Am I a Christmas Grinch?

Growing up to immigrant parents who worked about 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, we didn’t partake in all the Christmas and Santa traditions that many of my peers followed. We had a Christmas tree up, decorations around the house and we got gifts. We would get a gift from our parents and gifts from some relatives. I think the gift count stood at like four or five gifts. This was amazing! Four or five gifts all on one day is A LOT! Isn’t it?

I’ve been hearing some parents say that they’re trying to LIMIT themselves to ONLY buying four gifts, not including some smaller gifts as stocking stuffers. This is on top of the piles of gifts that the grandparents, relatives and friends will be buying the kids. I wonder where do all these toys go because I’m sure the kids receive plenty of toys on their birthday as well as toys they might receive throughout the year.

Apparently, the latest craze in the toy world this year is some hatching bird toy called the Hatchimal. There have been stories of parents searching high and low for the toy and stalking other customers who had bought the last Hatchimal to their cars offering double the price that was paid. It’s available on Amazon for about three times the original price of $60, which I’m sure many are more than willing to pay. Parents who are unable to buy the Hatchimal have resorted to writing apology letters to their children from Santa Claus to explain why there will be no Hatchimal underneath the Christmas tree.

Recently, a co-worker asked me if I had given my toddler the Toys R Us catalog so that he could create his Christmas list. Um, nope! When someone asked my son what was on his list, he answered, “I don’t know.” Maybe when he gets older, I won’t be able to avoid this but as of now, he still hasn’t grasped the concept of Christmas meaning new toys and that he should make a Christmas wish list. I’d like to keep it that way for now. Plus, I think a wish list is just a recipe for disappointment if they don’t get what they asked for. Another person told me that telling your child that they may not get the Christmas presents they want if they don’t behave is a great tool to get your kids to do what you want, but shouldn’t they be good for “goodness’ sake.”

Some might be shaking their heads, thinking my poor child is deprived. I assure you he isn’t. He has plenty of toys to play with. He’s got trains, train tracks, cars, blocks (different types), Legos, a box of arts and crafts stuff, a play kitchen, puzzles, and dried beans. Huh? Did I say dried beans? Yes, dried beans. He has entertained himself with his beach toys pretending that the dried beans are sand. Yes, it’s cold here in the northeast and I guess he’s reminiscing about the summertime. Sometimes he puts the beans into his toy dump truck pretending it’s picking up dirt. When he was younger, he was more interested in playing with the box that the toys came rather the toy itself. And now that he’s an older brother, he plays with the baby’s toys too. He doesn’t discriminate against any toy…he’s an equal opportunity toy player.

As much as us adults think that the expensive battery operated toys that makes sounds and moves are cooler, sometimes simple is better. I’m sure I’ll be accused of being cheap, but while that is a plus of buying simpler toys, it is not the main factor. The simple toys requires the child to use his or her imagination. My son will get excited with the battery operated toys that makes sounds and moves, but doesn’t play with them for long and eventually loses interest. With the simpler toys like the blocks, I see him building different things every time he plays with it and creating different storylines with them. Also, more is not always better. Research has shown that having too many toys may cause your child to be overwhelmed.

My wife and I will get A present for each of our two kids. They will also get gifts from the grandparents, aunts, uncle and close friends. And I am sure my older son will be excited opening his gifts on Christmas morning. Honestly, I don’t remember all that much about what gifts I received growing up, but I do remember Christmas day as a day my parents did not have to go to work and that we would have dinner with our extended family where I would play with my cousins with the new toys we got. I’d like to think that my kids will get the same amount of excitement from unwrapping Christmas gifts as they will spending time with their extended family.

Related post: How I was shamed for my frugality when I didn’t get something from Tiffany’s for my wife one Christmas. Update: My wife and I do exchange gifts but it’s usually something simple, something practical, something we made, or maybe we’ll go out to eat or some other activity. I would never buy something from Tiffany’s since we would talk to each other about such an expensive purchase first. And as a frugal person herself, she would not want me to spend that money. That year I was shamed. This year I was called a Scrooge!

What Christmas traditions did you grow up with? How many gifts are too many for kids?

16 thoughts on “Am I a Christmas Grinch?

  1. Joe

    We were immigrants too and it took us a long time to get into the Christmas spirits. I don’t recall getting any toys for years. I was 12 when I moved to the US so I wasn’t into toys much. My brothers were younger and they didn’t get much toys either. One toy at Christmas would have been plenty in those days. I think we mostly got new clothes.
    Our kid is still pretty young and all he wants is Lego. I love Lego too so that’s perfect. I think he’ll be happy with Lego sets for a few more years.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Post author

      Yea, I’ve always been a fan of Legos! How many toys does your son usually get for Christmas?

