In Tough Times Do We Need Or Want Christmas Gifts?

Do We Need Or Want Christmas Gifts?

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It’s that time of year when I know families are faced with the question, Do We Need Or Want Christmas Gifts? So many people really need food on the table, warm shoes on their feet, coats for their school kids, and a warm safe place to sleep. We see television commercials with every electronic gadget known to man, and it appears that we all need one or more to be happy.

There are 7-inch to 9-inch Ipads, Kindles, fancy smartphones, tablets, and more. When I go to Costco I see televisions as big as a bay window or the size of a small car. I have to laugh because I don’t have a car big enough to bring one of those babies home to install on the wall!

Much of this post was written back in 2014. Seems like a long time ago when I consider all that’s going on with government mandates, all kinds of sickness, inflation through the roof, global challenges of war, drought, severe storm systems, power outages due to vandalism, and more.

Still, everywhere we turn there are advertisements to buy this trinket or that device. How can we slow down the “wants” for Christmas gifts? Please give gifts of preparedness or homemade gifts that are inexpensive to make but are from the heart.

I usually tell a very short story about my life with the grandkids on Christmas morning, especially now that they are older and we have moved closer. I have 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. This year it’s about Scissors!

When my girls were growing up they knew my sewing scissors were for cloth, not crafts. They tease me to this day since I would always ask, “where are my scissors?” whenever my special scissors couldn’t be found.

Breakfast Brunch Casseroles

Do We Need Or Want Christmas Gifts?

Christmas Stockings and Christmas Gifts

I remember years ago when my daughters were little and Christmas morning was so special. We would start the morning with the stockings on the mantle (filled with lots of oranges because it was so expensive to fill them otherwise). Then came opening the gifts under the tree. My mom usually gave them nightgowns she made.

Do you love the memories of those special gifts given with love? We were never big on giving lots of gifts because we didn’t have the money, and I won’t use a credit card to purchase gifts. If I can’t pay cash for gifts they’re not getting them. Period.

I don’t want January and the following months to be filled with thoughts about how to pay for Christmas.

Jake-Our First Grandchild

I remember when we had our first grandchild, Jake. There is something magical about having a toddler around the house during the holidays. Jake would look at the Christmas tree, the lights, and the ornaments with wonder in his eyes. It was the little things that made him smile.

Read More of My Articles  How To Budget For Christmas

We made sure his parents started the tradition of having them as his parents provide what they feel is appropriate and for us not to get too involved at that level since we are the grandparents. In other words, we stepped back and let the parents be the parents.

We had money to buy more but we didn’t want Jake to want more and more each year. We didn’t want Jake to think that Santa had millions of dollars to spend on every kid in the universe. We would give one gift and it was a “need” because his parents were going to school at the time.

We did the same thing for every grandchild as they came along in terms of Christmas gifts each year. We now have 17 grandchildren. We did the same thing on birthdays.

We never give more than the parents. We want the grandkids to learn that gifts are a privilege and not an entitlement. I’m very proud of how our grandchildren have turned out. Yes, we’ll help during the year if there is a need, but there again, we are the grandparents, not the parents.

It really has been a bonus to see our grandchildren grow up and flourish. Most are very frugal and minimalistic. I’m so proud of the approach to life that they’ve developed. I will admit that some of the grandkids live in neighborhoods where the other kids get very expensive gifts.

I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it’s not ego-driven. Please don’t get me wrong, I have some very wealthy friends that shower their kids with lots of really nice Christmas gifts.

They are millionaires, or close to it. I get that. We aren’t millionaires but have sufficient to easily get by. We also have millionaire friends who are very smart and don’t let their kids think they are entitled to everything. I tip my hat to them.

We Stopped Giving Christmas Gifts

My husband and I gave family gifts eventually because it is way too much shopping and the cost of shipping gifts all over the US would be too much for our budget. When we semi-retired (does anyone ever really retire?) we decided we would stop giving Christmas gifts. The first year was tough. It seemed weird not to give something to our grandkids.

