with a couple of times and then left to collect dust. That’s frustrating considering the money we shell out for them.

So last year we asked them to make a list of the items they wanted. They did. We bought them. Same issue occurred.

I’m not mad at the kids. I guess we just have trouble hitting their toy sweet spot.

So just the other week my wife and I decided to do something different this year. We aren’t buying any Christmas presents. To our surprise, when we told the kids what we were doing, they were 100% enthusiastically behind it.

Our Alternative to Christmas Presents

Instead of buying Christmas presents that will only be played with a few times we are going on a 5-day vacation. We originally had designs on heading to North Carolina for some introductory skiing and tubing. Then an early cold spell hit Atlanta and we thought “Why do we want to go be wet and cold for five days?” So we rethought the decision and decided our destination will be sunny south Florida. That sounds like a better place to go in the middle of winter, right?

The main attractions on our list to visit are the Everglades, Key Largo and Key West. Given their proximity to one another, they seem like natural locations to knock off our bucket list. The kids have never been there and are pumped about the prospect of seeing some alligators, going on an airboat ride and standing in the southern most part of the continental U.S.

This Christmas Will Cost More

This will not be a cheaper Christmas however. We will in fact be spending more than if we had just filled the stockings and piled presents under the tree. Two things came together that allowed us to take on this expenditure.

One, we had money left over in our vacation fund from the summer. Two, we had been saving all year for Christmas presents anyway. As I mentioned in a post this past January, we set aside money each month so when December rolls around we have cash to pay for our gifts. So we took the gift money saved for Christmas presents and combined it with what was left over from the summer. Voila…there’s our vacation money.

This Christmas May Mean More

We will still be spending time with our extended family on Christmas day. We definitely don’t want to miss out on that family time. But I’m excited about the chance to do something different. I think this Christmas has the potential to mean more in the long run for our kids.

Toys are great but the memories created through quality family time will outlast any toy that could be received. That’s what my wife and I are hoping to create this Christmas. And we are more than happy to spend a little more than normal at Christmas to make it happen.

Have you ever gone on vacation during the holidays instead of buying Christmas presents? Parents – do you face the same dilemma we do with your kids quickly losing interest in their toys? What’s the best gift you’ve ever received at Christmas?

Original image at Flickr Creative Commons

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  1. Funny, I just wrote a similar post on my blog about whether or not kids remember the gifts from the previous Christmas. I was hoping they wouldn’t because I wanted to convince everyone that we would gift them an experience (trip, etc.) in lie of presents. But they remembered the gifts and were not on board for such a gift this year. Maybe next year! 🙂

  2. I remember the experiences I had during family vacations more than I remember how happy my old toys used to make me. It’s so worth it to spend on experiences rather than material possessions. It also sets a wonderful example for your kids!

  3. Sounds like you have a great plan and a great family. I’m sure the experience and the memories will last a lot longer than the toys. Enjoy!

  4. I love that you are doing this so much, Brian! We may have to do something similar in the future. Florida will definitely be wonderful and I can’t blame you for choosing sunshine over the cold! You’re going to make so many wonderful memories and it wouldn’t surprise me if this becomes a new tradition in your family!

  5. Great idea to take the family on a trip instead! You sure they aren’t secretly resentful they aren’t getting the latest toy though? 🙂 how about at least an envelope with $25 bucks?

    • My oldest son is the most enthusiastic about the whole vacation deal because his birthday is on the 27th. So he’s getting presents for that anyway.

  6. Love it! One of my professors in college said he spends very little on his kids for Christmas and birthdays. Instead, he uses the money for trips to give his kids experiences. And they love it!

  7. I have traveled every year for Christmas since 2006 and I love it! Worth more than any gift anyone could ever give me. By not being around during the holidays, I was able to enact the new tradition of no longer buying gifts for the majority and also letting people know that I didn’t want gifts either. The practice is still going strong.

    • I’m just hoping we don’t have any travel nightmares. Portions of where we will be might be busy with holiday travelers, so we will see. Having done so much traveling yourself at this busy time of the year I bet you have some interesting stories to tell.

