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How Much Is Too Much?

How Much Is Too Much?

Let me preface this post with yes, I’m fully and completely aware this is a #FirstWorldProblem. But surely I’m not alone.

So here’s my confession: I’m having a hard time with Christmas this year.

We’ve written in the past about how to keep Christmas clutter-free. We also know that this season is more about giving to others than anything else – experiencing that joy with our kids, when they finally reach the age where they get that they can be on the other end of things. That THEY can be the ones perpetuating the holiday spirit through giving their own time, talents, and gifts to others that are lonely or less fortunate.

Too Many Presents

Ultimately? My kids really want for nothing. They have enough clothes to wear, a warm spacious roof over their heads, love & laughter, LEGOS for miles, a dog at their heels, books & video games at their disposal. Stuffed animals multiply like vermin. We have FOUR basketballs, and board games we’ve only played once. We are so fortunate to be able to provide these things, but I worry about having too many Christmas presents.

So what’s a mom to do with more? How do I reconcile childhood Christmas magic without perpetuating a sense of entitlement, however innocent that may be? I don’t want to be a Scrooge, but I just can’t get over how quickly it all starts to pile up, and how so many kids never even come close to having all the things we have.

We need a Christmas moderation check at my house.

Something They Want, Something They Need, Something to Wear, Something to Read

In looking into what other families do, this approach shows a lot of promise. Everyone wins here – kids, parents, and teachers. Growing kids can always use a pair of jeans or shoes, and books are my favorite thing to give – here’s a great book list. Planning gift-giving around this motto still leaves wiggle room for that one big thing the kids REALLY want, and one thing you think they will use the most.

Something they want. Something they need.Something to wear.Something to read.

Three Gifts Were Good Enough for Baby Jesus

Another popular sentiment, especially here in the South. Now I don’t recommend gold, frankincense and myrrh, but applying an internal limit to three gifts per child seems perfectly reasonable to me. Of course, this rule doesn’t need to include grandmas and grandpas. Good luck keeping them in check.


I can’t be the only parent concerned about a blessing of riches this year. We hope to be very thoughtful about giving experiences rather than things, and utilizing one of the processes above when it comes to giving gifts to our kids. But I want to hear from you – do you have any ideas to share? What has worked for your family?

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published December 2015 and has been updated. 


View Comments (5)
  • I love this! For the past few years, we have been doing the something you need, will read, will wear and want. It has worked so well.

  • As my kids have approached preschool age, I have been looking at ways to nip holiday consumerism in the bud a bit, by creating some of our own traditions. We celebrate Hanukkah, which is helpful in maintaining a separation from overflowing Santa bags, but also tricky in that it last 8 days, and thus 8 opportunities for presents. Here is what our plans were this year, though daily themes will change a little in future years due to the inconsistent day of week and timing of Hanukkah:

    Night 1: Community Celebration (Candle lighting, games, etc). No gifts (or possibly gifts from relatives/grandparents if we have them, community gift swaps, etc,)
    Night 2: Family Party at home night. Fried food, etc. Gift theme: Toys / “Things we want”, exchanged between parents, siblings, etc.
    Night 3: Chanukkah family game night. Gift theme: games to play together
    Night 4: PJ s& Books (i.e. “Things to wear” and “Things to read”)
    Day/Night 5: Mitzvah Day – DIY cards , gifts, and good deeds for friends & relatives. Light candles at night.
    Day/Night 6: Shabbat, light candles at night. Religious service & events at congregation.
    Day/Night 7: Shabbat & Family outing day such as hiking, ice skating in the park, etc (we always do family things on Saturday anyways)
    Day/Night 8: Tzedakah day – charity shopping (Toys for Tots) and donations. Also light full menorah for last night of Hanukkah.

    • These are such great ideas, Jennifer! I love how giving-centric they are, and I bet anything those are the things your kids will remember most when they grow up.

  • I have to agree. I made the decision not to spend so much money on Christmas when 1) within weeks things broke 2) within a few months birthdays arrive 3) gifts were soon forgotten when they were more than 3.

    I love sales – and “after Christmas sales” are awesome! I choose to make a bigger deal of birthdays 🙂

  • We started doing the something you want, read, etc a few years ago. It has evolved into a 4 gift limit from us to each child and one gift is a book. Santa brings one other gift..usually something they really want and have asked for. It has worked out great for our family. The limit helps us to only buy items that will be valued and used. It has helped us stay within budget too. I still fight the urge to indulge them but rules are rules!

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