It seems that each year, Christmas gets more and more complicated. More and more things. More and more decor. More and more everything. Bring simple back to Christmas this year with these simple Christmas gift exchange ideas that are perfect for the whole family.
Simple Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas
A few years ago, I’ll admit that when I started to think about Christmas this year I was stressing out a little. Since we were living in an RV and didn’t have the space for fun gifts or really the money to buy them so I wasn’t sure how we would make Christmas special for our little guy. (And technically this is our first Christmas together as a “legal” family!)
But it wouldn’t be as easy as I thought…
Then once we found out we were going to lose so much money on the sale of our house and have to live off very little for a while. I started to feel a bit desperate. How were we going to give our sweet, innocent little boy a nice day? We know the gifts don’t really matter and he’s so young he wouldn’t notice, but we were still determined to have the best Christmas we could, on the budget we can afford.
It took my almost-2-year-old little boy to tell me how this Christmas should be done. As I watch him grow I’m fascinated with the pure joy he shows in playing with a ball, or playing in the dirt, or even playing with something silly like an empty bathroom tissue tube. You can tell his little imagination runs wild and he doesn’t care what the item is, as long as he can play with it.
He doesn’t care how many things he has.
He just plays with one at a time anyways! He doesn’t matter how shiny the toy car is, it still makes “noise” and can make tracks through the dirt. In other words, he doesn’t care how perfect, or how expensive, or how shiny anything is and that’s something I needed to be reminded of as we considered the gifts we’d be able to purchase this holiday season.
What really mattered is that we would be a family, we would be together, and we would be celebrating the true meaning of the season.
Our Christmas Gift Giving Rule
I heard a saying a long time ago and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s a “rule” for Christmas gift giving and can provide a good Christmas gift exchange ideas. We started this tradition that winter when I had a little one-year-old and now that we have three little ones, it’s something we’ve continued and plan on continuing into the future.
Each person in our family gets 4 gifts.
Something they want.
Something they need.
Something to wear.
Something to read.
Hubby will buy my gifts, I will buy his, and we buy the kids gifts together.
Simple. No more, no less.
Advent & The Christmas Eve Box
We also had a few ideas to make the week of Christmas extra special without much-added cost. My mom gave us my old advent calendar she made a long time ago when I was little to use. I’m using small things that can be picked up at the dollar store or the thrift store for little gifts to fill it. There are plenty of Frugal or Free Gifts out there that are perfect for filling up an advent calendar like this.
*Update: We now use this calendar and LOVE it. Nothing to buy to fill it up and it can be used year after year. The kids love putting one piece on the calendar every night.
We celebrate Advent in our home for the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas and we’ve been working on building up a special Christmas book collection so we have a Christmas story to read each night for storytime before bed. Soon we will start reading these stories for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide that I read when I was growing up.
And for Christmas Eve we’ve been doing what has turned into a fun little tradition. The kids will get to open one present that night; a box that I’ve filled with some treats, a new pair of warm pjs, and a fun Christmas movie. (We went with the newest Veggie Tales Christmas movie for this year.)
The Christmas Eve Box cost me just over $10 since I found the movie and pjs on sale and will make the treats myself. When the kids get older I think we will probably turn this into family game night instead like my family did growing up. That was always so much fun after we came home from Christmas Eve church service and played games in the light of the tree! Plus it doesn’t cost a dime as long as you already have the games or can borrow them from friends.
Extended Family Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas
For our extended family each year we always do a name drawing gift exchange so each of us only has one person to buy for. That makes it very simple and we never stress about having to buy so many gifts for a big family! We do a $50 limit on the gifts so the gift giver has enough to buy something worthwhile and everyone that is participating makes a list of what they want. Yes, that may take away some of the surprise element but personally, I’d rather get things I want or need than things I will never use.
If you aren’t doing a “secret santa” type of exchange, Homemade Gift Baskets can be a great gift for individuals or even entire families. You can do something like this Pasta Night Family Gift Basket for a whole family.
Homemade Gifts are always a great option too!
Remember, if thinking about giving and getting gifts from friends and family is a source of stress for you, there are some very simple ways to talk to them about gifts.
Some Other Family Christmas Ideas
- Decorate the home with Old Fashioned Christmas Decorations together.
- Make some of these Old Fashioned Christmas Cookie Recipes together.
Our family always gets so excited for Christmas. Because even though the gift exchanging part is fun, we are just looking forward to being together as a little family most of all.
Find more on Keeping Christmas Simple here.
What are some of your Christmas gift exchange ideas that are frugal and stress-free?