With the chill in the air comes thoughts of expressions of love for our friends, family, and neighbors through giving. Many families struggle with how many gifts to purchase, finding the perfect gift, and following a budget. Over the last two decades as parents, we have tried several systems and finally found one that works for our family. Our first year as parents, we purchased one gift for our 11-month-old because we knew he would be showered with presents from our relatives. By the following year, we succumbed to the pressures of a commercial Christmas and could not wait to see the look on his face when he saw all of the items under the tree. After a few years, our house was pretty full of stuff and we started rethinking how we gave for Christmas. A few years later, we started the three gift rule and the kids did not complain, although I wanted to give them more.
One year, we used our Christmas stockings for Christmas- that stuck. As our family grew, we were mindful of not overspending during the holidays, so we pivoted again. About ten years ago we decided to set a $100 limit per child. While ¾ of that would be spent on them, the remaining balance would be used for a Secret Santa gift for a sibling. They pulled names and bought a gift or gifts for their brother or sister. We still follow that tradition. Usually in November, the kids make lists so we can take advantage of great sales and our shopping is done.
Our children are also required to give a gift to us. We give them each $5 and they have to match it with their own money. They can put it together and purchase a larger item or shop individually- it has varied over the years. We have friends who dismiss or downplay their children purchasing them gifts and later complain when the children leave the house and never purchase them anything. I think the habit is cultivated over the two decades when they are with you. Our oldest is only 19, so we have a few more years to see if the habit of expressing his love and appreciation for us continues throughout adulthood.