It’s easy to go crazy with spending and forget the real reason we celebrate the holidays. Here are ways you can reduce budget stress and still make the most of gift giving.

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Simple And Sane Holiday Giving

Wrap gifts creatively… with your heart

Like a lot of parents, instead of focusing on gifts, we try to teach our kids the reasons we celebrate as well as why we give. And like so many families, we have a holiday budget that requires some creative thinking!

Think outside the (gift) box

Start simple traditions that don’t rely on gifts. One of my favorite childhood memories is of everyone wearing festive pajamas on Christmas morning – the goofier, the better.

We kick off the season with new books. I like to buy thrift-store holiday books for each child, wrap them in plain paper and decorate with rubber stamps. Early in the season, the kids unwrap their books and we read new stories together during December.

We create a holiday jar filled with activities. And we have the kids draw from it every weekend. I’ll include things like playing outside in the snow, going to see Christmas lights, having friends over or making decorations together.

We rethink stocking stuffers. Instead of filling them with toys and candy, we ask the kids to write down five “gifts” each family member possesses, tuck them in the stockings, then share them out loud.

When kids give gifts…

We want our kids to give from the heart, and do it in ways that are meaningful for them and for the recipient. I want them to understand that a gift doesn’t have to mean spending money.

For siblings and special friends, a scrapbook is ideal. Shop together for an inexpensive album and help your child create a scrapbook, with photos, stories and special mementos.

For grandparents, I create a detailed photo book with dates and pictures of the year’s important milestones. It’s a gift tradition we all like, especially since my folks don’t want us spending money on them.

For babysitters, ask your kids to create personal greeting cards, and choose a gift card from one of the sitter’s favorite stores.

For teachers, coaches and their best friends’ parents, my kids help me make my homemade Chai Tea Mix, Cocoa Mix or Pumpkin Butter Spread to share with others.

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice since 2004. In addition to running a successful community for women and running after her two kids, she has appeared on The Early Show, and in Parents magazine, Redbook, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, MSN Money and The New York Times.

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