We’ve already opened all of our Christmas presents. Yep, we march to our own drum around here. We have gradually simplified Christmas over the years, and eliminated nearly all of the gift exchanging we used to do. My husband and I long ago stopped giving each other material gifts (for any event, including birthdays and our anniversary – we do things for each other instead), and although this is our third Christmas with our son, we have never bought him any Christmas gifts. We’ve also stopped exchanging gifts with friends – none of our friends need anything, and neither do we, so it works out well. My mother in law loves to give gifts though, and she continues to send a box of presents each year for Christmas. She usually sends three or four small gifts for each of us, along with some clothing for our son. I make her a scrapbook of her kids and grandkids each year, and from what we’ve heard, usually about half of their retirement community ends up seeing the scrapbooks. This year, I made her a purse-sized one (using a 40 page, 4×6 album) so that she can carry it around easily. It was the only Christmas gift I made this year (other than food I’m making for some friends and neighbors), and I had a blast making it.
Anyway, we got her Christmas box last week, and decided that it made more sense to space out the gift-opening rather than cram it all into one day. We knew we weren’t going to open presents on Saturday, since we’re going to have all of my family here, and none of us exchange gifts. We thought about doing it on Friday, but then we figured our son would have more fun with each gift if he opened them individually.
In addition to a couple of shirts and some pajamas, our son got a little dump truck, a small wooden train set, a couple of books, and a Mr. Potato Head. He opened one each day, and got to thoroughly focus on each gift, one at a time. Personally, I liked that a lot better than a big gift bonanza on Christmas morning. Like I said, we follow our own drum beat…
This past weekend, our town held a food drive to benefit local families. We talked to our son about it, and explained that there are people right here in our town who don’t have enough food to eat. We took him with us to the local grocery store and loaded up a cart full of non-perishable food. I didn’t have coupons (yet), but I paid close attention to sales, and we were able to fill the trunk of our car with food. We took it over to the food drive headquarters, where some very enthusiastic volunteers were standing out in the cold to greet us.
We could have gone to Toys R Us and spent that money on a toy for our son. But he’s already happy pretty much 100% of the time, and there isn’t anything he needs. Donating food felt so much better, and our son spent the rest of the day asking questions about “kids who don’t have food” and talking about how we got them some food. I know he’s only two, but I feel like we’ve started laying a good foundation for him to grow up with a sense of compassion and generosity. And that’s more important than any toy could ever be.
Last week, I wrote about the book How To Shop For Free, and I’m excited to start using a lot of those techniques to buy food for the local food bank. For my own family, it’s true that there aren’t really that many coupons or stellar deals on the sort of food we eat. But the food bank needs non-perishables (as opposed to the fresh and frozen produce that I tend to buy for us), and it’s possible to strike a happy medium between my own grocery habits and buying a bunch of junk. When we shopped for the food bank on Saturday, I was careful to avoid junk food, but nearly everything I bought was on sale. I bought mostly whole grains (oats, whole grain pasta, etc.), canned veggies and beans, natural peanut butter (with nothing added), etc. I know that there are lots of coupons available for food that is relatively nutritious and fits the guidelines of what the food banks are looking for. I’m planning to make this a monthly adventure with our son, and hopefully by combining coupons and sales I’ll be able to stretch our donation budget even further.