Trying To Fight Overdoing Christmas

I struggle a bit with this season, especially as the kids get older. I’m pulled between the urge (which I think is just engrained in me as an American) to buy up great deals and have many presents under the tree that will make the kids happy, and the sick feeling that comes from knowing that:

1. We don’t NEED a lot of it.
2. A lot of it won’t even be put to use.
3. It will break and be in the trash in a year.
4. I need my kids to grow up knowing how fortunate they are and to be appreciative of more than just all the “things” under the tree.


This could get deep. But I’m not fully going to go there.

Basically, I want to find the balance where I can get the kids some of the things they really want, and still feel good on Christmas night about not going overboard and knowing what I did get them won’t end up in a landfill too soon.

Leyna’s big present this year – the Chalet Dollhouse by PlanToys USA– strikes that perfect balance, I think.

No, I’m sure. I pulled it out of the box, and it made my heart happy.

I set it up while she’s at school today, partly so we could get assembly out of the way, and partly so I could play with it.

This was already on my Amazon Wish List, and my one big idea for Leyna’s Christmas gift when PlanToys reached out to me to see if they could send me one!

I knew it would get so much use in our house, not just from Leyna, but from Kendall, too. And the only reason it would be “for” Leyna is because Kendall already has a tree house in his windowsill that both of the kids love to play with.

All the pieces are made with non-toxic, natural and recycled materials. And this thing is mega sturdy. Those pieces of furniture can be thrown in many a crate and lost under plenty of beds without breaking.

I’m not saying every toy under the tree or in their stockings will be wooden and free of licensed characters. But it’s nice to fight back at so many of the commercials forced upon my kids and give them something I know will still delight them just as much as a pair of Stompeez, the newest baby doll that talks and creepily runs after you, or the giant Power Ranger.

Even better knowing this thing very well could be passed down to my grandkids someday, or at least passed down to someone else’s kids, and not the local dump.

Overall, I think my kids will be getting less this year than last, and I’m okay with that. While I didn’t spend much last year because I got so many “deals,” it still made me feel a little icky at the end of the day. And one of my Christmas gifts to myself is to try to avoid the ick when it comes to overdoing it on gifts.

Have you ever felt like you’ve gone overboard and regretted it? What are you doing to combat that this year, if anything?

PlanToys sent me the dollhouse at no cost to me. I was under no obligation to write a review about it, but I truly love it, and it really did make my heart happy. They have a wonderful assortment of toys at different price points, all are made and packaged responsibly. You can check them out at


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  1. This is our daughter’s last Christmas by herself (she’s 2 and will have a baby sister come March) so we are probably going to go overboard a little. She gets so much stuff from her grandparents and uncle that we really don’t need to do a lot, but this year will be special for her.

    I like that dollhouse a lot and want to get one for our daughter. I want one that’s modern and durable like this one. However my brother, the architect, is going to design and build her one for her 3rd birthday. He designs and builds models all day anyway!

  2. My husband and I feel the SAME way. We heard a mantra a few years ago from a sweet old lady, that has helped keep us sane:
    1 Thing they want
    1 thing they need
    1 thing they wear
    1 Thing they read.
    Then Santa also brings one fun gift. It helps keep costs low, and our boys from being overwhelmed by too much.

  3. My bff got her kids a plan toys doll house set from Craigslist one year, apparently it belong to that person’s now grown kids when they were children, so i guess they do last!

    My mom goes overboard for my son. Since I can’t change what she does, I changed our gift giving plan to “something you want, something you need, something you wear, something you read” + stocking stuffers (only one candy thing). So he is getting a big story book, some tractors he has wanted since he played with another kid’s at the beach this past summer, some more expensive shoes than he would normally get, and the awesome $15 ikea art easel. I think he will be thrilled and not be so overwhelmed with stuff like last year (many of those toys never even were taken out of the packaging and are being donated to toys for tots this year!).