We quickly learned that our grandkids realized  “we get it”. They know we love them tons…we don’t have to give gifts we can’t afford to give to try and express that love. They love hanging out with us. They don’t need gifts to know we love them to the moon and back.

I’m happy to report that my grandkids all have financial goals, including savings accounts. Yes, we taught them to save money and to think before they buy something. Is it a want or a need?

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Thank You-But We Do Not Need Or Want Gifts

Let me also say about 25 years ago we emailed all of our kids and said we no longer want gifts throughout the year. Yes, I am saying Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day gifts.

Here’s the deal, we would rather have a handwritten note or a love email than any purchased gift. It seems that handwritten notes, letters, or cards are extinct, really. We love emails written with thoughts and memories.

Families Are Stressed Out Buying Christmas Gifts

This time of year I know there are families struggling to feed their families, let alone buy Christmas gifts. We hope that if gifts can be given, they are needed items and not just wanted. Some children need new shoes, boots, gloves, and hats just to walk to school.

Please share ideas that you have and that we can pass on during this holiday season about how to slow down on wants. It really needs to start in the home.

We all went through the 2008 economic disaster. Please be prepared for another tough economic period. I see food prices continuing to escalate and people struggling to make ends meet.

We need to teach our children and grandchildren to not want so many things. They need to understand that they should be considering setting aside funds for their own school expenses, future children’s college, a home down payment, food storage, etc. rather than popular gadgets.

Teach Family To Be Self-Reliant

I’m quite emotional as I write this post because I’ve received emails from readers telling me they can’t even buy groceries, let alone Christmas gifts. They’re not posting on Facebook statements like “I don’t know what we are going to do for Christmas this year”. These readers are real people not wanting handouts.

People are put in tough situations like a personal injury accident, when a job is lost, severe sickness in the home or the loss of a loved one. I get it.

But we need to teach our families to try and plan ahead to be more self-reliant and better prepared for the unexpected so when these events do take place, the family is as well prepared as possible to weather the “storm.” My favorite Flashlights.

Final Word

Please trust me on this, please be prepared for the unexpected. It’s our duty to take care of our families and not think the government or any other entity should step in and provide for us.

With some planning and extra effort, we can handle most things on our own. I used to love making homemade gifts, but now the materials needed to make those items are so darn expensive.

Please enjoy your family this holiday season, no matter what your beliefs or circumstances are. May we all show gratitude for what we do have and bless others with any excess we might have. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Christmas Gifts AdobeStock_123922588 by Kuvona

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33 Comments

  1. I told our children that we weren’t buying gifts for anyone but the little ones this year. We don’t need or want anything. Pictures would be great, but not necessary. We are all adults and usually buy what we want or need. It was agreed. I went to Walmart last week for the first time in about two years. It was crazy. I couldn’t find anything. LOL Unfortunately, I need to go back. I’ve gotten to where I don’t want to go shopping.

    1. Hi Deborah, oh two years??? That’s what I call a blessing!! The little ones always need packages to open. We all love to sit around and watch them, life is good! Linda

  2. Awesome article Linda! And spot on for this year. We have 2 grandkids – 12 year old boy and 6 year old special needs girl. We are giving them a few small gifts as their parents simply can’t afford to. Our son is getting food from our pantry. Growing up Christmas was about the birth of baby Jesus- seems that concept has fallen by the wayside…

    1. HI Beth, the little ones still need a few packages, we all love giving, and watching them open gifts. You are so right the true meaning of Christmas has gone the wayside. It makes me sad. The good thing no one can take the beautiful Christmas songs away, so I keep playing them. I get emotional hearing some even to this day. Life is good, Linda

  3. I don’t need anything but I do enjoy the time with family. I’m gonna get stuff for them and often it’s needs more than wants.

  4. Thought provoking article! My sister-in-law also no longer wants gifts because they had to downsize to fit in their new “senior” one level home and there is no room for anything she doesn’t specifically want or need. Sounds like Linda is in the same boat. It is hard to know what to do with gifts you really don’t want or can use without hurting feelings if that person is close, expects you to use or display it, and would notice if you got rid of it. I also usually enjoy getting & giving gifts if it’s not a burden.

