The holidays are a time for family and friends — and, of course, gift giving. The average American adult is set to spend an average of $1,175 this holiday season. Parents, unsurprisingly, will spend even more — $1,711 in total or an average of $495 per child, according to a recent survey by the Rubicon Project.
But some families will shirk holiday gift giving altogether. In fact, 14% of Americans say they don’t buy presents at all, a Pew Research Center report found. MagnifyMoney reached out to three parents to highlight alternative ways some families are choosing to celebrate the holidays.
Gregg is giving his kids $100 each — with a catch
Instead of purchasing presents for his 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter as part of the family’s Hanukkah celebrations this year, Gregg Crabtree, 46, is giving his kids $100 each. The catch: They can’t spend it all on toys, and they have to save at least half.
Crabtree, an entrepreneur who owns a gardening company in Sherman Oaks, Calif., said he’s committed to having no debt, and it’s a lesson he wants to pass on to his children. “Saving is a smart thing to do and a good thing to teach my kids,” he told MagnifyMoney. “Our consumerism has grown to a level that is so unhealthy, and I don’t want my kids to have those values. I want them to grow up with what's important in life.”
His children are used to offbeat holiday gifts by now. Last year, Crabtree gave his son his first savings account, funding it with $1,000 raised from friends and family.
His advice to parents who plan to go into debt to provide gifts this season: “You are doing a disservice to your family and kids by going into debt for five minutes of joy. Kids love their parents no matter what. They don’t need toys to feel the love. Go play with them.”
Sophia hasn’t bought Christmas presents for her kids since 2008
A year after her husband was diagnosed with a kidney disorder in 2007, Sophia Antoine decided to shift the family’s holiday focus away from gifts and back to family. With her husband, Bradley, unable to work due to his diagnosis, she was now the sole breadwinner supporting a family of five. There was no way she could deliver the usual bounty of holiday gifts the children had come to expect each year.
So she made the decision to nix gifts altogether. The 39-year-old mother of three, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said her goal was to teach her kids to “cherish people while they are here, as opposed to things.”
“I want them to learn to go and visit with their family and not have the expectation of gifts overshadowing the actual experience,” Antoine told MagnifyMoney.
The holiday gift ban wasn’t easy to accept for everyone in the family — especially the children. Her kids, whose ages at the time ranged from 6 to 14 years old, “were really angry about it,” Antoine says. Even her own parents balked. They didn’t fully adopt Antoine’s no-gift approach until 2012.
“The first two or three years I was thinking, she can't be serious, everybody gets presents on Christmas, everybody,” said Antoine’s eldest son, DeWayne Tate, who is now 22. “I was disappointed when there wasn’t anything with my name on it underneath the tree.”
The pharmacology major says he came to understand his mother’s decision over time. He now says he would rather spend time with a person than receive a gift. “The gift can be lost, stolen, or destroyed in some way, but that person is what is going to be remembered,” says Tate.
Tate adds that his father’s diagnosis amplified the moral of the story. His father is healthy and doing well after receiving a kidney transplant in 2010. “Dad isn't superman, so we need to take advantage of the time we have now,” he says.
The Silbers are getting crafty
For Lee Silber, a 50-year-old author and motivational speaker in San Diego, Calif., the decision to move away from holiday gift giving was financially motivated as well. After a disappointing year for his business, Silber and his wife decided to forgo presents this holiday season.
Instead, they are getting creative. Silber says he is building his 10- and 12-year-old sons a custom case for their autographed baseballs, and his wife is framing some of their art. They also add a special personal touch.
“We both write them letters praising them for all the amazing things they did throughout the year and turn them into fancy scrolls,” he says.
As a result, his family has begun to focus more on needs as opposed to wants.
“At the holidays, many times parents buy a bunch of things the kids don't want or need, which is fine if they have unlimited resources,” says Silber.
He says focusing on getting your children what they need when they need it during the year is the more financially responsible thing to do when you’re on a tight budget. The experience of giving and getting gifts happens year-round. Then when holiday season comes around, his kids “don't need much.”
“It's our hope that although they may not get as many gifts as their friends on this one day of the year, over the entire year they actually get more things they want and need overall,” Silber says.
MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.