  4. Thankfully I stopped the huge big Christmas 4 years ago when Emmy was 3…. there just was no $$ to buy anything keeping food on the table was difficult enough. Thankfully I shopped the basement for Em and Matt at 13 got a hand me down old digital camera to have something wrapped under the tree. Em still loved the gift because it was 2 huge bins filled with wooden train stuff. The next year was a repeat with a few new things and a huge bin of rescue hero toys for Em. Now its you pick 1 thing from Santa and be happy with anything extra. Though this year for the 17 year old is hard because I’m going with a no game theme for him. My parents haven’t done toys for years, they do clothes movie gift cards, tickets to plays (Em and I saw Annie a few weeks ago), trips to the museum.

  5. Looks like a beautiful toy – I’m sure they’ll both have many happy memories with it. As I get older the balance is the thing I struggle with too…wanting to give people things…but not wanting to overly spoil EVERYONE with stuff they REALLY don’t need (or sometimes…even WANT)

    I’ve started trying to focus more on MEANINGFUL gifts – instead of panicked ‘LET’S JUST GET THIS BECAUSE IT’S A GOOD DEAL AND THEY’LL PROBABLY LIKE IT’ gifts. Things that show that I’ve thought about the person and what they’ll want, need and get the most happiness from. Takes more effort..doesn’t always happen….but in the end…so much more worth it on my end.

    I also have a friend whose family I’ve started imitating…since she was a little girl…one of the gifts that each person got was a donation made in their name – but also was meaningful. The year she was in teachers college her parents bought school supplies (through an organization) in her name for children in rural Africa…

    Great tradition to start in my opinion…makes you think and makes you and the person you’re gifting realise how lucky they are and how a ‘present’ they’ve gotten has helped someone else. Anyway – just always really loved that and have (slowly) been starting to integrate that into my family too 🙂

  6. We are huge Plan Toys fans here 🙂 We don’t really do Christmas presents at all because they just have many great toys and things from reviews I do on my blog and we feel it isn’t necessary to spend anymore money. Instead we spend a little extra supporting charities that help fight hunger and human trafficking. I know for sure the kids don’t miss anything. But I just might wrap up a product sent in for review and put it under the tree, lol 😉 I loved opening my presents when I was little, though they were fairly simple. I want them to have that joy, but I don’t want to do more than 1 gift.

  7. I can’t decide if we are blessed to be able to get what we want/need at any point in year, or if we are cursed to be able to get what we want/need at any point in year. It makes it so much more difficult come Christmas time. Our 2 year old still doesn’t get the concept of Christmas and is not asking for anything. My husband bought him a couple of bath toys that we decided to keep for Christmas and I think that will be all he gets from us. I know he will get gifts from other family members and I know there’ll be so much crap in the end I will want to pull my hair out. The boy prefers sticks and rocks anyways…

  8. I wish I had picked out that dollhouse instead of their other one, I forget the name. It is too enclosed which makes it too dark. At least Ella plays with all the furniture and dolls, just not the house.

    I have bought a ton of stuff this year, too, but nothing I think will end up in the trash. Lots of books, like three different building toys and lots of dress up (from the grandparents.)

    I truly went crazy when Ikea had half off their stuffed toys but they are so squeeZably soft and just awesome. She loves her bear to bits and should love the rest of the zoo too.

    She’s just so damn easy to buy for unlike everyone else on my list.

  9. My family likes to buy gifts but doesn’t go overboard, my husband and his family bring a whole new definition to the term overboard. I feel I’m going to spend the rest of my life, or at least the next 18 years, trying t prevent my boys from becoming spoiled brats.

  10. My friend has that same issue. It’s frustrating, especially since it is her husband’s parents who do it, and her parents are just not in the financial position. She doesn’t want them to get hurt by her kid’s reaction as they get older – she doesn’t want a “fun” set of grandparents, you know?

  11. Oh, and the one thing that helps reign me in on spending is to think about her college fund and how much have I added to that this year and wouldn’t it be shameful to spend more on presents than preventing her from needing student loans.

  12. I just had to sit down with the grandmas and tell them that I wanted my kids to receive less gifts. This year I added some experience gift ideas to their lists. They received children’s museum passes which they LOVE! I need to do a better job of keeping track of the gifts I buy for my own girls, also! I had to save some for birthdays in February and March.

