How to Stop Holiday Greed

By April Tisher
Family celebrating Christmas

It is easy to say that we won’t get caught up in the craziness of the holidays and give in to the classic “I want” and “give me” requests. But before we know it, it becomes harder to say no to the pressures of the holiday season. We want to create perfect holiday memories for our children, but how do we do so without giving into holiday greed?

The pressures of the holiday season

First, let’s remember the “give me” syndrome and holiday greed isn’t limited just to our children’s wish list. There are also time demands of parties and gatherings; there are decorations to put up and cookies to bake. There are celebrations at work, home and school. Financial obligations are increased everywhere as well. Donations to charities and religious organizations and buying gifts for family, friends, teachers and co-workers. You are asked to send in items for class parties and for luncheons at work. It all begins to add up. You may feel the pressure of the holidays before your child even has a chance to say “give me!”

Keep in mind what is truly important to you. You cannot possibly fulfill the requests of everyone around you, including your children, nor should you try. You do not have to say “YES” to every invitation, every donation request or everything your child wants.

In fact, by saying no to some things and making a priority out of the most important ones, you will enjoy your holidays that much more and teach your children to be grateful in the process. It is hard to keep our children grounded when the world around them is buzzing. Commercials and advertisements are all around them with the latest and greatest toys and must have items. They see it all and want it all, which leads to holiday greed. Set the example for your children by focusing on quality not quantity. By showing them it is ok to say no to things yourself, they won’t feel the same pressure to keep up with what they perceive everyone is doing or getting.

Gift-giving rules

When it comes to the actual gift giving part of the holiday, you can also put the brakes on the need for more and more gifts. I learned about the “Four Gift Rule” several years ago from a BBC and Forbes story and instituted it in my own home.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the four gifts are: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. I found that this is a great way to keep the lists of my four children in check while still giving in to things they want and need at the same time. The budget you set for these gifts can be customized and tailored to your personal financial situation. Some households buy things throughout the year for each other, and others save the bigger gifts for birthdays and holidays. In those cases you may choose to spend more or less on the items in each category. It also helps to “even out” the number of gifts everyone is opening so that nobody feels overwhelmed or slighted.

Focus on what the holiday season is really about

Take the focus off the “gift list.” Instead, put more emphasis on family time, special traditions, your faith and on giving back to others can enrich your family holidays. Kelly Ping, the Director of Missions at Trinity United Methodist Church and mom to two daughters says she works to keep things in perspective in her own home.

Her advice is to “find something, any cause that is important to your family and look for ways to support it.” It can be volunteering together, donating items or money or just educating others about it.” They have a practice where they make a kindness jar, “We sit down as a family and come up with things we can do to help others and write them down and put them in a jar. Then during the holidays we pick them out and institute them.” Things like writing a note of thanks to someone, doing a chore for someone in need or sending in extra supplies for a teacher at their school.

Ping reminds me that it’s ok to enjoy giving things to your children. Her family, like many others, save the gift giving for the holidays. “Don’t think you can’t indulge your children’s wish list and still teach them gratefulness.” Finding a balance that works in your home is what matters most. Teaching your children that the holidays aren’t about competing with their peers over gifts and reminding yourself “keeping up with the Joneses” isn’t what makes a happy home.

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