Doing Something Different Next Year At Christmas ~ Any ideas?
My DH and I realized this year that we have too much.......we struggle to buy each other and our children Christmas gifts because we have everything we could ever want (within reason). We do feel very fortunate that we are in this position and we want to give to someone else next year instead of spending thousands of dollars on things we don't need.
We decided to cut our usual Christmas gift budget in half for our families gifts and use the other half to maybe do something like adopt a family in need and give them a wonderful Christmas for them and their kids. Does anyone else have any experience doing something like this or any other ideas? We would like to do something on a personal level rather than just donate money to an organization. We were thinking about contacting the local womans shelter.
RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
RIP San Lena Peppy
May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010
What a fantastic idea. The office I work in adopts a family each Christmas. It is organized through one of the local churches. We get details about the family (number of people and ages), usually a wish list, which can be a real eye opener. They are asking for things we take for granted for Christmas. We usually buy presents and then give them gift cards for local grocery stores, so that they can purchase what they need for a Christmas dinner.
One year it was a single mom that has just left an abusive situation and had nothing. This year it was a family that just had a baby and the father had lost his job.
It is a very rewarding feeling partipating in this.
What a great idea! And if you have that much, then cut down what you spend on each other also. Gift cards to each other so you can each get what you want might be easier, and will make it less time consuming to do your gift hunting too.
My extended family used to a drawing/ gift exchange at Christmas. After my grandmother died, and everyone scattered, we decided that rather than exchanging gift cards we would just give the money to charity.
The one I chose was the Salvation Army "Angel Tree" at my local Walmart-- a charity that collects Christmas lists from the parents of needy children. Each list is written on a paper ornament and hung on the tree, so you can browse them to pick one that's doable within your budget. Then you buy them whatever clothes and toys are listed. Some of them are kind of heartbreaking-- this year I shopped for a 4 year old girl who needed a winter coat, boots, gloves and hat, which made me wonder how she'd get by until Christmas if things were really that tight. Plus she wanted Disney Princess and Hello Kitty toys. My friend's 4 year old daughter acted as a consultant for this since I don't have kids and was a Breyer horse girl
After you've shopped, you drop off the unwrapped toys/ clothes at the store and the charity distributes them to the families to put out on Christmas.
Anyway, I like it because it is hands on, and I think it would be fun to do with kids.
Adopting a family through an organization is great -- different places I've worked have done that. You could request a family that has kids about the same age as yours, so your kids could pick out something they'd really like.
Or, set a budget and let everyone pick charities to donate their portion to.
If opening gifts is an important tradition, then you might limit it to stocking stuffer type things, keep it under $10. (Though that tends to devolve into everyone exchanging $10 gift cards...)
In the 'random acts of kindness' department, the local newspaper reported that stores (primarily K-Mart) were seeing "Layaway Angels" late last week. People would come in and anonymously pay off someone else's layaway account. They'd ask for an account that mostly had kids clothes and toys, and pay it off so that the person just had to come pick up the items.
I canceled the madness years and years ago. It took a while to convince people to stop sending stuff, but we're down to one relative that sends a small check.
Around here, we have an organization that screens families who apply to be adopted, then matches them with an adoptor. My family adopted someone a few years ago, DH's wrestling team did the same each year. Homeless shelters also often have families who need help. Churches may also know of families who need help. These days, there are a lot of families who are just getting by, don't qualify for any assistance but can't really swing a Christmas.
You can also contact the counselor a low-SES school in your area. They will know some real sob stories and be happy to help in many cases. My school "adopted" two of our own families this year - two single moms with seven kids between them. Both of the moms asked for cleaning supplies. That made me sad.
My office adopted four families from the local women's shelter one year, and I took it on myself to buy for one entire family on my own. I think it was 2 boys, 1 girl and the mother. Each of the kids had 1 or 2 specific toys listed, as well as clothing and shoe sizes, the mom had a couple gifts mentioned and her clothing sizes as well. (I think she asked for a food processor and coffee maker -- a lot of the families had places to stay, but usually they ended up leaving behind appliances, clothing, etc. because they left their old home in a hurry.)
I did this one year in lieu of buying tons of crappy gifts for my extended family. I won't go into all the details, but it had gotten to the point where I absolutely dreaded shopping for them and it sucked the holiday spirit right out of me.
Funny enough, I LOVED shopping for this family. Growing up, there were a few years where I didn't receive anything for Christmas, and while I knew the reasons why, it didn't hurt any less. So, I bought everything they'd asked for, and even splurged a bit on the kids.
It felt really, really good. I haven't gone quite so overboard as of late, but I still make an effort to give or buy what I can for those in need.
A few years ago DH and I gave up the holiday schtuff. All the social obligations of visiting, gifting, thank you cards, etc got to be too much. We declared abstinence from the whole shebang. Instead we participate in a secret santa, so there's only buying one gift. We don't make commitments to visit people, but our door is always open, and if we want to go visit, we will.
Thankfully all our family and friends have been okay with this decision, and holidays have been totally stress free since.
We have ornaments at work with people from local charities. I always adopt a tree kid and a tree granny ( but this year I got a grandpa.). It makes me so sad when someone wants socks and bus tokens for Christmas. I really have fun doing it. I learned a ton about busses this year too that I wouldn't know otherwise. I say go for it! There are so many people who could use a little extra cheer. If you want to spend more you could sponsor a meal at a local soup kitchen.