Every year when the Christmas catalogues and flyers come out, my daughter starts working on her ‘Christmas Wish List’. Truthfully, although it seems a little early, it’s a good time for her to get started on her list, as the whole process can take 2-3 weeks and I like it in my hands no later than the last week of November, so that I can take advantage of any pre-Christmas sales (note: if you wanted to implement this process for this Christmas, I’m sure it could be completed in less time, if given more focused attention). We actually set a deadline when the list must be finalized, after which, no changes can be made (there’s nothing worse than thinking you’re done your Christmas shopping, only to have to head back to the stores at the busiest time of year).
It’s best to set the expectation right up front, so I remind her that she shouldn’t count on getting everything on her list (the warning is always the same, so she’s fully aware that the list is only a guideline). She has been doing this for a few years now, so it has evolved into a process that seems to work well for both her and me. In addition, it’s also a pretty good life skills exercise, since it requires her to be organized, set priorities, do research, apply critical thinking and work to a deadline.
- Initially, she writes down everything that grabs her attention, without applying a whole lot of judgment. She also indicates where she saw the item (e.g. which store flyer) and the cost, which is helpful information for her if she wishes to look at the item again later, and me when I am trying to get a feel for what is on her list and where I can find it. Identifying the price is also a good way to help her see how much things actually cost and start to factor this into her thought process. At this point, she will often share what is on her list with me, but it would be premature for me to do anything with this information. This is just the first step of the process and in the next 2-3 weeks, her Wish List will undergo a metamorphosis, so I refrain from succumbing to the temptation of starting my shopping early.
- Next, she goes through the list with a more critical eye, crossing off things that, upon further investigation, she’s really not that interested in (this year, she even took the initiative to remove a couple of items that she felt were too expensive and another that she knew I would not approve of). This step of the process is a little more time-consuming because she needs to research the items (e.g. read the description, check out reviews and talk to friends) and determine whether they are worthy of being on the list. Researching potential purchases is a good habit to get into, as impulse buying can cause serious financial hardship down the road. Allowing a little bit of time to pass can also be beneficial, as often the initial enthusiasm for a toy wanes over time. Typically, her list is a bit cluttered and difficult to read after this step, so she redoes it, only copying over those items that made the final cut.
- Lastly, she prioritizes the remaining items on her list. In the past, she has numbered them in order of priority, but this year she tried something different and color-coded them into low, medium and high levels of priority, and even provided a legend (what can I say, she took mapping in school). Knowing the priority she has assigned to each item is very helpful for me when I’m trying to figure out which things to focus on.
I am not the only one who benefits from this list. Often, I am called upon to provide ideas to grandparents and other family members and this list is a great reference. It also helps me make sure that I provide at least one higher-priority item to each family member, so that everyone gets to experience the joy of giving her something that she really wants.
It is important to note that I am very conscious of making sure she focuses on other aspects of Christmas, not just gift-getting. She participates in quite a bit of gift-giving, too. She helps me purchase and wrap gifts for Daddy, makes special gifts and cards for her family and contributes to various Christmas outreach programs. Although she loves getting gifts (who doesn’t?!), she swears that her favorite thing about Christmas is all the time spent with family (we are very lucky to be able to enjoy many activities with extended family over the holidays)!
Before Christmas is also a great time to have kids go through their stuff and give away anything that they are no longer playing with (it’s a little less distressing when they know they will be getting new things to take their place). Read all about this process in my post entitled, “Pre-Christmas Purge: Tips to help kids declutter“.