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Suzanne Perez Tobias: Simplifying gift strategy enriched this season

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, at 11:25 p.m.

Another Christmas is over.

The packages are unwrapped, the cinnamon rolls eaten, the iTunes gift cards redeemed and a new giant-block calendar hangs on the kitchen wall – am I the only one who requires more calendar space with each subsequent year? – which means it’s the perfect time for a “Want, Need, Wear, Read” debriefing.

A few weeks ago, I pledged to simplify my family’s holiday gift-giving by adopting a strategy I’d seen on numerous blogs and websites.

The idea is to limit children’s gifts to one item from each of four categories: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

Plus stockings. Plus a family board game. Because we love stocking stuffers and board games, and because I said so.

After that column was published, I heard from many parents and grandparents who said the strategy appealed to them as well, and that they planned to try the “want, need, wear, read” strategy in their own homes. Since Christmas I’ve heard back from several who appreciated the way it simplified Christmas.

I’m a fan now, too. But here are a few things I and other adopters noticed about this gift-giving game plan, in case any of you are considering it for next year:

• It doesn’t necessarily save money. Because the strategy favors quality over quantity, limiting gifts to four for each child won’t translate to cost savings unless you also impose a strict spending limit. (Another great plan.) My daughter’s “want,” for instance, was an acoustic guitar which, though incredibly wanted and loved, wasn’t exactly cheap.

• It’s easy to fudge (or at least debate) the categories. Did Jack really “need” a laptop? Probably not, though his homework does involve increasing amounts of Internet research, and Mom’s computer isn’t always available. Whatever the case, the plan can spark interesting family discussions about wants vs. needs.

• The strategy doesn’t rule out surprises. My son tried to beg off the “wear” category completely, saying he couldn’t care less about clothes and couldn’t think of a single thing he wanted. Then he opened a box containing a Sheldon Cooper-style T-shirt from “The Big Bang Theory,” and he admitted even wearable gifts could be fun.

• It’s hard to pick just one book. (So I didn’t. Shhhhh.) Each child got two books packaged as one, which I realize is cheating but … whatever. And besides, I want to read that new John Green novel as soon as Hannah finishes it, so that was kind of a gift to myself. (Another fun way to build your children’s library: One blogger buys holiday storybooks and other kids’ books throughout the year at thrift stores and used book stores – sometimes for as little as 25 cents apiece – then wraps them for her kids to open, one each night, starting Dec. 1.)

• The strategy lends itself to more thoughtful – and local – shopping. This, to me, was the best part of the want-need-wear-read plan. While other shoppers scrambled to find gifts and frantically figure up how to keep their Christmas-morning haul fair and even, my shopping trips were relaxed and enjoyable. With few exceptions, I was able to find everything on my list, including stocking stuffers and our new board game, at locally owned shops.

Best of all, as we had hoped, our family’s holiday season was filled with things that didn’t cost a dime – most notably, an evening of Christmas caroling through our neighborhood that’s sure to become an annual tradition.

Here’s to comfort and joy – and a simpler, more thoughtful and peaceful new year.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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