intentional gift giving

4 Questions to Ask Before Buying Gifts for Your Kids

As I tore open a gift on Christmas morning as a kid, I gasped over the sound of the crackling maple, burning nearby in the fireplace. That gift, which my dad had hidden well, was an electronics kit I wanted but never thought I’d get. Growing up in a low-income home usually meant we got gifts like socks on Christmas—what we needed, not what we wanted.

So when I got older and got a job, I went a little crazy on Christmas, draining my bank account to buy everyone what they wanted. Giving Christmas presents can be a lot of fun, but it can backfire if we’re careless like I was back then. As a society, we need to find a better balance between need and greed. We need to buy the right gifts for the right reasons. As dads, we can do that with intentional gift giving. To help you be better at intentional gift giving, here are 4 questions to ask yourself.

1. Am I using gifts to make up for not being around this year?

It’s an easy trap to fall into thinking we can make up for not being engaged in the lives of our kids by buying them the things they want. I’ve done it. We can buy our kids every gadget on Amazon, but it won’t make up for the time they want to spend with us.

Pro-tip: Instead of buying each kid a toy, buy an experience you and your kids will have together.

2. Will the gifts my kids want move them toward or away from our family values?

As we are inundated with approximately 4.7 trillion advertisements per day leading up to Christmas, many of which skillfully manipulate us on a subconscious level, it’s easy to find ourselves putting items in our carts that actually contradict the kind of family we want to be.

Pro-tip: Smart devices almost always lead to isolation and selfishness.

3. What is a gift you can give that will help your kids step into their gifting?

Christmas isn’t the time to try to force our hobbies onto our kids. You may love fishing, but that doesn’t mean your kids are going to. Besides, if we give our kids a gift they’re interested in, it’s more likely to get used in the year to come instead of getting shoved into the back of their closet until we donate it to the Salvation Army.

Pro-tip: Spend strategic time with your kids to ask what they’re really into lately.

4. Can I afford these gifts/are they reasonable?

While I didn’t go into debt that first Christmas (I had a job to buy presents), they weren’t reasonable. I spent all my money. It wasn’t a wise decision. Sadly, many of us feel pressured to go into debt to buy our kids Christmas presents just to make it look like we have money. Unfortunately, those items will most likely be in a landfill long before we’ve paid them off along with their interest. If you’ve gone crazy in years past, you might have to have a hard conversation with your kids. But, it will be worth it. It will be a lesson they’ll remember.

Pro-tip: Set up an automatic debit of $20 per pay period to go to a specific Christmas account.

Sound off: How can we be better at intentional gift giving?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the greatest gift you have ever received? What made it the best?”