I need to start by saying one thing…If you are having a problem with too many people buying your children gifts…CONGRATULATIONS!  You are winning at life!! The fact that you have so many people in your life world want to share their love with you and your family is remarkable.  You should cherish that fact and feel incredibly fortunate.

Now, onto the subject at hand.  If you are on this site and reading this article it is because you have some desire to limit the number of possessions in your home down to only your favorite things.  Whether you have been doing this for years or just trying to declutter your kid’s room because you forgot what color the carpeting is, gift giving holidays can be a challenge for all of us.

Communicate with Family and Friends

The first step in this process is opening up the lines of communication with your family and friends.  Don’t wait for a birthday, a Bat Mitzvah, or Christmas to roll around…Get on it now!  The earlier you start introducing your loved ones to the idea of minimal gift giving the better it will be.  Let them know this does not mean they cannot give gifts to your children, but instead that there are certain types of gifts that will be used, loved, and appreciated.

Download the KidMNML Gift Giving Email Template if you need help getting started.

Practical Gifts

Clearly, not all physical gifts are bad.  There are objects that will be used and loved and it is certainly useful to direct your friends and family to these gifts.  Things like diapers, bibs, pacifiers, or anything else you know you will use on a regular basis.  Or maybe there is that perfect diaper bag or stroller you know you want. Declare that you want it! You know your life better than anyone and can tell others what gifts make the most sense.  And be specific.  Sizes, colors, styles, brands that you like definitely matter so don’t be afraid to identify those.  The important area of focus here is that people are getting gifts that you know you actually need as opposed to just stuff you might like.

Experiences

Sometimes the best gifts are not even things at all.  We are big fans of preaching experiences over things so what better gift to get a child than a great experience.  Here are just a few ideas that can easily be expanded upon.

  • Tickets to a Game – There was nothing better in my childhood growing up in Chicago then going to a Bears, Bulls, or Cubs game.
  • Lessons or Classes – Maybe your child has been expressing a desire to learn how to play the guitar or ride a horse.  This is an amazing chance to give them that experience.
  • Passes to Local Attractions – Local zoos, waterparks, or kid’s museums have annual family passes that make great gifts.
  • Skiing/Snowboarding – Maybe you have a winter baby that loves the snow.  Why not take him or her out on the slopes for a day.
  • A Coupon for Your Child’s Favorite Activity – It could be something as simple as making a little coupon telling your child that you will spend the entire day with them camping, fishing, at the playground, or any other activity your child loves.  If money is an obstacle, this can be a great option.

Financial Gifts

I know…I know.  People buy gifts for children to bring them joy.  No child is going to scream and jump up and down at the thought of Grandma contributing a modest investment in a bond that will mature in 13 years.  But in reality, these are the types of gifts that can truly change a child’s life.  Education is top on the list for these types of savings, but that is not the only option.  Savings accounts can be used on a variety of options including purchasing a car, putting a downpayment on a home, or even funding them traveling or living overseas for a summer and enriching their lives by infusing themselves into another culture.

One option is savings bonds.  Savings bonds are essentially loans to the US Government.  In exchange for the loan, the bonds will earn interest for up to 30 years.  Any time after 12 months, the savings bonds can be redeemed for their value plus interest.  Savings bonds are great because they can be owned by children under 18 and they can be purchased as gifts.  There is also a digital savings bond that can be purchased through the TreasuryDirect Website which is a web-based system operated by the US Treasury.

529 College Savings Plans are also a great investment.  In case you have not paid attention to news in the last 20 years let me tell you that college is also crazy expensive and getting worse!  In just a decade the average cost of college is estimated to be over $18,000 for in-state public schools and over $60,000 per year for private schools!!  Here is a handy calculator to predict college costs if you want to be sad the rest of the day.  529s help battle this problem by enabling money to be invested into an account now can potentially gain tax-free interest to be used on educational expenses in the future.  There are also Prepaid Tuition Plans that allow tuition to be paid at a locked, current rate and then applied to the education at a qualifying university or college at a later date.  529s are typically state-sponsered plans and each state has its own rules that should be investigated before investing.

A quick note that I am not qualified to give financial advice. These notes are just from personal experiences.  You should talk to a financial planner about these specific plans if you choose to go this route.

Charitable Contributions

For many people, teaching your child about giving to those in need is incredibly important. Gift giving holidays present an opportunity for learning these lessons by having others donate to a charity on behalf of your child. These gifts may not be as fun as a new toy or a fun activity, but they may lay the groundwork for a lifelong commitment to charity.

The KidMNML Gift Giving Email Template

We know this is not the easiest thing to ask of families.  This is a very touchy subject and can easily friends and relatives.  So we went ahead and developed a template letter based on ones that have worked in the past and can be easily emailed or snail-mailed to your loved ones.  You can use this exactly or you can modify it a bit for your personal needs.  We emphasize love and respect in this letter so we hope this can open the dialog between you and those you care about.

Click here to check out the KidMNML Gift Giving Email Template!

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