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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Children: Amy's Decision/Amy Dacyczyn

I was talking to a colleague, Amy, yesterday. She mentioned that she does not buy her two children (boys--aged 8 or so and 3???) Christmas gifts. She said, "We give $500.00 to charity each year and I send all the standard recipients (teachers,for instance) a note describing the charity."

WOW! I always think I am such a free-thinking, free-spirited, unconventional person. I guess not.

Here's what's interesting. She went on to say that her kids didn't mind. That they had tons of toys, all gifts from family and hand-me-downs from friends. AND THAT THEY STILL HAD TOO MUCH.

I opined that many material desires expressed by children are implanted by the parents. My colleague agreed. My children rarely asked for the latest toy, for instance. As I've said before, they would go to the homes of their friends to play with the "popular" toys, while the friends would come to our house and play with what we had. No complaints from anyone.

But NO HOLIDAY gifts for kids! What a concept! Amy Dacyczyn of Tightwad Gazette fame wrote about how she gave each of her six children a few new items each holiday accompanied by a few stashed yard sale finds. She wrote about how some people wrote accusing her of child abuse: kids deserve new toys, they said.

What do you think of my iconocalstic colleague's decision? And what about Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced decision)?


Marcela said...

We didn't get presents for the holidays when we were growing up, because my parents (mainly my father) wanted us to associate the hoplidays with being together, not with consumerism. It was fine with us, we took it as just the way it was in our family. We would get things in random dates, pretty much as a Mad Hatter tea party (celebrating non-holidays in our case ;)

FB @ said...

Tell those people who call that parent abuse to come and talk to me :P

We didn't get toys past the age of 10 as I can recall. We just celebrated with a dinner and that's it.

We had more than enough, we dove deeper into our books, music-playing and things to do as a kid rather than focusing on what my parents would buy me for Christmas.

That is not parental abuse, that's discipline, a different set of values and it just goes to show that those naysayers themselves equate gifts with love, which is so far from reality.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I would give something family oriented to each child like a game or Lego so that they were experiencing giving as well as receiving.

Duchesse said...

I live in a city where many people do not celebrate Christmas, it is not in their tradition. (This will be the majority in 20-25 years.) I think it depends on how much of the Christmas you do, whether it is a primarily religious observance or a secular, very commercial exercise.

We gave our sons modest gifts, mostly books and family games, and nothing wrong with a garage sale find! After age 5. we made a family decision re which charities, and always made giving a priority.

re Amy D., I hope she told those people that no one "deserves" anything. "You deserve this" is one of consumerism's most seductive lies.

JacqJolie said...

I'm a little sensitive on the "nothing" concept for kids since I spent too many years going to school, being asked what I got for Christmas and saying "nothing". :-) But it seems okay if they are actually getting things from other sources or have toys already.

I have a limit of $200 or so in our family. The kids don't want that much, I just like to buy them neat little things and they don't get anything else from family member's except a bit of money. Sometimes I do probably associate spending time picking out something neat for someone else that I want to surprise them with as loving them. The only year I didn't spend anything on them was the year we went to the Caribbean for Xmas.

This year the oldest (22) asked for a book. The youngest (10) asked for a bank account and a surprise present. I asked for either a dvd player or a pair of slippers. I guess we're boring. Cheap and boring. :-) But I think we're having lobster tails for Christmas dinner!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Love the random idea! Wonder if over-the-top Christmas is an American phenomenon.

@FB-Wow! Well-said.

@hostess--Very good point--giving and receiving are both important.

@Duchesse--Interesting comment on majority with other observances. My sister-in-law insists that Christmas is NOT a religious holiday. Long story...I felt she was crazy.

@JJ--How wonderful that you've started a new tradition with your kids. Love the travel! and lobster!

SarahA said...

My parents are not Christian, so we never got Christmas presents from them and I never remember feeling left out. We did get some from my grandparents and some from my parents during our holidays in Feb (great for after Xmas sales) but it was always stressed that it was a time for family and the presents were small. Many years my parents would take the money my grandfather gave us for presents and we would go to a dinner theatre.

For our child, we probably will never give her any Xmas presents. I haven't even bought her much at all yet (she's almost 6 months). I love Duchesse's idea of charitable giving together. That is one of the cornerstones of our holidays.

Anonymous said...

Based on last year's experience, we will just be stocking stuffing this year. Family is *very* generous, so anything we get is more than unnecessary. If then unlikely happens and gifts don't show up (and a Wii balance pad has already made its way to us), then we'll be extra nice on his birthday which is a few days later.

Anonymous said...

I would say your colleague has been very wise...and the standard she has set will last her for years to come.

We have a Brady Bunch family and MUST set a budget for our Christmas that hasn't changed in years, but Christmas is an EXPENSIVE proposition.

How much easier it would be to support a charity.

Shelley said...

I would have to question whether anyone who sincerely thought Amy's idea was 'child abuse' was compentent to be a parent (how's that for countering an extreme view with another.

When you start thinking about the merchants as 'them' and the 'buyers' as us, there are an incredible number of traditions we never seem to question that hardly make sense other than to take money out of our pocket and put it in theres. Piling gifts higher than the child makes no sense whatsoever. I remember wading waist deep in the paper off my presents (only child, only grandchild both sides) and there was always just one or two things I treasured. Mind, I did get a lot of my clothes as Christmas gifts.

When I ask for books I specify '2nd hand preferred' and I love hand-made things. I'd be very happy to just have a meal with all of Bill's family around, no gifts involved. As his kids get older and marry I can see a time when that will be a luxury, just having them all together.

Marcela said...

Frugal: It is not. Cyprus is BIG in consumerism and from what my mum tells me Argentina is becoming like that too nowadays, with parents going into debt for buying more and bigger presents...sigh...

Frugal Scholar said...

@Sarah--Sounds like your family had wonderful traditions.

@nicole/maggie--Great idea to factor in the grandparents' offerings. Strangely, both sets of grandparents in my family usually "forgot" to get gifts. I guess it was good in that it cut down on the clutter.

@Terri--Many years ago, my brother-in-law suggested that we all stop buying gifts because "we don't like what we get anyway." What a relief that was. Maybe you should try it...(I was not brave enough to do it myself)

@Shelley--Love the idea of "second-hand preferred." I'm going to do that myself.

@Marcela--Oh well--there goes my fantasy world.