Some of these ideas cost time and heart instead of money. Others cost varying amounts of money, but that money goes toward making memories, not toward acquiring material objects. Since there's such a short time left before Christmas, I've left off ideas that require a lot of advance planning (like a family trip to Disneyland for a few days instead of buying each other gifts).
Hope you enjoy these! Please comment with any ideas you have to add to the list.
- Create them an account with an organization like Kiva, which does microloans. Kid gets to decide which endeavor(s) to invest in and watch its progress. When the money is repaid, kid can loan to someone else.
- Tickets to a movie they want to see (If you go to a theater a little farther away than normal, you'll get extra time together!)
- Passes for a family zoo day or day at the local aquarium
- Museum tickets
- Coupon for each kid to have a day/afternoon of one-on-one time with a parent who works a lot. Do something the kid likes to do, even if it's not something you enjoy.
- Family snow day
- Coupon for a family movie marathon day. Kids pick the movies and the day's menu. Everyone stays in pajamas/sweats all day. All phone ringers off for the day!
- Set each kid loose in a dollar store with $5 or $10 to put together a gift for a sibling.
- Spend a couple of hours together assembling a gift basket/bag for a neighbor
- Give an empty recipe binder and spend an afternoon together finding and printing recipes to fill it. Commit to a couple of times to make things from the binder for the family.
- Device-free Puzzle Day
- Device-free Game Day
- Coupon for breakfast/brunch as a family at a local place (anything from Starbucks to IHOP to a schmancy place), and everyone goes in their pajamas
- Plan a scavenger hunt
- For a social kid, coupon to host a movie marathon day with their friends, including snacks, blanket forts, whatever hilarity is appropriate for those particular kids
- Coupon for an afternoon with parent(s) spent doing something the kid has been wanting to do but that the parent has always resisted
- If the kid's a crafter, a coupon for an afternoon working together on their chosen craft OR registration for a class/workshop to improve their skills in said craft (bonus points if you take the class with them!)
- If they've been trying to organize an outing with friends, a coupon to drop all your plans for a day to be Parent Taxi for said outing
- If your kid is older, pay a bill for them, surprise them by paying for something you normally make them pay for themself (movie ticket, etc.), or excuse a debt they owe you.
- Coupon for a family day trip somewhere they've been wanting to go
- If you can afford it, coupon for an overnight get-away one-on-one with a parent
BONUS IDEA: Years ago, when I was one of the content editors for our church website and was researching an article on holiday budgeting, a suggestion that popped up numerous time for not overbuying for your kids suggested limiting each kid's gifts to:
- something to read
- something to wear
- something to play with (for older kids, could be music or a game for gaming console, etc.)