    On the other hand I have a daughter/son-in-law whose love language is gifts and that is a big deal to them. Now I am getting more grandchildren it has become harder and more expensive to give to them. It’s usually just an expense with the parent giving me a link to something to buy so not any joy from it. The kids don’t need more toys (parents buy plenty/too much) so I’d like to get out of that but back to the love language thing with the parents. Right now it’s just a $25-$30 toy and I have 4 grandkids so not too big a deal for me financially – until my husband retires in a year. Also what to do as those kids get big and want expensive stuff? One friend gives the kids books – she is a former teacher so she feels books are important and they aren’t too expensive – especially at Costco. Maybe I’ll take Linda’s advice and cut off grandkids when he retires as there is a good excuse then.

    Another point is if you are in good financial condition, it offers you an opportunity to share with and help your family while they are getting established and could really use the help. A wealthy neighbor gives her kids money and asks for an accounting of how they spend it on a gift they choose. Well those $50 Goal Zero LED flashlights Linda highly recommends went on sale at Amazon 20% off so I got one for each of my married kids for Christmas. Linda add a link through your site if you’d like! I think preparedness items are a great gift idea & solution.

    Anyway – just some meandering thoughts. I always like to hear how others are handling holiday gift giving.

    1. Hi Kay, it’s a perfect time when your husband retires to make the transition. I love hearing you got the Goal Zero flashlights on sale!!!! It’s fun to see how others do Christmas, it helps all of us. Linda

  5. Stopped buying and shipping gifts few yrs ago to all kids, grands, and greats and for our selves as we do not need anything as seniors….getting rid of stuff instead. Send checks to those who need help with bills. Makes holidays so less stressful. Do miss the get togethers we used to do but now all are scattered. Now Christmas is just getting out cards, putting up a tree, and cookies….we have lots of meals at organizations and church….no one comes to the house any way. Christmas is all about the birth of our savior so that is what we focus on,.love that it falls on Sunday this year….will be more special.

  6. A thought about Christmas cards. I get all these signed cards – nothing else – why the time & expense? I love the ones with a personal note or news. About a decade ago I started sending out a Christmas newsletter & holiday greeting (a little info about the family on Christmas stationary) attached to an email along with some photos. It was much faster, easier and cheaper! Everyone especially loves seeing the photos!

  7. We decided this year for my kids have everything, to not exchange gifts with each other. Instead we all got onto the web site Light the world and give from there. We were able to give a well, school for 5 years, a goat and chickens to others around the world. We loved and enjoyed watching the kids decide what they wanted to give someone who really needed it. It truly felt like Christmas this year!

  8. Hello, All: Unfortunately, we have not yet given up on Christmas gifts over here, but we HAVE been giving for at least 5 years now, one gift for each person every year that is for a Christmas Child box via Samaritan’s Purse, which can help lead a child to Christ, and often the parents, too. Then, we always give one donation in a person’s name that is for a child to go to Mercy Ships’ “Africa Mercy” to receive a life-altering or life-saving operation. Then, we give money towards a clean water well in Uganda, where I used to go to do short-term missionary work. After all of those, then we will add in another agency that is doing something similar with the donations they receive during the Christmas Season. Always for someone in need, or some persecuted Afghan or such. One year we gave a donation for Samaritan’s purse to give a mother and her children a simple home, since they had been living near a garbage dump and existed under cardboard boxes!! Every member of the family seems very pleased to receive a card that describes what the donation was for, given in their name, and we are all blessed to be able to assist others who are less fortunate than we are!! Don’t get me wrong! We also give gloves or sweaters, or whatever, but rarely do we give anything that is not practical. About 10 years ago, I even gathered up all supplies and duffle bags and made each family member an all-inclusive “bug-out bag” with Army Surplus 3-part sleeping bags. THAT was expensive, though. By the time that enterprise was finished, the bill for the bug-out supplies for 5 was close to $2,000 total. NOT doing that ever again! However, each bug – out supply contained even cooking pots, specialty blankets, for camping all the way to natural medicines that were ready to use for a lot of different medical situations! I know for sure that my adult children still use those 3-part Military sleeping bags whenever they are moving to an new (still unfurnished) apartment like they have been recently. All, in all, we still spend too much money, but we are in transition towards retirement before long! Nowdays, I try my best to stay out of stores, because even two smallish bags of groceries costs us $85 over here! And Walmart? I was there one time about a month ago, otherwise not there in probably 1 year. No need, since we are so stocked up with prepping. 🙂 Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!!

