Christmas Combos: Spend Less, Give More

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Shopping for kids at Christmas can be daunting. Buying multiple gifts for multiple children can be expensive under the best of circumstances. If you are someone who picks things up throughout the year, it can also be hard to make sure that everyone has an equitable sort of Christmas without just throwing money at it come December. But those old Christmas combos your parents used to use can be a helpful way to keep the shopping – and spending – under control.

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What are Christmas Combos?

What is a Christmas combo? Remember the adage of “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read”? This is a what I call a Christmas combo. It does three things that make your holiday shopping easier. First it sets a limit on the number of gifts that each child will have. Second, it sets categories, which can be flexibly applied, but ensure that each child has an equitable set of gifts. Third, if you set a budget for each child or each part of the combo, it can help control your spending as you think creatively about filling each category.

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Building your own Christmas Combo

In the past I always thought that four-part Christmas combo was too restrictive, and besides I wanted my kids to open more than four gifts on Christmas morning. But my thinking on that has changed, especially as my kids have grown. I start with those four categories to cover the basics, and then build the rest of the combo around other gift ideas. It stretches my creativity a bit, and is fun!

Here are some other ideas for other things to add to your Christmas combo:

Something to do – a gift of experience, such as concert tickets, a trip to a museum or gallery, music lessons, an online class, an overnight camping trip, a hike on a new trail – really the choices are endless and don’t have to cost much or anything at all.

Something to eat – a variety of Christmas cookies, homemade jam or chocolate sauce, their favorite dinner with a friend once a month, gift cards to their favorite after school snack spots – all easily made or reasonably purchased.

Something homemade – a sweater, scarf, blanket, pajamas or doll clothes, if you like to sew, knit or crochet; gift baskets of skin or shaving products, yummy snacks, or art materials – these are cherished gifts that allow for a lot of creativity on your part and not a lot of expense, especially if you start early!

Something to learn – sewing or guitar lessons, a session with a personal trainer, online language courses, computer coding classes, a gift card to Masterclass, Udemy, or Skillshare – now is a great time to give the gift of a new hobby or a familiar passion.

While you can see that each of these categories can overlap, that’s OK because it allows you a little flexibility when tallying all the gifts and making sure each child is receiving something for each part of your combo.

Have fun creating your own Christmas combo, and see how much easier and less expensive your Christmas shopping can be!

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Developing New Gift Ideas This Christmas Season

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You know you’re in a gift-giving rut when you accidentally buy the very same gift for someone two years in a row, as I recently did for a family member’s birthday. Fortunately I caught myself before sending it and could make a switch, but what I switched to wasn’t all that creative either. It got me thinking – am I too predictable with my Christmas gift-giving? And how can I develop new gift ideas for this Christmas season?

The answer to the first question is a resounding yes – but I am not overly predictable with everybody. In fact, I can be quite creative with my daughters’ or significant other’s gifts, but others get the usual sweater each year. Of course time and cost factor into each gift, but by starting now to think creatively and specifically of each person, and by keeping my eyes open for the unique and special, I know I can do better!

Here are five strategies that can make your gifts stand out this season, and give you a head start on your Christmas shopping:

  • Decide on a formula. Last year, I used a tried-and-true formula with a handmade twist for my kids. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read, something to do, and something I made – it all added up to six quality gifts to open. I have to admit that was a lot harder for me to come up with some of these gift ideas than to just buy the same old things,, but I enjoyed the challenge, and they were delighted to be truly surprised on Christmas morning!
  • Brainstorm for each person. The key to being creative with gifts is having (and taking) the time to really think about each person, and their interests, hopes, likes and dislikes, before deciding on a gift. It is hard to do this in November and December, however, when time becomes an issue and you just need to find something to give everyone. Taking a day or two now to really think about each person, and to list their interests and gift ideas, will make your shopping much easier no matter when you start!
  • Experiment with new stores or sites. Part of why gift-giving becomes predictable is we fall back on the same “big box” stores or sites such as Amazon when time is an issue. Why not take treat yourself to a small business shopping excursion each month? Go to smaller boutiques or specialty shops in a nearby town, or check out curated lists of exceptional but lesser known shopping sites. You can see what’s out there that might delight someone on your list, while you get a head start on your Christmas shopping, too!
  • Don’t forget handmade gifts. Last year I had grand ideas to make something special for everyone in my immediate family. However, I waited too long to do anything substantial. Not wanting to give up that piece of my formula, though, I made small gift boxes with sweets, cocoa and a cute mug in each. It was not what I originally planned, but it was handmade-ish and still very much appreciated. Start now to think about what you could make yourself, check out Etsy or use the gift basket/box approach to up your creativity game this Christmas.
  • Consider gifts of time or experience. One way to get creative with Christmas giving is not to give “stuff” at all! I once gave my mother the gift of taking her to lunch at a different restaurant each month for a year. It ended up being a global culinary tour as we tried all types of cuisines, and it was lots of fun for me as well! Consider tickets to a show, a museum pass, an online course or a tour of some unique local feature. Try a service such as cleaning, yard work, babysitting or cooking. The only caveat with a gift like this, though, is to make sure you actually follow through with whatever you promise to do!

Now is the perfect time to start thinking creatively about your Christmas giving. Have fun and happy hunting!

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