articles / Family life / Frugal living

No toys for Christmas

Every year for the past 6 years my husband and I have decided that we’re not going to emphasize the “stuff” you get for Christmas, but the spirit of giving and the gift of Jesus.We don’t do Santa so this shouldn’t be too hard to do, but every year we get pulled into the lie that our children are going to have a miserable Christmas if we don’t get them a bunch of stuff.

A few times we’ve tried the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” ideal. It was OK, but I didn’t like feeling stuck within those guidelines. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to get more than one thing that you want or more than one thing that you need. I just don’t think people should go broke trying to buy gifts and I don’t think we need nearly as much “stuff” as we think we do.

We’ve tried a few other “rules” for Christmas gifts. Although many of them were tossed out, there are a few that we really like and plan to keep.

One of our rock hard rules is that on Christmas Eve our kids get new pajamas. Every year. That gives them something to look cute in for pictures the next morning. Because face it, especially with us having three boys, they don’t typically look picture ready when they first get up. Josiah tends to sleep fully dressed and Samuel sleeps nearly naked or in too small or too big mismatched pajamas.

Another rule is that we try to stick to two gifts on Christmas Eve and three on Christmas day. We’ve been known to stretch that rule, especially if it’s a “family” gift, but it limits us and our spending.

This year we’ve added a temporary guideline that we’re begging everyone to follow: No TOYS.


It’s not that I don’t want to give gifts to my kids, but I want them to have purpose or meaning. Last year my kids got gifts from three sets of grandparents, their aunt, a few other family members, and of course us. Out of EVERYTHING they got last year, the one thing that Josiah still talks about is the fact that I crocheted him a scarf for Christmas.

A few people have asked me about how my kids will feel when they get up Christmas morning and they don’t have a bunch of toys. Even though my kids have always gotten gifts and they’ve received a lot of toys over the years — they’ve never been overspent on or spoiled. We’ve always done gift giving at Christmas differently. And if Josiah’s excitement over a humble scarf is any indication — I’m not worried at all.

So if we’re not getting the kids toys and we’re asking no one else to get toys, what are they getting?

On Christmas Eve from us they’re each getting new pajamas and a handmade blanket, pillow, and scarf made with an unique fleece fabric. When they open their gifts we always have hot chocolate and some kind of snacks while we watch a Christmas movie together.

On Christmas Day they will each get a stocking that has a new toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash and a few other Dollar Tree trinkets. Tobias will get a playmat and a few baby toys that we cleaned and saved from Samuel (he’ll only be 4  months old). Josiah will get a few chapter books and Samuel will get a special coloring book. Josiah and Samuel together will get a train table to go with all the trains they have (I bought it off of Facebook for a huge bargain!).

They will also get a DIY version of a yearly subscription box. Each month of the year they will get to read a special book (I am a book hoarder so I didn’t have to buy the books new), do a craft project, and get their hands dirty with a science experiment. Most of the items will be in the box already so it gives them something to see on Christmas morning, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving year around. Finally, we have the family gift — a Disney board game that I found at our local Rhea Lana sale.

That means the kids will each get four things on Christmas Eve and four things on Christmas Day. Everything on Christmas Eve is just for them, but most of the gifts Christmas Day are for them to enjoy together. None of these things cost us a great deal of money, but they’re getting a lot!

The grandparents have been given several ideas for things other than toys. They could get them:

  • Play doh and Play doh tool kits
  • Puzzles
  • Books
  • Josiah wants a globe, telescope, and a microscope.
  • DVD’s
  • New socks and underwear (Josiah loves getting these things and Samuel is newly potty trained)

I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of things you can give other than toys because frankly you can type “gifts for kids that aren’t toys” on Google or Pinterest and come up with tons of ideas.


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