Tigerlilly Quinn: Materialism, Consumerism and Christmas

Friday, 22 November 2013

Materialism, Consumerism and Christmas

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Wow thats quite a hefty title for a blog post hey?

With Wilf's birthday so close to Christmas (ten days prior) Tom and I found ourselves feeling pretty overwhelmed last year. We are so lucky to have so many friends and family that love our little boy and he was truely spoilt with gifts. I wonder if it's having both celebrations so close together that emphasised the point so much but I couldn't decide how I felt about the amount of presents he received.

Being that it was his first birthday it felt like a huge milestone and so Tom and I were ourselves guilty of going a little overboard with the celebrations and gifts too. Tom built Wilf a handmade play kitchen which was such a beautiful and thoughtful gift, one that I hope will stay in our family until Wilf has children maybe. My dad gave Wilf his own childhood teddy bear Benji (who is now fifty years old) and I'm happy to see him being played with along with all his new softies. I think he is currently having a tea party with panda in a reusable nappy..

I can't even remember the amount of little bits I got him, and then there were the presents from auntie's and uncles, friends and grandparents..

In fact all of Wilf's gifts were really thoughtful and wonderful and I am so grateful for all the people in his life that were kind enough to get him something… but there was just so much! Then ten days later there was another bunch of so much!

When I was younger we would get given £5 from our parents to spend on each of our siblings (there are five of us) and then we would make something for our parents. Our parents spent £30 exactly on us each and the same again for birthdays. When we turned 18 we no longer got birthday or Christmas presents as we were not longer children. Having four siblings means you will always get something (and funny enough I've managed to not be single on a birthday or Christmas since I was 18 so I had boyfriend gifts covered too ;)).

I know I am very guilty of buying into consumerism, I mean, I like pretty things, I run a shop too so I want other people to like pretty things (!) but I'm just not sure how to create the right balance. To teach Wilf not to live a materialist life..

This year we have decided that his birthday presents will be a few new books, a toy garage (from Ebay) and a new jumper. For Christmas we have agreed to stockings only, some small thoughtful gifts to keep it simple.

What do you think? Do you like to go overboard with Christmas presents, keep it simple or somewhere in between?


29 comments:

jess lewis said...

when my kids were small I used to know people that spent literally thousands at xmas - when I first met A. we did disagree about it - his kids had mountains of stuff they never even bothered looking at , ripping the paper off as fast as they could they onto the next - mine had had to make do with less cos a. I couldnt afford it and b. I thought it was no good for them. now they are over 18 they get a couple of stocking fillers ( its not as if Im not lashing out for driving lessons/car insurance/uni fees etc the rest of the year ) - and I insist they work part time. sound harsh? Ive seen blogs lately with first birthday parties that clearly cost more than a cheap wedding and styled beyond belief- all for the parents boasting points and very little do with the kid - it makes me a bit ill ;) I think you have it spot on.

Polly Davies said...

I work on the 'something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read' motto. We don't go crazy and spend a fortune, but at the same time, I like to spoil the girls just a little. We don't' spend lots on stuff they don't need through the year, so I like to try and buy them the things that they ask for at Christmas. Kiki wants Sylvanian Family stuff this year, most of which I've bought second-hand on ebay as it's so expensive! Lola is having a sewing machine and Baya a wooden stable for her horses. Other than that, I buy them a few books, lots of stationary, and a stocking full of little fun things. They do get lots of gifts from family too.


I try and place the emphasis over the holidays on the fun things that we do, rather than just waiting for gifts - panto's, Christmas markets, parties etc...


I know that the things I remember most about Christmas as a child, are the memories of things we did and the traditions we had rather than the actual gifts.

Rachel Adnyana said...

I agree completely, I decided the same thing last year and it's even worse when you have 2 kids! Christmas isn't a big thing here anyway so i decided this year rather than getting lots of toys I would get them a play kitchen between them as I know it will be used a lot (and it doubles as storage for all their play food, haha). I'm also going to do stockings with little things in, mainly because i love watching them opening them :p

Kelly Rae said...

I'm totally on board with your new route. I've been pretty strict about what comes into our house. I'm sure it annoys some but it works well for us. Most of our little girl's toys never get played with anyway. She wants to play with a pasta strainer or something like that.


I definitely like the idea of stockingsonly for xmas. I'm not sure why I never thought of that idea. So Great!

Victoria said...

