Time to recap on Christmas…

COlourful Christmas tree & gifts on a black background

What did you find under and around the Christmas Tree?

It’s Boxing Day and that’s a great time to look back at Christmas and remember how great it was and appreciate many things.

Your gifts…

As I asked a few years ago, what did you get for Christmas that …

  • showed the most thought and knowledge about you?
  • was the most fun?
  • was a complete surprise?
  • means the most to you?

And what present did you GIVE that gave the most joy?

Your day…

And I’d love to hear about your Christmas celebrations yesterday. Did you start any new traditions or try something different this year?

What made your day special?

Managing expectations

In business and in marketing discussions, ‘managing expectations’ is important and quite common.

The point is to let people know what to expect so they are content with things. For example, if people know it will take two weeks to have something delivered, they’ll be happy with to arriving in 12 days but 12 days would be irritating if you expected it in 3 days.

What about Christmas expectations?

Small Christmas gift sitting on a large present

The size of a gift can raise expectations…

Managing expectations is not a term I’ve really though about in relation to Christmas (or other gift times of year), but it makes sense to think about it.

Have you ever had expectations about Christmas that were not met or exceeded?

High expectations fail

I remember once that I was given some hints that I would get an iPad for Christmas, and I was quite pleased about the idea. And quite disappointed when I didn’t get one on Christmas Day. Had I not heard those hints, the lack of iPad wouldn’t have bothered me at all so it was false expectations that caused the disappointment.

It’s a bit like the child getting a huge gift, only to discover that there is a box inside a box inside a box… The child would be a mix of emotions – excitement over a large gift, disappointment over it not being so big, excitement over lots of layers to unwrap and the surprise of finding whatever was in the middle. My Dad did that to me once – the final gift was very small, but as it was a key to a car it was also a very big gift!

Low expectations succeed

Via jcc81’s comment in a recent post, I heard of a great way to set low expectations and thus provide excitement on Christmas Day. Imagine children watching you wrap some junk for them and seeing those gifts under the tree for days and weeks… Only to discover some other gifts were placed under the tree on Christmas morning!

 Managing Christmas gift expectations

So letting children know in advance that they may not get everything they want, not even everything they wrote to ask Santa for, is a good way to keep them happy with what they get on Christmas morning.

I think that is a good lesson for them anyway – there should be more to Christmas than the gifts and they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want.

Have you ever really thought about managing gift expectations?

Do you know what I’m getting…

I have heard this question a lot recently.

My son keeps asking “Do you know what I’m getting {insert various names} for Christmas?”

I think it is lovely that a six year old is so excited about giving gifts to the people he loves.

Boy in a Snat hat giving a Christmas gift

Seeing children happy to give a gift with love is a beautiful sight

And he is trying to be selfless in the process – some the gifts are perhaps a bit more of what he is interested in than the recipient (like a Lego set for his grandfather!) but he is thinking about what they may like which is a great lesson for him.

At six, my son doesn’t truly comprehend how long it is until Christmas so his perspective is different. Of course, his idea of suitable budgets for presents is pretty limited, too!

In the adult world…

Some people are well into organising their Christmas gifts and others are horrified at the idea of preparing this early (I have a few relatives who will start on about the 20th or 22nd of December!)

But I am enjoying the fact that as I type this, my son and his friend are singing (made up) Christmas songs and playing  time at the emergency centre with my daughter. They are happy and excited even if there are still 43 days to go!

Have you started thinking about what gifts to give people? Have you started getting those gifts?

I had a chance to go shopping without children last week so that’s when I started Christmas shopping. It does feel good to have crossed a few names of the list!

Christmas family reunions and gifts

pile of Christmas wrapped gifts

Cheerful wrapping and a nice gift make you feel good – and it’s up to the recipient how they react to your gift giving…

Well I guess we all have that one or maybe two relatives that we can’t stand but we have to put up with their presence every single time there is a family reunion!

Well, since Christmas is coming and my family already planned the whole thing out I was just wondering what could I buy for the two aunts that I deliberately dislike… I don’t know them very well but there’s one thing I know for sure – they love to criticize; so what could I do to please them?


Driving presents all day for Santa

There’s a lady in my area who collects toys and drives them to another place where the kids aint got much.Cheerful pile of Christmas presents

I think it’s about 8 hours each time she drives up there to give those kids stuff, which is a pretty long way to go, y’know? I guess Santa goes further but many people wouldn’t.

My kids have helped get stuff at their school – that’s how she gets most of the gifts I think, through schools and preschools near here.

Just thought I’d share this Christmas nice story. She is doing a good thing so this is my little thank you ‘cos I don’t do much meself.