  8. What a wonderful idea! I’m sure I would have happily agreed to that arrangement as a child.

    Unfortunately, I can’t imagine us ever going on a vacation with the people we give presents to. We’ve already forgone giving gifts to our immediate family (each other). Although all taken together, what we spend on gifts each year would pay for a decent get-away (inexpensive gifts for a lot of people).

  9. We are focusing on experience gifts (gymnastics, children’s museum, etc) and some charitable contributions for the older folks on our list because, I hear ya, not only do the kids not need all the stuff, neither do the adults!

  10. I would have gladly given up more presents as a kid to take more family vacations or just spend more time, particularly with my mom. I think that’s awesome and it also sounds much less stressful. 🙂 Always good this time of year!

  11. What a great idea. I am often saddened by the amount of stuff that doesn’t get used after the holidays are over. We’ve taken to just buying one more expensive gift geared toward our child’s interests and talents, plus a stocking, and then one family gift to share. I love love love the idea of a trip if we didn’t live in the middle of nowhere and would have to buy plane tickets for a vacation. Maybe when the kids are older we’ll try this out.

    • I like the one expensive gift approach Janeen. I remember the years that happened to me as a child where my parents purchased something more expensive for me. I usually appreciated (and used) it more.

  12. Great idea, Brian! You’ll love that slice of God’s Country (nah I’m not biased 🙂 ).

    Mountains of studies have shown that memories and experiences almost always trump material goods. The other side of the coin still has much merit, though. There’s a lot that can be said about the preciousness of a yearly time when families gravitate back towards their center and gifts are exchanged between loved ones and close friends.

    • I was in the Everglades years ago in my young adult years and loved it. I couldn’t get over the noise of the airboats. Really can’t even talk to the person next to you. But what fun…

  13. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income says

    Experience and memories will always be worth more than toys. Growing up my parents took us downtown to stay in a hotel and go see the city lights and gave us $5 to eat wherever we wanted. I cherish that and continue it with my family. I can remember that more than any toy I have ever received. Time together as family is an investment.

    • As adults I think we forget how little can thrill a child. Even something as simple as a hotel stay in a nearby city…it’s different and exciting to them. Like you said…they don’t really care as long as they are with us.

  14. Great idea Brian, especially considering how cold it is around my hometown in December.

    We’ve always set a pretty frugal spending limit between my wife and I, giving time instead of gifts. I hope our son will be as understanding when he gets older.

    • Where’s home Joseph? I’m originally from the Midwest (Ohio) but am enjoying the much balmier winter climate of the South. Needless to say my blood has thinned in the 18 years I’ve lived in Georgia. I used to be able to where shorts and T-shirts in 40 degree weather down here. Now I’m in hoodies and sweatpants.

      • Originally from Iowa, living in Colombia now (wayyyy south) but we still travel back home every Christmas. Been trying to convince the rest of the family to meet us half way, maybe somewhere in Florida.

  15. That will be a gift of many memories! Good work on getting it planned out and getting everybody excited for it.

  16. I love the idea of this Brian!!! The gift of experience is worth so much more than stuff. I think this is an approach we may end up going to as well, because my son really doesn’t care about the stuff and I think he would prefer the quality time with his parents more (at least until he becomes a teenager). 🙂

    • “…at least until he becomes a teenager…” Haha…We have one there now and it’s not too bad. I’ve always believed if you build the strong connections while they are young they will still want to hang with you through the teen years. We’ll see, but so far so good.

  17. Great idea. I’m sure they will remember this for years to come. We are doing the same for our son and daughter’s 16th birthday next year. Instead of a big birthday party that will last a few hours, we are taking them on a family vacation. We want to create memories, and have time together as a family to mark the event..

    • That’s a great plan Brian. I don’t know what we will do for the Sweet 16 but I have three years to plan for it. It will be here quicker than I think though.

  18. That sounds like an awesome trip and creating memories is such an important part of childhood and life in general. Have an awesome time!

  19. I love this idea. While my daughter is young I’m really trying to put the focus on the real importance of the season, and though gifts are fun, are not the main point, which you totally understand. I didn’t grow up getting a lot in terms of gifts and i never felt like i missed anything. I’m hoping in a few years we’ll be able to do the exact same thing as you with our family. Hope you and your family have an amazing time making memories 🙂

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