    1. Hi Joyce, this is a wonderful way to enjoy Christmas by helping those in need. That year you gave 5 bugout bags that were expensive but I bet the prices would be double this year! What a blessing to set them up with such an awesome gift. Happy Holidays! Linda

  9. Linda, Jane and I don’t exchange gifts during the holidays and haven’t done so for years. But we send gift cards to our grandchildren.

    Jane bakes Christmas cookies and Cinnamon Bread and we take those things to our neighbors.

    Christmas is about giving, rather than getting.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

  10. Hi Linda:

    We still buy Christmas gifts but they are always something the person needs. Usually it is clothing of some sort. My son and his wife and my daughter don’t have a lot of money so we will buy them something like that. It’s not not a bountiful Christmas but it is just something they really need. They do not ask for anything else. They know we don’t have the money.
    I know what you mean about the Big TV. My husband was looking at one at Sam’s and he kept looking at it and because he never wants anything anyway and I told him if he wanted it to get it. He told me it would take the whole wall where our TV is and all our family pictures are and he won’t give up the pictures for a TV when we have a good TV anyway.
    My son surprised me when he told me that all he wanted for Christmas was a good belt. He is usually the one who asks for a lot of things. He is finally learning money does not grow on trees.

      1. We have a family tradition that my kids thought was crazy, and not so appreciated, when they were young. Now they love it for their kids as it teaches “real” needs which are also a want. Always given by me: socks and underwear as my grandmother did, along with a treat like favorite homemade cookies or their own favorite pies to share, and a piece of candy and favorite fruit. Then to the shelters to help with foods, gifts or whatever the need is. Then the evening or day is to review what the holidays are truly about.
        It is slow learning to realize not everything electronic is a need, but they do eventually tell their shocked friends what they did and received/gave for the holiday, and it is not with anger or regret.

        1. Hi Cindy, it really is a blessing to help others, and teaching our kids and grandkids the love of sharing is such a great example!! So many people need help right now, more than most people even know because they are so uninformed. It’s not their fault they just have no idea how many kids and adults are homeless even in some of the nicest cities. God Bless you, Linda

  11. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts with each, haven’t for a long time. Our birthdays are close so we usually take a trip in between. Same for our anniversary. We both have everything we need and don’t want for anything-why waste money? All the adult children don’t get gifts anymore but the grandchildren and greats, do, albiet not very much. Most of the birthdays are in Feb/Mar so I take advantage of the Christmas sales, etc. and hold on to them til then. I have one daughter who is struggling and she does get a gift card for Winco Foods, but that’s it, a tradition my parents started for her. I have so many memories of our Norwegian Christmases/traditions that I passed on to my kids. It’s definitely fun to watch it all unfold again on Christmas Eve through their eyes. Now, it’s just my sister, my husband and our special needs daughter that celebrate with us. As long as I have them, I’m happy and content!

  12. We am in a different space right now than many. While we are far from wealthy, we are comfortable. Both my husband and I came from poor beginnings and started working at 14 years old. We both had only a high school education, but we worked multiple jobs and did without. We have raised and college educated our 4 children. Now that we are retired, we find ourselves with enough money to take care of our needs and help our children. After long discussions, we decided it is more important to improve our children’s lives now, than leave them money after we are gone. We gift experiences that we can enjoy with our children and grandchildren. Trips to Disney World ( before Disney went woke) , trips to Lake Placid, a camper, because they love camping and remodeling funds for their homes. We gift fruit trees and often books, because our grandsons are home schooled. This year is about warm blankets, PJs, and soft robes for the coming cold days. Only the good Lord knows how much longer we have, and I rather they laugh at how grandma sneaked chocolate into the car for their ride home, or remember our freezing walks on Christmas Eve then the number of zeros in a check.

