How to De-stress Holiday Gift Giving

As mothers, we all want the best for our kids. With the holidays soon approaching, many of us will focus on picking the perfect gifts for our kids, family members, coworkers, teachers, neighbors…you get the picture. Gift-giving can get stressful and expensive, fast

If you break down what the word “gift” means via the dictionary, good ol’ Webster defines it as “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” The word I find most interesting there is willingly. Oftentimes our list of gift recipients around the holidays is filled with a number of people to whom we feel obligated to give gifts. 

When you think about why we give presents, we give them to loved ones to show that we love them and are thinking about them (on birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc). We also give gifts to people we’re appreciative of: friends, neighbors, and our kids’ teachers, to name a few. 

During the holidays it seems as though we’re expected to show our love and gratitude to everyone through gift-giving, and that if we aren’t abundantly generous in a material way during this “season of giving,” as so many commercials have come to describe it, then we’re not truly grateful. We need to debunk this myth.

Many of us give gifts because it’s something we experienced as children during the holidays, and it’s a tradition we wish to share with our own kids. Traditions are wonderful. They help us stay connected to our family history and culture, and they mark the passing and seasons of time in our lives. Traditions are about memory-making. Some of my fondest childhood memories about gift-giving during the holidays, are the wonder of seeing the presents under the tree in our living room. I think the anticipation of opening gifts was more memorable than the actual gifts themselves in the end. 

Although we might feel obligated to get our kids something huge and grand and at the top of their wish lists, doing so to the extent that we lose sleep, spend more than we have, or go to crazy lengths to procure those shiny objects, takes away from the joys and meaning of giving. 

Here are three things you can do to help make holiday gift-buying and -giving less stressful:

1. Stick to a budget.

For years I’ve used a simple budget outlining every expense that pops up during the holiday season. From Christmas cards, to holiday meals, special outings, gifts, and even the fresh-cut tree to put them all under, budget every single item.

When you’re shopping for your own gifts to give your kiddos, it’s OK to let them know you need to stick to a budget. It’s important for kids to have an example of responsible spending around the holidays, and it can help you home in on the things that are truly important to you, too.

2. Focus on experiences.

If your budget is looking slim, or you don’t want to fill up your home with stuff, focus on experience-giving. There are a number of free or inexpensive holiday festivities you can enjoy with your family, from caroling, to enjoying the lights at UIW or on the River Walk, or making a visit to see Santa. 

You can also ask eager family members to gift your kids with experiences. The holidays are a perfect time to renew a membership to the Botanical Garden or local museums. We like to rotate our memberships year to year. 

3. Choose gifts mindfully.

When it does come to gift shopping, make a plan before you go (or shop the web for hours). Your budget is a great filter to help you get started. 

Buying gifts of gratitude can be done in bulk (I’m releasing you from the guilt of custom gifts here), and your kids can help with making cards for their teachers.

When buying your own kids their gifts, you don’t want to be Scrooge, but it’s OK to let them know your limits (whether they’re budgetary, or type or number of gifts, etc). Something I keep in mind when shopping for my kids is the longevity of the gift. If it’s something that will likely break or be abandoned in a few weeks’ time, then I’m most likely not buying it. 

One gift-giving tradition my kids and I look forward to every year are surprise balls. They’re basically a ball of small goodies wrapped between layers of crepe paper or streamers. They’re an undertaking to make, but also budget-friendly and make for a lively Christmas morning. 

My biggest piece of advice for de-stressing over holiday gift-giving is to make a plan and stick to it. If something doesn’t fit your budget or priorities for the holidays, it’s an easy no.

Amy Lynn is a divorced mama of four kids and dog mom to two. She’s lived in San Antonio for over 20 years and has a degree in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Previously a program director at a local literary arts nonprofit, she began blogging as a creative outlet when she became a stay-at-home mom. Now a digital media consultant and writer, Amy is the founder of The Dog Guide and The Dog Guide San Antonio. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: Hays Street Bridge Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Cascarones