You may call me a Scrooge, but I’m not planning on piling up the presents under the tree for my kids this year. It’s not that my kids are naughty or that we cannot afford it, it’s because I don’t want to carry on the tradition, just because it’s the way we’ve always done it.
We’re very lucky to be part of a tightly-knit big family who loves to find any excuse to celebrate together. Over the years, as the family grew, we tried to cut down on the number of gifts by implementing name drawings for gift exchanges with one group of family members, and a white elephant Yankee swap with another group. This helped to cut our budget, but the sheer volume of people still equals lots of presents.
Money Saving Clutter Free Family Gifts
Several years ago we gave it up and changed the way we shopped for our kids during the holidays. After looking around our family room one January, and realizing it looked like a preschool classroom with toys packed into every nook & cranny, my husband and I decided to take a tip from the 90’s exercise icon, Susan Powter, and “Stop the Insanity!”
Instead of focusing on getting all the top gifts of the year for the kids, we opt for a clutter free, experiential gift instead. It saves us money and gives us something fun to do throughout the year!
We like to buy our family season passes to a park or a year membership to a zoo or a museum, such as the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago. It’s our family’s one big gift and we get to enjoy it (and the savings it brings) all year long.
Family Gifts Save Money:
For our family of five we are money ahead buying a membership if we plan on attending a museum or zoo more than two times during the year. In addition to the savings on admission, it saves us money in other ways:
- Inexpensive family activities to do throughout the year
- Discounts on parking, food, gift shop purchases
- Discounts or free tickets to special exhibits and member only events
- Reciprocity with other museums for discounted or free admission (Great for planning activities when we’re on a family vacation)
- Often we will receive a free gift when we join
Tips for Buying a Family Membership:
- Check out local deal sites for discounts on memberships, tickets, and visits to local attractions.
- Choose a place that you can visit in a day or near family members you may visit frequently throughout the year so you’re not spending tons of money on gas and hotels.
- Choose a place that is big enough to offer new things to see throughout the year so you’re not bored after seeing it once or twice. We like to choose a museum that is large enough that we can leisurely work our way through different exhibits on each visit instead of rushing through them all at once. We know that we can spend our time going through another part of the museum the next time we visit.
- Choose a place that is age appropriate for your children. A children’s museum may be great for my 4 year old, but my 14 year old will likely be bored.
Your Family Not the Museum Type?
Worry not, there are lots of other types of clutter free gifts you can get.
- Trips and vacations are always a hit. We took a fun train trip last spring from Illinois to Arizona and the kids have asked if we they could have another train trip as their Christmas present this year.
- Lessons and clubs can be fun for the family too. We joined the YMCA a couple of years ago as a gift the family could all enjoy. Some friends of ours took horse back riding lessons together as a family. (We’ve always thought racing go-karts would be fun when the kids are a bit older!)
- Is your family into sports, concerts, or do you all enjoy going to the theater? Buy tickets to cheer on your hometown team, listen to your favorite musicians, or for dinner and a play.
- Maybe a new home theater set up and HDTV would be a nice addition to your home for Family moving night, or a new video game system and games for family tournaments!
We still get our kids smaller gifts in their stockings and Santa always leaves a present for them under the tree so they do have something to open on Christmas.
Last year, since I was able to snag so many great bargains here on FatWallet, we did the big Christmas with presents crowded under the tree! I shouldn’t have been so surprised when the kids commented several times throughout the year how much they missed having a membership, because my husband and I missed it too. I know exactly what we’re going to do this year and I’m so excited I can hardly wait! (Sorry, I can’t tell you what it is because my kids sometimes read my posts!)