    1. Hi Chris, oh I love your story, you are so blessed by hard work and saving money! What a blessing to be able to share experiences compared to money. Life is good and you are a great example to the world. Linda

  13. So many wonderful ideas and outlooks, both in the original article and the comments!

    My take-away… Yes, put the emphasis back on “the reason for the season,” rather than a welter of items that tend to water down the appreciation for each. Avoid tchotchke gifts that just take up space (yes, at our age we already have stuff we’re clearing out!)–something needed, or an experience (especially together), will be much more appreciated.

    One idea I ran across some time ago was to limit kids’ gifts, more or less, to just a few–something to wear, something to read, something asked for. (Imagine back when an orange in a kid’s stocking was happily received because it really was a treat!) And I love the idea of having kids participate in choosing something to give–something like Toys for Tots, or even a program like Heifer International, so they understand helping out others.

    1. Hi Rhonda, oh I love that statement, “the reason for the season”!! That is such a good idea, something to wear, something too read, and something asked for. Great tip!!!! Linda

  14. I have one small family – daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandchildren. I don’t do a whole lot for Christmas gifts – I generally make something for the kids. One year I was able to find some remnants of fleece and made pillow covers for the kids. That was, I think 3 years ago. They still use those pillows! I also bought fleece 2 years ago (seems I have some pretty good taste!) that actually matched the pillows and I cut and tied the edges to make throws for the kids.

    This year is a bit different, though. My little family has moved far away. I will be with them for Christmas as my daughter and son-in-law purchased round trip air fare for me to come stay with them in their new home. I did get some small gifts though and had them wrapped, boxed and I sent them with the family with dire consequences if they opened the boxes!! Since they are now living on acreage and have some “farming” needs, I geared the gifts toward that end.

    I found a website with “Relaxed Ways to Spend Time with Your Grandkids this Holiday Season!
    1) Hold a movie night – have the kids choose a move or two or 3, pop some popcorn, make some hot chocolate and wrap up in cozy blankets to watch movies.
    2) Take a winter hike
    3) Treat the family to a meal out.

    #3 seems like it would be too expensive for me but…
    When I was growing up, we always made candy for the holidays. I think I would add #4) choose a recipe for candy, cookies, or something like that and make with your grandkids. For those who have a talent for something like woodworking, perhaps a woodworking session? Or teach a grandchild or two to sew, knit, crochet, or some other craft? Host a potluck dinner where each grandchild (if they are old enough) makes a side dish to bring to your home where you are providing the main dish?

    There are lots of ways to provide “gifts” of time and talent rather than $$$.

    1. Hi Leanne, oh how exciting you are flying there to have Christmas with them on their farm!! I like your ideas about gifts, in fact, all four of them are perfect for just about any family! You save $$$ but make memories at the same time. Linda

  15. I made the kids and the grandkids embroidered fleece throws for Christmas. For the ones that play games, I put their game emblem and name on them. My daughter’s family nick name is “Baby Bird” and I embroidered birds on hers. My son’s family received chocolates as I thought I had ordered fleece and ordered cotton Steeler’s fabric. Next year they will receive Steeler’s lap quilts. They receive something useful, made with something they love on it, and to be honest – I emptied out my stash of fleece. At our stage in life, useful gifts. edible gifts are welcome but not one more thing to take up space.

    1. Hi Linda, I LOVE your comment! They will love the fleece throws!! Chocolate sounds good as well! Next year Steeler’s fabric will be ready for you to make the lap quilts, great idea! I’m with you I don’t need anything that takes up space. Linda

  16. This topic brought a good discussion at our daughter’s dinner table last night. It would seem our kids were unaware that often their childhood Christmas and birthday presents were like-new finds from garage sales, flea markets and second hand stores. Needs always topped wants. Our frugal ways had our kids concerned about our finances. You can’t teach this old dog new tricks. We live simple, frugal, but content lives.

    1. HI Chris, my husband and I grew up getting used items as gifts. We didn’t realize people received new items from the store for birthdays or Christmas. Life has sure changed. Life is good for us, Linda

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