When It Comes to Presents, How Much Is Too Much?




By Lyz Lenz

My daughter is eight months old and already she has enough toys to supply a small daycare. I keep buying bins at Ikea to keep up with the clutter, which I tidy up every evening after she goes to bed and before I nestle into the couch for some adult time with wine and Law & Order reruns. My friends with older kids say it only gets worse, the clutter that is, not Agent Eames’ proclivity for mock turtlenecks.

So, this year, I decided not to buy my daughter any presents. Initially, it sounds cruel, but let’s review the facts: she’s 8 months old. She has everything her little heart and chubby hands could ever desire. She also has two grandmas and a grandpa and a smorgasbord of aunts and uncles who will probably buy her enough plastic gewgaws and noisemakers to last into next Christmas. And let’s be honest, no matter how much noise that toy makes she’s just going to want to chew on the wrapping paper anyway. Also, despite what our consumer-driven culture would have us believe, I don’t think Christmas is about getting stuff.

But, fortunately for her, I am not a single parent. My husband vetoed my declaration of Christmas abstinence and so far we’ve bought her four toys. And that feels just about right.

Don’t get me wrong. I love buying my daughter presents. I love learning what she likes and seeing her face light up as she discovers something new. But as musical tables and spinning rattles give way to cell phones and laptops, I want her to know that life isn’t all about getting the thing that you want the moment you want it and that spending $100 on a toy that will end up getting ditched in 3 months, just isn’t worth it.

Also, I know kids who have everything and they don’t seem to have more fun, they just seem more whiney. I was telling my theory to a friend who will admit to going a smidge overboard with her presents (she’s buying her three-year-old a tablet computer). She argues that presents are her “love language” they are the way she expresses her feelings and she has no desire to reign it in.

But when we buy our kids everything they want don’t we cross the line from loving them into ruining them?

When we buy our children everything their hearts desire aren’t we setting them up for failure later on when they have to decide on their own between what they can afford, what they want and what they need?

As our daughter get’s older and a sibling or two joins her, my husband and I are going to have to sit down and decide how much money we want to spend on them each year. Right now, I think the limit should be $150 and that includes stockings. But even that seems a little steep to me. My own parents, who had eight kids, had a smaller budget, but I don’t think not having the latest Z. Cavaricchi jeans (anyone remember when those were hip?) ever hurt me. In fact the gifts I remember, didn’t cost much—the tent my dad made out of pvc pipe cost $10 for the fabric and the pipe combined, and my B.B. gun, was $40.  What really made an impact was the time we spent together on Christmas day, playing and sharing and staying all day in our pajamas. That’s what I want my daughter to want.

What do you think? How much is too much when it comes to presents for your kids?


About the Author:
Lyz Lenz is a writer, a mom and a midwesterner. Although, not in that order. She lives in Iowa and on the web at LyzLenz.com