Myth 3: You'll scar the kids if you cut back on gifts.
No child has ever clapped her hands in glee at the idea of cutting back on presents, but there are a few things you can do to rein in your family's holiday materialism with minimal upset. Linda Sonna, PhD, author of The Everything Tween Book, recommends talking to older children about what they really want in advance. "Explain that if they get X, there won't be Y," she says. "That will make the child think about her priorities."
With some small adjustments, it can also seem as though there's just as much loot as last year. Wrap everything individually (a two-piece outfit or a toy with several parts, for example) so each child has more bundles with her name on them. Or think of small, fun things you can package as gifts. "If you have a rule against sugary cereal, wrap up a box of Cap'n Crunch," says Sonna. "Kids love coupons—give them each a voucher for one morning of not having to make their beds."
To help build excitement—and prolong the process—make the family open gifts one at a time, "instead of a mad dash where it's over in two seconds." And keep in mind that you may be the only one taking note of any cutbacks. "Kids under 8 usually don't remember what they got the previous year," says Sonna. So if Santa's load is a little lighter this time around, only you will be the wiser.
— Jenny Bailly