The idea of a stocking only sounds great! We've always done Christmas modestly in my family, if there was anything big that we really wanted it would be a Christmas/Birthday/possibly another Christmas present. There were always friends at school who were spoilt rotten at Christmas, which as a child can seem unfair, but now as an adult I fail to see the need to spend so much. I have two siblings & we just agree to spend £30-40 on each other each year. Like you, I've not been single at Christmas in a long time, and me & my boyfriend will often spend a bit more on each other - usually on lots of small thoughtful gifts just so there are more presents to open :-)
Both my boyfriend & sister have their birthdays in the weeks leading up to Christmas so it can feel a little crazy around then. I find myself losing track of which gift is for which occasion! Though despite a small budget I do really enjoy buying gifts for people :-)

Victoria Penrose said...

The idea of a stocking only sounds great! We've always done Christmas modestly in my family, if there was anything big that we really wanted it would be a Christmas/Birthday/possibly another Christmas present. There were always friends at school who were spoilt rotten at Christmas, which as a child can seem unfair, but now as an adult I fail to see the need to spend so much. I have two siblings & we just agree to spend £30-40 on each other each year. Like you, I've not been single at Christmas in a long time, and me & my boyfriend will often spend a bit more on each other - usually on lots of small thoughtful gifts just so there are more presents to open :-)
Both my boyfriend & sister have their birthdays in the weeks leading up to Christmas so it can feel a little crazy around then. I find myself losing track of which gift is for which occasion! Though despite a small budget I do really enjoy buying gifts for people :-)

Polly Davies said...

I normally have mine wrapped by now! Getting behind lol I have to add, that mine get lots of books/puzzles/craft stuff that stocks us up for quite a few months at least :D

AnnieMammasaurus said...

I'm always very reserved when it comes to Christmas and Birthdays but do find it helps if I shop for everything in December else if it's done too early I end up buying more because I forget just what I've bought - a last minute stock up run which is never needed!

Healthier Mummy said...

Great blog post. We try to keep Christmas to one main present per child (we have three kids), costing about £40, plus a stocking with smaller things. I love the idea of your Ebay present. I'm going to have a look and see if there's anything I can get for my three on there

pinkoddy said...

I definitely go overboard, but I would never get into debt. They are good kids who work hard and are well behaved and I want to treat them for that. I have one born in each season - and my winter baby is very close to Christmas and I do feel people remember and make an effort with him because of that.

Mellissa Williams said...

It's a balance isn't it? I don't buy my son random things throughout the year however he does get a little spoilt as I win things for him all the time. Since he was young I have made sure though that he values money and as he needs a computer for his studies this year, he actually has said he doesn't need pocket money. (Feel proud of him for this!)

Jess@AlongCameCherry said...

The whole presents at Xmas things doesn't sit well with me at all really, I think it's nice to give presents and it's a good chance to give things that the kids will need throughout the next year but this year I am trying to just give presents to just kids and only things I know they need, like clothes etc. I hate giving people things just for the sake of it and receiving a bit of crap I won't use in return. Matt's family are the worst for that! I am also going to start letting Cherry choose a charity to give to at Xmas too, I love the whole festive spirit but I want to find a way of it not becoming all about presents xx

Julie said...

Jarvis turns 2 on the 4th of December and Tamika turn 21 on the 8th of December. I stick with the one big gift for their birthday and little one for Christmas.

fritha strickland said...

I think that's a great idea to hold some back, my little brother's bday is in January and I found my mum did the same. I'm so torn as like you I like the idea of spoiling Wilf at Christmas as I want it to be a really exciting indulgent time of year but I also don't want him to become complacent. I think buying things from Ebay makes me feel a lot better about it, all his birthday books are second hand from Amazon xx

fritha strickland said...

that's a good way to do it! x

fritha strickland said...

I agree, I hate the stress of thinking 'oh we need to buy your sister this, my brother that etc' it's OK if I know we've got something they will really love or a gesture that means something but a present just for the sake of it just seems so silly! I'm really loving the idea of involving charity into xmas, I'm not sure Wilf would understand that this year but next year for sure. Wilf's nursery is a charity and they have asked parents to take a pledge (if they want) to raise £50 for new books/trips etc which I feel good about xx

fritha strickland said...

that's so good of him to say that! I think you have got the balance right, he clearly understands the value of money xx

fritha strickland said...

I do find it a bit bonkers the people that go into debt, I had friend who's parents would save and borrow all year to go mad at xmas and then really struggle the rest of the year round. I'm so torn as I want to spoil Wilf at these times of the year but want him to appreciate what he has got also x

fritha strickland said...

that sounds really similar to my childhood and something I think we would like to recreate with Wilf. I like the idea of a budget, there are some great things on Ebay for sure! x

fritha strickland said...

me too..in fact I haven't bought a single Christmas present yet, although that's not really planned I'm just bad at planning! When I was pregnant I did Xmas shopping early (Wilf was born in Dec) and ended up just adding and adding to it all (so easy when you are internet shopping!) x

fritha strickland said...

me too, I love buying for others (although I hate having to wait for them to open it!) Tom and I used to do the same actually lots of small thoughtful gifts for each other. Now we have Wilf though I feel like lots of gifts end up causing clutter (the romantic side of me has become too practical) but I like the idea of a budget x

fritha strickland said...

that's so true! Wilf has spent most of last week playing with a tube of cardboard! xx

fritha strickland said...

that's a great idea a big item for them to share (and play kitchens are such great presents!) I totally agree, stocking are the best bit about Christmas! x

fritha strickland said...

