Christmas is just a few days away, and the kids are getting excited for Santa to deliver their gifts. We try to teach them that Christmas is about being together as a family, but when they are young, it’s the gifts that steal the show. With that brings pressure to deliver. We have to make sure Santa is on the ball, and that we, parents are also delivering what they want. When you consider this as well as gifts for other family members, friends, coworkers, etc, it can be quite overwhelming and soul-crushingly expensive. What is a man to do?

Do not put yourself into debt. It is not worth it. Do you think the people receiving the gifts you buy would feel good knowing that you will feel the weight of those purchases months down the road? Let’s assume that you will do what you can this Christmas, but next Christmas will be the one you can go all out. It’s possible without destroying your bank account, but it takes some planning ahead of time. Set some goals for yourself to accomplish this. Note: this mini-guide is written from the perspective of a father.

The following are a few methods to set yourself up for next Christmas and relieve the stress of gift-giving:

1. Set aside a small amount per paycheck.

It can be as little as $5. Over time, your Christmas fund will grow and by the time Christmas rolls around, you will have the money. Determine how much you want to spend, how much you can budget for, and adjust how much you save from each check according to that.

2. Shop ahead.

Buy your gifts throughout the year. This way it won’t seem like a large amount all at once, and you won’t have to go into debt to buy your gifts. It’s better to be prepared.

3. Shop the sales.

There are many sales that go on over the year, and if you pay attention, you can save hundreds of dollars on gifts. They will sit for a while, but it will relieve the stress of rushing and spending too much.

4. Have a running list of what your loved ones want. 

If your child mentions something that they really want, write it down somewhere. Keep a running list that you add to over the course of the year so you never have to wonder what to get them. This also helps you focus on capitalizing on the above tactics, too.

The above four strategies are good, but what if you don’t want to focus on buying gifts? Or maybe money isn’t the issue, but the fact that Christmas has become a consumer holiday is. How can we give our children a memorable Christmas without it being centered around materialism?

1. Start a tradition.

Or maybe multiple. Gingerbread houses, Christmas music, ornament-making, and visiting family are all traditions with my kids. There are so many different things you can do to give your kids a great Christmas. Perhaps they would like to put together gifts for families in need (there are typically toy drives or other charities that accept these), or go caroling on Christmas eve. Whatever tradition(s) you want to begin or carry on, those are the things kids remember when they grow up.

2. Teach your kids to make gifts.

Gifts are meant to be thoughtful, but gift cards and convenient novelty items at the front of the store have become staples in gift-giving. It’s just something to get done, another nuisance, rather than a heart-felt experience. Teaching your children to make gifts by hand eliminates the monetary aspect, and instead, the value comes from the thought behind the gift. If they start doing this young, this is what shapes their perception of gift-giving: thoughtful gifts that they put effort into and spent very little money on (except for supplies, for the most part).

A quick Google or Pinterest search for “homemade Christmas gifts for kids” will give you all you need for a lifetime of Christmases.

3. Be there for them.

All kids really want is to spend time with their Daddy (and Mommy, too). So give them that. Put away the phone and give them your full attention. Play with them. Sing and dance. Make cookies. Decorate the tree as a family. Just whatever you do, be fully invested in giving them you. Again, that is what they will remember.

We all want to give our kids the world, but sometimes it is actually detrimental. Christmas is about spending time with the ones you love. I hope this article has helped you in some way.

Have a wonderful holiday, and may your New Year be merry and bright.