  2. Brian @ Debt Discipline

    I’m the youngest of five, so my parents did their best but we never had hundred of presents. I remember being thankful for the gifts I received. I do remember received my first video game system (Intellivision) and remember feeling overwhelmed, because I never thought I would get one.

    I think it’s important to teach children about the giving side and not just the receiving during Christmas. Help someone in need, buy a random stranger a cup of coffee. I’m sure you’ll be surprise with the outcome and the feelings you get by giving far out-way any receiving you will do this season.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…What Did You Get?My Profile

    1. Post author

      Man, you are dating yourself! =) What’s Intellivision? I remember Atari (I guess I’m dating myself too). You’re definitely right that teaching children about the giving side is important. It really is better to give than to receive.

  3. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    We grew up pretty poor too. I remember being about six or seven, and my very favorite gift (one of only two from my parents that year) was a new coloring book and a big pack of shiny new crayons. My heart was bursting with joy. We spend less on our kids than most people we know, and at least some of those gifts are things they need. The kids are always thrilled with what they get. We don’t buy the kids non-necessities unless it’s a birthday or Christmas, so it’s a big deal to them to get a new toy or game. We also work hard to teach them the true meaning of Christmas, and try and make sure they understand the magnitude of that gift. So far, it’s working. I don’t think you’re a grinch at all, Andrew. I think you guys are definitely doing Christmas the smart way.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Awesome Last Minute Christmas GiftsMy Profile

    1. Post author

      That’s great that you guys are teaching your kids the true meaning of Christmas…I’m sure it will get harder as my kids get older. I love that your kids are thrilled at the gifts they get. It really bothers me when I hear kids being ungrateful as to the gifts they get.

  4. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was younger (the financial situation improved as I aged), so I remember getting one main gift and a couple of smaller gifts. Most of them were not battery operated, but I do remember my little Casio keyboard that kept me busy for hours and hours (am I dating myself too?)!

    My teenagers probably don’t compare gifts with their peers, as they don’t get TVs, gaming systems, or new iphones. They get a few small items, like clothing, jewelry and books. We don’t place much emphasis on gifts. I hope the memories they have of Christmas are of time with family, roaring fires, and fun board games by the fireplace (and I’m sure they’ll think of the food – lots and lots of food!).
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…An Unexpected Gift: The Rockstar Community Fund On a Mission to Do GoodMy Profile

  5. DC @ Young Adult Money

    This is tough for me to weigh in on because I don’t have kids and I’m not sure how I would act if I did have kids (i.e. limit gifts, go all out, etc.). I like to think that a couple gifts are enough, especially if they are getting other gifts from relatives. It’s tough as I feel like parents have extended the “keep up with the Joneses” to Christmas gifts where it’s an extension of the competition they are in with other parents and adults.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…20 Ways to Upgrade Your Home on a BudgetMy Profile

  6. Mustard Seed Money

    My wife’s parents were also immigrants and really didn’t celebrate Christmas until she was almost ten. So my wife still doesn’t completely understand why it’s such a big deal even though she grew up in the US. With that said we are like you and our son, who’s only one, will not have Santa visiting him on Christmas day mainly because he’s too young to understand and he has plenty of other toys that he’s all too happy to play with :)
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…How A Vacation Can Earn You A RaiseMy Profile

    1. Post author

      Yea, I don’t know why cash gifts seem to be frowned upon. It makes it easier for the person giving the gift, and I’m sure the person receiving it is very with cold hard cash!

  7. Joanne Mahoney

    You are not a Grinch. I can remember when my son was around 9 or 10, he asked me why he and his brother didn’t get as many gifts as his friends. My reply was, “Do you really think that you need that many toys?” He admitted that he didn’t. My husband and I would try to give our children gifts that they really wanted (within reason), and it usually amounted to a couple per child.

    Now that everyone is “all grown up,” we give them practical gifts and/or we donate to their favorite charity.

    1. Post author

      Good thing your son admitted that he didn’t! He’s an honest kid. Nobody needs that much stuff…adults included. Practical gifts are great and donation to a great cause is another great gift.

  8. EL

    The first gaming system I was gifted during Christmas was the Sega Genesis. I brought me many hours of interactive fun, I don’t know if that was a bad thing or a good thing. Almost everyone in America has parents or grandparents who were immigrants from someplace else unless you are native american. Calling people Scrooge is pitiful in my opinion and I laugh at all the consumption those people must be doing. I still have to calculate how much I spent during the holidays but I bet I am way below the average. Good luck in 2017.
    EL recently posted…Milestones Realized in 2016My Profile


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