Santa Is a Waste Of Money

In a scene common to many American households during the holiday season, my kids sat at the kitchen table thumbing through a stack of Christmas toy magazines creating their Christmas wish lists. I smiled as I watched them, remembering doing the exact same thing when I was a kid.  I actually folded mine up, put it in an envelope and gave it to my parents to mail to Santa.

Feeling their excitement as I walked towards the table, I overheard, “Oooh, I’ve never seen that before, that is SO cool! That’s definitely going on my list!”

Suddenly having them go through hundreds of pages of toys making a list of everything that looked remotely fun didn’t seem like such a good idea. It was the equivalent of going grocery shopping without a list after not eating all day. Rambling through the aisles, throwing anything that looks good into the cart without any rhyme or reason.

Groceries purchased without a plan will often either migrate to the back of the cupboard to collect dust until the next food drive, or sit in the refrigerator until it spoils and gets thrown out. Gifts selected without much thought must face a similar fate, I thought to myself.

I descended into our basement, which is our kids’ toy room, to test my theory.

I stared in horror at the seldom used, Barbie dream house from two years ago that was a late minute addition to Tori’s list. I shook my head looking at the plastic tub filled with Hot Wheels Trick Tracks that looked awesome to my son in the catalog, but when put together just didn’t pack the expected punch of fun.

I’m sure there were more examples to be found in all the things we’d sold in garage sales and on Craig’s List over the years.

The problem can be traced back to that scene at the kitchen table. We had encouraged the kids to go through these gigantic toy catalogs encouraging them to write down anything that catches their eye. We would then take the list, and reconcile the list with the budget following the formula of one “big” present from Santa, then selecting as many things as would fit in the budget off the list.

No “big” item on the list? No problem, just tell the kids to think about what they would want from Santa, or go through the catalogs again. That’s how we ended up with the Barbie dream house.

The kids have made their lists, but they’ve been folded up neatly and tucked away. We’re not even going to look at them. I doubt that they could tell me most of the things that they had put on their lists. We’re going to select gifts  by watching them, and listening to them. By giving it just a little thought I can come up with several ideas for both of my children. They’ve both been talking about a few particular items for months. Those are the things that will make the best gifts because they’ve been thinking about them, even dreaming about them.

So retailers, save your catalogs from now on. Keep away from my children your hypnotic, glossy pictures meant to convince them to become temporarily interested in some toy that will become next summer’s garage sale item.

Santa may need you, but I don’t.

About Travis

18 Responses to “Santa Is a Waste Of Money”

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  1. Great post Travis! I totally agree with you. I let my kids make their list (this year they cut out the pics and glued them to paper so the little one could participate) and then I promptly ignore them. I don’t buy throughout the year either. What they liked in March & was on clearance then, isn’t something they’ll necessarily like in December.

    You are totally correct, staying in tune with our kids is the best budget-friendly tip!

  2. ImpulseSave says:

    Excellent post Travis. I totally remember circling all those toys in the Toy ‘R Us big toy book, knowing that I would maybe get one or two items. I do, however, still feel guilty about begging my parents for a telescope and maybe using it twice. It was so much harder to use than I anticipated! I will never get over that guilt. Listen to your kids, but of course use your best judgement! Happy Thanksgiving, Travis!

    • I used to plead for a chemistry set…never got one. When I got to be about 13 or so, I bought one myself, and then hardly ever used it because you didn’t get any of the “cool” chemicals and couldn’t do anything really exciting with it.

      My parents were WAY smarter than I ever gave them credit for.

      Thanks for your comment, ImpulseSave, and you have a great Thanksgiving as well!

  3. Penny says:

    I really wanted a toy robot, but never got one. I imagine it wouldn’t have been nearly as cool as the commercial made it look.

  4. You just reminded me that I used to wish for one of those too, Penny! I had dreams of this robot bringing me a snack at my beckon call, or having him do my vacuuming chores. I think I would have been sorely disappointed. 🙂

  5. Sassy says:

    Wonderful post, Travis! How timely.

    I shop throughout the year for my kids and tell my kids they can ask Santa for exactly TWO gifts and that they better think of what they are asking for because they can’t change their letter to Santa. They put a lot of thought into it and make sure to ask for something they really want.

  6. Brad Moore says:

    Hey Travis…one of the best Christmas posts I’ve read.

    My kids have been looking at the same glossy stuff as yours, I suppose. So what do we do re: the ads? Are you going to “make them quietly disappear”? Let me know…I might go that route.

  7. Travis says:

    Hi Brad, thanks for your comment! I think they’d notice if we never got the ads…so I was planning on doing what I did this year and let them make their lists, but really go off of my own gut feel. Although I really like Sassy’s thought above..tell them they can only put 2 items on the list, to make them really think about what they write down!

  8. Lynda says:

    A friend mentioned this idea, and we’ve ran with it since our kids were babies: Jesus got 3 gifts, so that’s what my kids get. That’s 3 gifts from their parents, 3 gifts from each grandma, and then Santa does their stockings and 1 or 2 of their top items of desire. Clothes count, books count (grandma’s are forever trying to break this rule :). It really forces us to edit our choices, choose gifts mindfully, and to remember the reason for the season at the same time. My boys made huge lists this year, and when they receive 4 or 5 toys total, it kind of insures that they’ll be playing with them.

  9. V says:

    Not only a waste of money but not even real. The holiday is very commercial not to mention pagan, so we don’t even bother. Catalogs go in the trash.

    • I agree that commercial Christmas has gotten completely out of control, V. However, we make sure that we talk with our kids constantly during the season that the whole point of gifts is to symbolize the gifts that has been given to us from our Heavenly Father.

  10. spiffi says:

    I remember the year that my youngest brother was about 4 years old. This was a boy who played with trucks and cars – he never played with dolls. But *every* time a particular commercial came on, this kid, who was hyperactive, would stop everything he was doing, and watch, entranced.

    The commercial? “My Buddy” – a 2 foot doll wearing red overalls and a striped shirt. Santa put Buddy under the tree that year – and the look of absolute delight on his face was amazing 🙂

    But yes, most of the time, commercials and catalogs were shiny and amazing, and we kids wants *everything* that was on tv. But my mom was pretty good at weeding out what we *really* wanted.

  11. Sassy says:

    I still end up giving my kids more than 2 gifts (which I snag throughout the year when there are sales going on and such), but the ones that they REALLY want they end up receiving as well. It sure keeps the “I wants” limited and not too crazy. It sure saves Santa a lot of money too 😉

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