  13. I struggle with this every year and my kids are only 3.5 and 20 months old. Not even old enough to care really. I was raised in a home where money was tight all year long and the only time we were able to get any “wants” was at christmas. So its hard for me to break away from that now as an adult. Starting next year I’m implementing the one thing you need, wear, want and read. I want to start it while my kids are young enough to not be greedy.

  14. This is my son’s first Christmas and I have totally gone overboard. Plus he gets gifts from his grandparents and my two brothers. It’s actually kind of insane. And the worst part? He is only 5 months old so he doesn’t really care. But I almost could not help myself. I grew up as a “war child” and having stuff gives me a weird sense of comfort. I made myself feel better by taking some of the things we have gotten and that he has grown out of in these last few months and donating them to a less fortunate family that we know. I want to teach Max that just because he is fortunate enough to have every little hearts desire at the moment it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share and help those in need. You never know when the tide will turn (like it did for my family growing up) and then you’ll have to count on the charity of others. And the world is a much better place when we all take care of one another.

  15. I too love this doll house! So simple yet wonderful. I swear if this baby is a girl that will be under our tree in one of the upcoming years. After 2 boys I’m ready for some girl toys in my life! Congrats on your pregnancy BTW!!!

  16. My daughter just turned two a week ago and still doesn’t understand the gifts very much. Anyway, she got bombarded with stuff for her birthday, and I suspect the grandparents will do the same at Christmas. My husband and I decided not to get her anything this year because, hey, she won’t notice! ha

  17. Buying annual passes to local places to visit or art/music classes that the kids enjoy instead of buying a lot of extra stuff 🙂

  18. So we had it all planned out this year- An idea I got from pinterest. “one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear, and one thing they read”

    well… the “one thing” kinda went out the window. We still followed the idea- but they each have like 5 books, not one. and the one thing they wear- is now socks, underwear, and sweatpants. the want and need were going well… but then Gavin decided he is in love with the harry potter books, so I had to make them wands and robes too… sigh… its hard to restrain yourself!

  19. I recently read an article in family fun magazine that tackled this topic. The author started a really neat tradition of each child getting a couple of things on their wish list, and their third gift was an experience. For example their 8 year old was interested in farms, so they made a few calls and a friend of a friend hooked them up with a farmer that took him under his wing for a whole day; doing chores, plowing fields, etc….and the family ended the day with a nice picnic. How fun would that be?! Not only to satisfy a child curiosity and love for a topic but to do something as a family as well. If I were ever to spend a lot on Christmas, I would do it like that.

  20. Oh, and in my experience, the more kiddos you add (congrats!), and the older they get, the compulsion dies down. My 8 year old’s wish list consisted of lots of reasonably prices lego items,….and then there was a PS3, an iPad, or a Cell phone. For real? Makes me want to buy him socks. But that’s kind of how it goes these days! We live in a small rural town; and LOTS of kids in third grade have their own phones! I guess what I am saying is you start to realize you can no longer afford the boat load of presents, and further more, it makes me queasy that my oldest expects it. It’s a whole new ball game this year!

  21. We told them straight up, we are celebrating the spirit of Christmas and not gift giving. I buy you shit all year long; I won’t be roped into the expectation that you’re supposed to get a whole extra shitload on this one particular day WHOSE CONNECTION TO GIFT GIVING I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND. I mean, I do. But I don’t. Anyway, we’ve talked to them and basically explained we can’t afford it, I’m not going into debt for something that I’m going to have to yell about you picking up off of the floor the next day and just come sit with us and enjoy the fact that we have each other and love each other and everything goes on sale tomorrow anyway.

  22. I grew up in a house where Christmas was really about things. I remember coming downstairs and seeing a giant mound of gifts under the tree. And yes, it was exciting at the time. But as an adult the thing I remember most about Christmas was how my grandparents would come over on Christmas Eve and spend the night and my grandmother would sleep with me. And how on Christmas morning my dad always made us pancakes and he would flip them all the way to the ceiling. And how on Christmas Day we would go visit my cousins and play for hours on end (not caring in the least about all those new gifts under the tree at home). My fondest memories are of experiences and not gifts.

