Monday, December 11

From Shopping to Wrapping - The Best Christmas Gift Tips From My Family of 8!

Today's post might be a little all over the place, but I just wanted to take a minute to share a few details about how we're doing gifts this year:

  1. Our gift-planning system and how we do our best to minimize clutter and excess
  2. The boys' secret Santa swap
  3. My favorite way to save big $$ on gifts
  4. A fun (and cheap!) wrapping tradition
  5. What we actually bought for the boys last year

If you're still looking for gift ideas, I'm not planning to put together any gift guides this year but you can check out my minimalist gift guide for kids that's full of our tried and true favorites, plus some of my top picks for guys and for the ladies (and my full shopping guide archive is here).

1. Gift Planning

The best way to summarize our gift planning and buying system is: BUY LESS STUFF. We want the kids to have a great Christmas, but we also want them to focus on the truth behind Christmas and to be thankful for what they have. For ourselves: we want to keep a reasonable budget, avoid going into debt, and to stop bringing so much clutter into our home! We've worked toward all this in the past by using the Four Gifts Rule: 

  • something they want
  • something they need
  • something to wear
  • something to read 

(although it wasn't literally four gifts for us because I would get them a couple books and clothing items and bundle them together). I go into all of that in depth in my Minimalist Kids Christmas post if you to read more about it - why we do it, our favorite gift suggestions for each category, etc. It's been a really good way for us to keep our shopping in check over the years.

Last year we followed roughly the same structure and this is what each of our boys opened:

  • two books
  • two clothing items
  • one fun thing
  • an umbrella (because I found them on clearance for $3)
We also set aside a $100 budget for a few family gifts (like board games and read-aloud books). Last year we went smaller than usual on their individual gifts and moved some of the extra money to our family budget which allowed us to get basketball hoop! It was really nice to have more things to enjoy together (and a little less "hey that's mine!").

2. Secret Santa

Besides the gifts from us, the boys each get one more fun gift from their own little secret Santa exchange. We have them each draw the name of a brother to shop for, then give them $20 to choose a gift for that brother. They did such a good job last year choosing things they knew their brothers would love! It's a great way to get them in the habit of giving and to teach them to think of others. We start with their secret Santa gifts first on Christmas morning because they are so excited to give them to each other. 

One of the boys used some of his own pokemon cards to make advent calendars for his brothers. 

3. Saving $$ on Gifts

Last year we came in under budget on our Christmas shopping in the most controversial way - I shopped second-hand. I know. Some people cringe at the thought of second hand gifts. But I'm here to tell you, it can make all the difference in your Christmas budget! I bought a few gifts on ebay and facebook marketplace, plus grabbed a few at discount stores, on clearance racks, and at our local kids consignment sale. Of course, there are people I wouldn't buy a second hand gift for because I know it wouldn't go over well (use your judgement, friends), but within our family I'm all about it and I hope my kids grow up knowing that things don't have to be new to be good! Some of my best finds last year:

  • a basketball hoop (still in the box on marketplace for less than half the price of buying new)
  • a Harry Potter chess set ($15 on ebay vs. $40 new)
  • most of the boys' books on ebay for a fraction of buying new
  • a $30 car track for only $10 at a discount outlet during the summer
In the end we came in almost $50 under budget on each of the boys... which adds up to quite a lot and was more than enough to cover the cost of the basketball hoop without using up our family budget! 

4. Fun Wrapping Tradition

I started a new tradition two years ago where I wrap each of the boys' gifts in a different wrapping paper. I put a piece of the paper in their stocking, and then they know all the gifts wrapped in that paper are theirs. The first year I just ran to Dollar Tree to get wrapping paper and I'm so glad I did! They actually had some really cute options, and since they boys don't have a ton of gifts I've only needed one roll each which only costs a few dollars total!

5. What we Actually Bought in 2022

I went back and forth about sharing what we actually bought, but in the end I'm hoping it will be helpful to anyone else trying to minimize clutter and, for lack of a better term, junk. So if you're like me, this is the section for you. If you don't care what we bought, I don't blame you and you can feel free to roll on by.

Like I said, last year we saved quite a bit on the boys' handful of gifts and were able to put a little more toward some fun family gifts. I also realized as I looked back that we didn't even do a "need" gift last year - so really just three gifts each (remember I count clothing items as one and books as one). Here's what everyone opened last Christmas (I'll link them on Amazon if I can so they are easy to find, but remember I bought a lot of them second hand):

11 Year Old:

9 Year Old: 

7 Year Old:

4 Year Old:

2 Year Old:

For Baby (Just in case he was born before Christmas. He wasn't.):

Family gifts:

I hope this helps you navigate your own gifting a little easier this year!

I'd love to hear how you do gifts in your own home!

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