A few years ago, our entire family went to Ireland for Christmas to visit my husband’s family. The trip was fantastic, but did present itself with one problem: how on earth were we going to do presents? This was about the time airlines were getting very strict…and expensive…about luggage, so we needed to get very creative about gift-giving for the kids.
That’s when I stumbled on a fabulous article in Richmond Parents magazine in which the mom-author described her now-almost-grown-kids’ favorite annual gift: the coupon book.
Started as a money-saving technique and continued due to popularity, this mother gives her kids a hand-made set of coupons, most of which have little or no money value, as their main gift. You read right.
In this fabulous book, the coupons are not made up of “$10 shopping at Target"; "a new bike you pick out…” or the like, but rather an entirely different set of “gifts” the kids adore.
The first type of “coupon” allows the children to break rules. “One night of unlimited TV”, or “One week of not making up the bed” are the most memorable. By giving her children a chance NOT to do what they normally have to, she both reinforces the necessity of the rules the other times of year (“Oh, you didn’t make up your bed? Well, I guess you just used your coupon!”) and allows for some slack.
The second set of coupons involve attention. “One lunch date alone with Mommy”, “One hour of Daddy playing the board game of your choice.” This makes the kids feel important, prioritizes quality time together, and is priceless yet free.
The final set involves things one might allow the kids to do anyway at times, but sets clear limits. “One box of any cereal you want”, “One sleepover with 3 friends invited”. These coupons allow a parent to say “yes”, but then be able to stop saying “yes” even though she said “yes” once before….you know where I’m going with this.
The sky’s the limit with these books, but for us, they have moved beyond a financial or weight-limit “emergency gift” and become the backbone of our holiday gift planning. Making up these coupon books for our kids allows my husband and I to sit back and think about fun things we want to do in the upcoming year (“camping trip to the Outer Banks”), encourage budding interests in our children (“one afternoon playing tennis with Daddy”), and give attention to those needing it the most (“one week of tuck-ins alone, just with Mom”).
And yes, it saves tons of money too.