Now that Hanukkah is just around the corner, I’m doing my best to prepare by shopping early, searching for the best deals, and clearing out space in my house to accommodate the usual haul of incoming presents.
So let’s talk about those presents for a minute. My kids tend to get a lot of them—too many, if I’m being honest. And since my oldest happens to have a December birthday, the influx of stuff that takes over my already-cluttered house around Hanukkah time is almost unmanageable. Not only that, but the sheer volume of presents is actually overwhelming for my kids, so much so that my family’s generosity almost tends to backfire.
That’s why this year, I’m determined to eliminate at least some of those gifts in favor of ones that don’t take up physical space. If you’re at the point where you’re dreading Hanukkah and the gift invasion that comes with it, here are a few strategies for avoiding those cute but useless presents you’d rather not have in your home.
1. Bust out the summer camp brochures
For the past couple of summers, my son has attended a mini camp of sorts run by our synagogue. At this point, however, he’s aged out of that program, which means that if I want him to attend camp this summer, I need to be prepared to shell out $4,000-$5,000. (And trust me, it’s not like I’m picking the fanciest camps—that’s just the going rate around here.) Since full-camp is a big jump from the $700 program we paid for this past summer, it’s going to be a stretch to send my son, so I’m hoping I can entice a few family members to sponsor a day or week of camp in lieu of gifts.
If you’re facing a similar expense (whether it’s your first summer of full-time camp or not), try sitting down with some family members and showing them how the money they’d otherwise spend on yet another construction set could buy your child two or three days of swimming, sports, and arts and crafts.
2. Ask for lessons
Is your child interested in learning an instrument or skill? We all know that lessons are expensive, so instead of toys, try asking family members to sponsor a lesson or two. There’s a good chance your child will get more from a month of karate than a video game or LEGO set.
3. Request gift cards for family outings
My family loves going to zoos, aquariums, and museums. The problem is that these places cost money, and more than some of us might think. (I once saw our local zoo listed as a budget activity for families in the area. Funny, but at almost $80 for my family to visit for the day, that’s not exactly low-cost in my book.) If you’d rather have experiences than gifts, try providing your family members with a list of your favorite kid-friendly spots and encourage them to purchase gift cards. In return, you can promise to send pictures of those fun family outings.
4. Talk about college
My son isn’t even 5, so it’s hard for me to sell family on the idea of contributing to a college fund. But in reality, if even a handful of family members were to put $50 or $100 into a college fund instead of giving my son a holiday gift or four, it would add up over time. If college is a concern for you, be up front with your loved ones and ask for some cash instead of gifts.
5. When all else fails, create a wish list
In an ideal world, the people in your life would understand your reasoning for not wanting so much physical stuff. In reality, it’s hard to change people’s mentality. Some folks just plain want to see their grandchildren/nieces/nephews/cousins unwrap presents and exclaim in delight, even if the gifts in question inevitably wind up stashed in a closet several days later. If you can’t talk your family into writing a check or handing over a gift card, you can at least help ensure that the gifts they buy are useful ones by creating an online wish list. Popular retailers (think Amazon.com and Toys R Us) allow you to point and click your way to an approved list of gifts, which will not only help you weed out unwanted toys, but make shopping easier for those on the purchasing end.
Of course, there’s a good chance your family will ignore your pleas for fewer gifts, in which case your only move is to smile and say thank you. Remember, gift-giving, no matter what form, comes from a good, generous place, and it’s better to be gracious than to come off as ungrateful.