Oh, and I found a paper article on the net about her, too.

Making Christmas frugal

I like to think of Christmas as a time of giving, happiness, love and friendship. The spirit and magic of Christmas and Santa are about kindness and sharing a celebration.

The decorations add to the atmosphere and magic, but are a bonus.dollars hanging on Christmas tree sketch

Gifts can be a lot of fun, but I think they should be secondary to the real Christmas feelings, but it takes effort to avoid the commercialism of Christmas in the western world.

So if we take away the expensive trimmings, Christmas doesn’t have to cost us a lot of money.

If we keep a lot of the trimmings, it will cost us but here are some ways to minimise those costs. Hopefully others will add to my list so we can all have a Merry Frugal Christmas this year!

  1. make Christmas gift tags and cards instead of buying them
  2. make paper chains out of junk mail as a cheap alternative to tinsel or bought streamers
  3. if hosting an event, ask people to bring a plate to share
  4. when cooking for Christmas events, make a green salad, rice salad or pasta salad instead of a plate of char grilled vegetables or other expensive vegetable options
  5. plant lettuce, tomatoes and others so that they will be ready for harvesting at Christmas time and you have a really cheap salad or vegetable dish to present
  6. where appropriate, you could regift some things
  7. make some gifts – choose ones with materials you already have or can get cheaply. Some good simple gifts I’ve made include bath salts, cake ingredients, herb vinegars and beaded necklaces
  8. use a plain red sheet as a table-cloth – brighten it up with glitter, tinsel or baubles off the tree and it will still be cheaper than most purchased Christmas table cloths
  9. find inexpensive alternatives to Christmas wrapping paper – use kids’ artwork, use brown paper with some stickers or drawings on it, recycle last year’s paper, buy in bulk, use gift bags that can be reused, etc.

    collection of brown boxes with purple gift ribbons

    Simple brown packaging can look stylish without costing a fortune

  10. get the kids to make decorations – this saves buying decorations, gives the kids genuine self-esteem and is probably cheaper than many other entertainment options for the kids!
  11. have a tree of thanks instead of the common decorations – cheaper and very special
  12. when people ask what you (or your kids) want, tell them! It may not save you Christmas money but if you are given something you need it will make your overall budget go further. And that includes getting others contribute to a large gift you want to give your kids
  13. make vouchers so you give the gift of your time and skills rather than things that cost you money. Try vouchers for babysitting, walking dogs, gardening, spring cleaning a house, giving a massage, running errands or doing admin tasks.
  14. think of resources to give as gifts. For instance a list of good books or information about choosing a computer could be really valuable to others
  15. do your Christmas shopping throughout the year. This gives you the chance to grab things on sale (and avoid any mark ups in December) and spread out your spending (which may not save you money in total but makes it easier to bear – and it can save interest payments from over used credit cards)
  16. set a budget for gifts. Personally I find this very hard to do but if you have a budget it does keep things under control. $10 a head for 20 people is $200 – if that sneaks up to $15 or $20 for even half those people it will now cost you $300  – it adds up quickly so think about what you can afford in total then divide it between the number of people (evenly or otherwise).

OK, 16 is my favourite number and I’m about out of ideas for now but they will all save you money and get you thinking of other things to do. Have you built up any traditions or habits to make your Christmas more affordable?

Maybe you don’t like the idea of a frugal Christmas at all – if so, let us know how you manage…


 * Images courtesy of 123rf & Love Santa

Gifts from kids

Who do your kids specifically give gifts to?

I remember as a kid that we only gave gifts as a family, but I know that my kids give some gifts from them, not the family.

Why gifts from kids?

I like my children to learn that gifts, and Christmas, are about giving and not just receiving. I want them to be generous and learn the pleasure in giving to others.

It’s also important to teach kids gratitude and appreciation. Which can’t happen if they just get gifts and never return the gesture.

So my kids give presents to certain people. And by giving, I mean their name(s) is on the card and they physically hand the gift over.

cousins handing out xmas giftsFor instance, they give presents to their grandparents to show that gift giving goes two ways. Often this is a token gift* or something they have made themselves as the point is the giving.

Who kids give to

Obviously it varies between family situations, but to give you the idea, my kids give gifts to their:

  • grandparents and great-grandmothers
  • scouting leaders
  • family day carers
  • class teachers
  • siblings
  • parents (yes, we get Christmas and birthday gifts from our children)

Have I missed anyone your kids give gifts to? Do your kids enjoy the gift giving as well as getting gifts?

* We usually give something bigger to grandparents as a family, too.

Seasonal Christmas gifts

Summer ends tomorrow. Of course we may well get a lot of hot weather yet but there’s no denying that colder weather is on its way.

