Our dad once estimated that our mother purchased 250 gifts at Christmas. This was for us three girls with a few aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends thrown in (who were lucky to net one each). We think he was a little shy of the actual number.
While we can see our father’s point that this was a tad excessive, we can’t help but try to carry on the tradition. What are we teaching our children, you say? Relax. The spoils ain’t what they used to be.
How can a budget-wise family fill an entire living room with presents, edging out even Santa in PSI (presents per square inch)? Pull the furniture in closer to the tree the night of. What was once a spacious great room is now the size of one over-filled closet, bursting with, if not 250 presents, the illusion thereof.
Boxes come cheap. What’s more exciting than seeing a huge box under the Christmas tree? But wait. Anyone, any age, loves the irony of finding a tiny, tiny (also wrapped) present inside. It’s a game! Run with it. For children, the game begins when they discard the gift and commence with the best present of all: the box.
If you can come up with 2 or 3 cardboard boxes the size of your Great Grandma Simmerman, you are golden. Not only will they offer great PSI (forget global warming for this one day — increasing your footprint is a plus), they’ll have a fort they can leave you alone in until school starts up again.
Go for presents that make noise or light up. A crying baby doll? Leave her on. Wrap her. Kick her box every chance you cross the living room. Your child will be almost certain that she knows what’s in the box. Let the investigation unfold.
Consider a tractor or pick-up truck with lights. Screw it, leave its headlights on when you wrap it, all night, all week if you have to (the kids will anyway the first chance they get). One vibrating, flashing almost-guessed gift is worth 10 quietly wrapped shirt boxes.
Lumpy & Ugly
Did you buy a Barbie swimming pool? A fire engine with an extension ladder? We urge you to miswrap them. Resist the urge to put these in a big box (remember, those are for the small gifts). Instead, bundle those unruly suckers up with one arm tied behind your back. Use lots of tape, duct tape if you have to. Make it ugly. Leave pretty for your grandmother’s gift.
Give this thing attitude, enough to fill the room. Extend the ladder, attach Barbie to it. Pose her about to leap into the pool from the ladder. Have Ken trying to stop her or better yet, rate her. Wrap him and her and their heads all lumpy too. This will be, hands down, the first present your kids rip open.
Don’t forget the surprise factor of leaving a single toy unwrapped, on top of the (hollow) heap of overboxed presents. Give them the instant gratification of a fat fluffy teddy bear you got for just $4.99 when you bought $50 worth of screaming dolls at Toys “R” Us. The teddy bear will be the crème de la crème, the king on the throne, and the victory will be yours.
Well, no matter what your budget is this Christmas, we hope you take time to be a little creative with it. It’s not about the number of gifts, we know. It’s the thought that counts. But, remember, with a little sleight of hand, it can look like you came up with both this year. Merry Christmas!