Sylvanian Family stuff is SO expensive! I'm always looking at the little sets in the toy shop, I loved them as a child (my little sister even got the canal boat, I was so jealous!) Ebay is great for things like that. I like the way you do Christmas and agree its about the festivities too, we are going to the Christmas event at the zoo soon where Wilf will see reindeers :) xx

fritha strickland said...

yes thats kind of what I envision when I get overwhelmed about gifts, just ripping off the paper and moving on to the next..it's depressing! I also knew friend who would get tons of presents, bikes, drum sets, computer games and they weren't even the slightest bit excited about them as it was just a given they would get it! I agree also, I worked from 15 as I wanted to earn money to buy the things I wanted rather than expect someone else to get them for me x

Cathy said...

My little girl's birthday is two days after Wilf's so I know exactly what you mean about being overwhelmed with presents! Last year for her first birthday we didn't actually buy her that much, but family members, in particular my in-laws, went crazy. The pile of presents waiting for her on her birthday was obscene - then another truck-load less than two weeks later at Christmas and we'd bought her a fair bit more than necessary for Christmas too.


We spent Christmas with my husband's family. My niece, who is five, had been bought everything she asked for. Her pile of presents looked like a Toys R Us store. There was five or six what I would call 'big' presents - a guitar, a scooter, a camera, a makeup and hairdressing doll set, a huge set of crafting materials - plus endless 'little' presents.


She tore through them barely noticing what they were and ended up in tears because the camera was 'wrong'.


I decided then and there my children would never, EVER, get 'everything they wanted' for Christmas.


I don't quite know how to handle it yet however. This year we have a new baby so the pile of presents will be double as their grandparents, very kindly but absolutely unnecessarily, insist on spending the exact same amount of money on each child 'out of fairness'.


I don't see how I can stop my in-laws overbuying - it's only done out of love and they're their grandchildren and it's completely their right to spoil them if they want to. So instead we as the parents must cut back on what we buy them - one present each, maximum, until I can work out a better strategy that doesn't leave my in-laws feeling hurt! I also very much like the idea of making them choose a few toys to take to a charity shop, before AND after Christmas. Before Christmas some old toys to make room, and after Christmas I am considering insisting they donate one of their new toys, to help them understand that receiving endless piles of gifts isn't a right, it's a privilege, and that giving isn't just a case of getting rid of hand-me-downs they'd grown out of anyway.


As they grow I hope we can get the balance right. I don't want to spoil the magic of Christmas for them but I also don't ever want my children in tears on Christmas day surrounded by piles of torn paper and untouched gifts because they've been given 'the wrong camera'.

fritha strickland said...

that sounds like a really good idea, I also had friends who got tons but they never seemed to really enjoy it! I agree, buying gifts is so much fun, a price limit makes it a better challenge ;) x

fritha strickland said...

love this comment, I think we are on the exact same page! I think the mistake we made last year was just not factoring the amount our relations got him too, and then again at xmas! Like you said they only do it out of love so it would hard for them to not, this year we have asked that his aunties get him a book only for his birthday and xmas (as I figure you can never have enough books..although our straining shelves may disagree). I love the idea of donating things also. The nursery Wilf goes to is a charity run one so we pledged to raise £50 for them by xmas to spend on new things for the kids (they are getting a little garden and craft materials) I don't think Wilf will quite understand that but I think I'll try and continue to do the same each year and also give things away to charity shops and explain that too.


I also worry about the 'spoiling the magic of Christmas vs being spoilt' I think for me these times were so exciting because maybe we had less. A friend of mine was very spoilt and was never ever happy on these occasions. She even got a custom made 7 string guitar for a birthday but still wasn't happy. She said to us she felt her parent's just threw money at occasions rather than spend time with her which is so sad!


I think like some of the comments below I'll try and install the magic a bit more in other ways, christmas activies (presents of course but in moderation) and all that comes with seeing family etc


it's such a hard balance! xx

Victoria Penrose said...

Yeah our presents have definitely become more practical these days. We both love nice (usually practical) things for our home & tickets for shows so that's mostly what we'll get each other + books/DVDs we've had on our wishlists, all wrapped individually to make it look like more presents :-) x

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