5 Ways to Reduce Present Pressure This Christmas:

And they're fun, too!

Shout out to all you parents working extra shifts so you can afford to buy your kids holiday gifts this year.


A couple weeks ago, I wrote about some great Christmas gift ideas from NJ’s Toybox. But if you’re like us and you have more kids than sense, you might find the holidays bring a lot of pressure due to basic multiplication.

With many families struggling to stay afloat, it can feel like everywhere you turn, there are ads for toys you really can’t afford to spend a lot of money on. I think it’s safe to say that each family has their own way of handling “present pressure.” My own parents handled it by getting us gifts that weren’t always off of our Christmas list but were definitely on sale at Sears or Service Merchandise, so every gift was something you might like but probably wouldn’t have chosen on your own and probably still wouldn’t.

I also see the opposite problem–people have no idea what to get their kids because their kids are so incredibly easy to please. You want to get your kids something nice but you also want to make things fair for all of them. I’ve seen parents who go with the one-gift idea, which is nice in theory, but it’s kind of sad if you think about it. Opening presents is the most fun part of Christmas for us.

Our family practices a modified version of voluntary simplicity–basically, we try to make a practice of buying secondhand things and practicing reduce/reuse principles when it’s easy to do so with three kids. Our holiday traditions are kind of built around this lifestyle, and it really does make things easier.

Here are a few things we do as part of our holiday gift-giving tradition that make our Christmas a little bit simpler:

1. Shop by Interest, Not Item

Every year, we shop by interest rather than by wish list item. This way, no one’s getting some depressing denim purse they didn’t ask for off the Target last-chance clearance rack. Not that there’s anything wrong with clearance shopping–but for heck’s sake don’t just buy it because it’s cheap!

Interest-based shopping works really well if your kids are interested in any kind of fandoms. If you know your kid’s a die-hard Marvel fan, you probably can’t go wrong getting them a tee with their favorite Marvel character. I keep my list handy and pass it out to family and friends when they ask. Our list this year looks like this:

  • Lucy: FNAF (esp. plushies), unicorns, Undertale, Bendy, Cuphead
  • Noah: cars, vehicles, other vehicles
  • Arthur: Harry Potter, Mixels, monsters, anime

2. Pick Up Buy Nothing Gifts

I start squirreling gifts pretty early every year from my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. I used to run a swap group on Facebook, and one year I got almost all the kids’ gifts on there via bartering, but that takes a lot of time and energy. However, I always keep my eyes out online for things my kids will like, and every now and then I put out an alert for anyone who wants to barter or gift items from our kids’ list. Chances are pretty good you’ve got one or two friends who love to declutter and regift their old toys, and these can be a gold mine.

My friend Shannon who runs Tigerlily’s Emporium knows we’re the go-to for rehoming old stuff, so she always brings me a few big boxes to go through every Christmas, which is why Lucy probably has more Barbies and Monster High toys than any other girl at her school. I’ve managed to grab a few pretty cool stocking stuffers this year already from the Buy Nothing habit. It’s also a great reminder to go through your own stuff and rehome some goodies to someone else who could use them.

3. Shop on Facebook Market

Facebook Market is incredibly helpful. Every year, we end up grabbing a bunch of Xbox games, board games, or books our kids have been wanting for way below what we’d pay new or even at Vintage Stock. If you just go online at the last minute and search for what your kids want, you probably aren’t going to have any luck. Shopping on FB Market requires persistence and perseverance, but if you look regularly for what your kids are in search of, you’ll end up scoring big. That’s how Lucy got more Littlest Pet Shop toys than any kid should have.

Facebook Market is especially helpful if you’re in search of electronic devices of any kind. Our kids really want computers/devices this year, and we’re going to try to get them something inexpensive but functional by shopping on Facebook.

Noah’s stocking

4. Go Small or Go Home

Or at least go medium. My parents always used to try to get us one big gift, which was usually some kind of massive but useless plush toy or cool looking cardboard playhouse that ended up destroyed as heck within a month. I tried that “one big gift” strategy with my kids a couple of times, but in the end I realized it ended up being just one more gift among all the other gifts. Now, I get them a few smaller gifts that I know they’re actually going to really like. This year, Lucy is getting several FNAF plushies. They’re only about $10 each, which means we can get her a few and not be in the poor house. And she freaking loves those things. She watches YouTube videos of people playing with them and just about loses her mind.

5. Funky Gift Wrap

My mother-in-law is an amazing person. She gift wraps her gifts in the most beautiful packages. They’re breathtaking. Almost too pretty to open, in fact. But our family, on the other hand, uses anything and everything to wrap our gifts–and here I use the word “wrap” loosely, just like our terrible wrapping jobs. Random pieces of fabric, t-shirts, paper bags, you name it. If it can fold around something, it’s “wrapping paper.” But we don’t stop there. No, we decorate those abominations with everything from cotton balls to magazine cutouts of Justin Bieber. It adds kind of a fun touch to wrapping, takes the pressure off trying to make everything look perfect, and gives you a chance to do something environmentally friendly.

I’d love to hear what you all do to keep Christmas gifting simple. Leave me a comment and throw me your ideas!

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