With the colder weather are there Christmas gifts you received that will now get used?

Aside from the fact that shops are full of summer things in November and December, most people seem to think of gifts with immediate use. So I see t-shirts, bathers and shorts given for Christmas much more often than jumpers and jackets for example.

Sometimes I do manage to think ahead and give a gift that is not related to December/January – especially if someone has a major life event later in the year – and often buy a general present (i.e. something that can be used at any time). I admit I rarely buy a winter-related item as a Christmas gift though.

Are all your Christmas gifts relating to summer (or winter if you’re in the Northern hemisphere obviously) or do you plan ahead?

Would you prefer to get some gifts ready for another season?

Should Christmas gifts have a purpose?

When choosing gifts for your children, do you put a lot of intellectual thought into it, or just grab an easier option (like what the kids are nagging for!)?

In an ideal world, I think we should have a purpose in mind for the gifts we give our children.

For example, we may decide it is important to encourage activity rather than sedentary lifestyle so we chose (predominantly at least) gifts to suit that lifestyle value. Or maybe healthy eating is important to you so you give dried fruit instead of lollies and healthy cook books rather than chocolate ones!

Instead of overall values, maybe the purpose of for gifts would suit each child and help with things they need to develop (maybe Scrabble for someone struggling with reading, jigsaws for those not skilled in problem solving or Pictionary or Cazoo for kids who need more communication skills).

As much fun and pleasure as kids derive from opening the gifts at Christmas, surely we should keep the big picture in mind and choose gifts that lead the child in directions we like?

Mind you, I am not saying give kids presents they’ll hate – let them enjoy Christmas and we want them to use the purposeful gifts. Just find a compromise – don’t give an inactive kid a bike but perhaps give an electronic game that involves moving or a scooter for getting to and from school.

What do you think? Is it better to choose gifts with a purpose, that support your goals and aims as parents (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc)?

If not completely about purpose, what proportion of their gifts would you like to have a purpose?

No gifts for adults?

Adult with Christmas gifts under the treeI know a number of friends have a family arrangement where only the kids get Christmas presents now, but I don’t like it.

Yes, I get that it saves a lot of money and stress to cut down the list of people to buy for – and with a list of 35 or so, I am all for that concept! And kids are often easier to buy for than adults you don’t see very often.

But there are a number of downsides I think:
– adults deserve fun too – who says we grow out of presents?
– it teaches kids to expect a lot, and possibly at the exclusion of adults
– kids get so much it is overwhelming anyway

Why not let the kids watch adults get things for a change?

Or maybe make family gifts instead of for kids or adults – a board game all can play, tickets to the zoo or a movie, a recipe book they can use together, some vegetable seedlings to start a garden, a beach umbrella, and so on.

What do you think – if presents are being cut back, who should get them? Have you experienced this idea of kids only gifts – did it work well?

* Photo courtesy of 123rf

Christmas spirit of giving

I’m not talking about commercialism and gift giving, but the true spirit of giving at Christmas time. I don’t do enough of it myself, and I’m not sure just thinking about it counts for much, but I think Christmas giving is important.

What giving do you do at Christmas time? Do you see it as a burden in a busy time or something that is just worthwhile and a priority?

Here’s some of the things I’ve thought of – can you add to the list?

  • time for poor – serving Xmas lunch at a homeless shelter or helping hand out goods at a charity centre
  • invite lonely people to join a Xmas celebration with you
  • give to charity instead of giving token or joke gifts – a group I was in did this one year as we choose gifts for children and gave the bundle to a charity
  • give charity gifts
  • send cards to those not expecting it – maybe that shop assistant who smiled at you during your toddler’s tantrum, the nosy neighbour or a volunteer in your community (one you don’t deal with yourself)
  • smile and be nice to people in Xmas crowds – not always easy but give it a go!

Gifts from my kids…

… are often home-made, especially for Grandparents and aunts.

children stuffing sachets as gifts

When kids make gifts, they come from the heart. Like these scented sachets being made at home.

It started partly to be cheaper but it isn’t always the case.

What’s more important is that the kids put their time and love into it so it means so much more than some $5 soap or chocolate we could buy.

It also teaches them the real value and pleasure in gift giving. Aside from the giving bits, making gifts also entertains them in a positive way, teaches them crafty skills and IS FUN!

I’m looking for some new ideas for this Christmas, although we’re thinking of pots of herbs that the kids grow from seeds and maybe decorate the pots.

My children have already made…

  • stepping stones
  • dyed tea towels
  • photo frames (thanks for that idea on a Love Santa letter!)
  • painted pots of citronella candles

Has anybody got some other ideas they could share please?

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