    For my children we have followed the tradition of my husband’s family – each of us receives three presents for Christmas that are meant to represent the three presents that the wisemen gave to the baby Jesus. This is our small way of trying to relate all the gift giving back to the true meaning of Christmas.
    This approach all makes shopping much easier and really makes us think about what we want to get each child.
    Merry Christmas!

  23. This is something I struggle with, and with three kids to buy for we could easily end up with a disgusting amount of gifts in this house. I try to restrict buying toys to birthdays and Christmas and that way the Christmas splurge all gets used throughout the year.

  24. My kids (who still don’t “get” Christmas- only 2 and 8mo) as well as my husband and I, have a 3-gift rule. The grandparents can get them one thing each, and they get one thing from us. “Santa” brings them pajamas on St. Nick’s day. I hate the extreme commercialism surrounding this holiday and don’t want to instill that in my kids. So “if three gifts are good enough for Baby Jesus, it’s good enough for you!” is the mantra around here. I’ll be labeled The Cool Mom during the teenage years for sure.

    Oh and my son is getting a potty for Christmas; my daughter- a new carseat. Hope the grandparents do slightly better than us. 😉

  25. Our family has this weird Christmas equity rule where everyone celebrating Christmas with us has to have the exact same number of presents under the tree. I’m not even sure how it started or who started it but didn’t feel like I wanted to be the one who spurned the tradition so we do it to. One of its side effects is keeping my buying for my 4.5 y/o in check. Because if I buy her 52950 ‘stocking stuffers’ then everyone has to buy everyone else 52950 ‘stocking stuffers’ too and Christmases are much more comfortable when the rest of my family isn’t actively annoyed with me.

  26. I would not throw the furniture around if I were you! I love our house. I do not love that at least half the furniture did not survive the one year our 3.5 – 4.5 year old son played with it. I would still recommend the house but know that the furniture is not THAT strong.

  27. This is the first year I’ve overdid it and the guilt is heartwrenching. I have one four year old son and in years past we haven’t been able to give him a big Christmas. This year I started shopping Thanksgiving night to get all the “deals” as you mentioned and just recently stopped. He’s not getting a zillion toys or anything but he doesn’t need any more toys than what he already has. He already seems to have an issue understanding what it means to be appreciative and how others aren’t as fortunate as we are. I definitely plan on simplifying things in years to come and to focus on the real reason for Christmas – Jesus’ birth! Thanks for this post, I’m glad others have the same concerns. 🙂

    • We do gift equity here too because that’s how my husband grew up. So each of our kids (2 & 8yo) got the same number of gifts. That said, every year before birthdays and Christmas we do a toy purge. Anything that has outlived it purpose in our home is removed in one of three ways: if it’s gently used, has all it’s parts and could be resold, we bring it to the consignment shop (part of the incentive for the kids to part with it); if it can be re-used but not resold, we bring it to Salvation Army, Goodwill or PlantAid for donation; lastly, if it’s missing pieces or destroyed then it’s recycled or thrown in the trashed. We definitely overdo it on the number and cost of gifts but this is the only time during the year that we do. Birthdays are much more about experiences and one gift. Christmas is a secular holiday for us. We celebrate Hannukah without presents.

  28. Melissa Perry McQuilkin on

    Fantastic post and beautiful photos. I’m getting this dollhouse for my daughter for her 4th birthday and have been reading every review I can find – I love seeing the things I want to buy in real home settings instead of stock photos from manufacturers. I went a little overboard this year on eco-friendly gifts (I only bought 3 plastic made in china gifts, everything else is either made in USA, wooden, or eco-friendly). This is the first year we weren’t flat broke so in saying I went overboard, I probably still bought far less than most families buy for their children. I can’t wait for my daughter to see the Plan Toys she’ll have under the tree this year!

  29. Cassandra Nolen on

    I had to find this post from last year because I am feeling the same way right now! According to my husband, I’m already done Christmas shopping for my daughter, but I keep thinking of other fun things I want to buy (like a dollhouse!). I don’t feel I went overboard ($100 on duplo legos and a couple other small items), but my main issue is finding space in our small home to store things.

    Do your kids still play with this and the treehouse? How often?

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