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Alternatives to Expensive Gifts

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It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to holiday shopping – and the pressure of buying the perfect gift or making sure no one is forgotten.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Child and Family Development Specialist Leslie Forstadt says there are plenty of alternative gift ideas for holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah that can alleviate the stress of shopping and bring meaning back to the holidays.

“There is a movement where people are trying to give less on the holidays and think about what the holidays are really about,” Forstadt says. “It’s not about the stuff. It’s really about creating experiences and a gift having meaning and a lasting impact.”

Adjusting to that mindset can open up families to the concept of alternative gift-giving. Forstadt suggests considering experiences that bring together a family, combining funds to make a donation, running a Secret Santa-type gift exchange for a large family, and adding personal touches to inexpensive store-bought gifts.

In addition, Forstadt says, parents or others doing gift-purchasing should take into consideration the often short attention span of children when thinking about toys used as marketing tools of the latest movie or television show. Such toys could be cast aside after just a few weeks or months of use.

Forstadt also suggests rethinking family vacations to include picnics, treasure hunts or geocaching instead of, for example, expensive and travel-heavy trips to amusement parks.

“The idea that spending time together is a quality thing is undervalued,” she says.

It may be difficult to resist the lure of a pile of presents on Christmas morning, but creating a habit of thoughtful gift-giving methods when a child is young can generate reasonable expectations about the gift-giving process.

“There’s this feeling of, I have to buy a lot of stuff for my kids and family,” Forstadt says. “Of course, you want the best for your family and to give them the things they want. But we have to think about whether we’re overindulging our kids. Some nice conversations to have with your kids at this time are about wants vs. needs. It’s kind of changing the culture within the family to be less focused on stuff.”

Contact Forstadt for more ideas and information.

Ways to reduce your holiday costs.

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