Yesterday, in the walk-up line at L.'s school, a parent and I were talking about holiday shopping. He told me that he and his wife disagree every year over how to go about the shopping. He believes in spending the same amount of money on each child, regardless of how many gifts this ends up being in the end; his wife, on the other hand, believes that what counts the most is that each child receive the equal number of gifts.
Both practices sound similar in theory, but as the dad pointed out, when two of the kids are older and the third a few years younger, it becomes more and more difficult to provide an equal number of gifts, especially when one of the older children is receiving a $200 iPod Touch for Christmas ($200 iPod Touch for a ten-year old? Hey, Santa I want one of those!). His wife doesn't think it's fair that one child would open just one or two large and expensive gifts on Christmas morning, while another works his way through piles of less expensive gifts.
While we're not in a position to spend $200 on any single gift for one of our children (or for each other, for that matter), it is sometimes difficult to balance out everything in the end. T. would be thrilled to get lots of small and inexpensive gifts: stuffed animals, My Little Pony sets, books, DVDs, etc.; L.'s tastes run more expensive. Last year he asked Santa for a Garmin aviation GPS system that cost almost $4,000), and a $2,000 James Bond-like watch. This year, at least, his interest in Star Wars has scaled down his wish list somewhat, although those Star Wars Lego sets certainly don't run cheap. Yet I know, no matter how hard we try and teach our kids that the gifts are not the most important part of the day, that both L. and T. will be very tuned in to just how many presents each one of them receives. (Please tell me that my kids are not the only ones who count presents on Christmas morning?)
We do try and be equal above all when it comes to gift purchases, even if getting a strategic process in place for the shopping part of it is still very much a work in progress. We do set a price limit for the children, depending on what we can safely afford each year, and we try our hardest to be equal in both the quality and quantity of the gifts. In the end, though, I think what matters the most to us as parents is that we try as hard as we can to make sure each child gets at least a few things off of their lists (expensive GPS systems excepted, of course), and that we try to make sure each child feels he or she has received comparable gifts as far as the excitement factor goes. This year may be the first year we give one joint gift to both kids--and to ourselves, too, I might add--we're weighing whether or not to spring for a Wii system for the family.
What about you? How do you strategize and organize the gift-giving at your house each year? What's your family's approach?