Between the ads and the logos and the expectant lists of pint-size housemates, this time of year can bring headaches for parents who are tired of buying into the commercial nature of the holiday season.
If you've been seeking ways to limit the clutter and get back to the true meaning of what the holidays are about, here are some ideas.
1. Get out of town. Instead of spending on things, consider putting that money toward a family trip that everyone will remember for years to come. Whether you splurge on a European cruise or plan a two-day excursion to the Hill Country, the memories you make while traveling together will last a lifetime. Need ideas for where to go? Sites such as airfarewatchdog.com, travelzoo.com and hopper.com keep track of cheap flights out of Austin, and frontier.com frequently has roundtrip fares for under $100 from Austin to cities such as Denver. Find more travel ideas at austin360.com/travel.
2. Honor the arts. Even if you don't plan to leave town, getting tickets to a show, concert or book signing is a thoughtful way to spend time with someone you care about. Have a foodie in your life? Snag tickets to Ina Garten at the Long Center on Feb. 5. Know a '90s music fan? Don't miss Hootie and the Blowfish at the Austin360 Amphitheater in June. Check the calendars at places like the Paramount Theatre, BookPeople and Bass Concert Hall (and the recommendations at austin360.com) for more ideas. Admission to an ice skating rink or movie tickets can also be a simple yet meaningful gift.
3. Members only. Along the same lines as purchasing event tickets, consider buying annual memberships for your loved ones to places they would like to visit year-round. A membership to the Thinkery, the Wildflower Center or the Bullock Museum is a gift that keeps on giving once the holidays are over.
4. Four-gift rule. For the past few years, many people have started embracing the four-gift rule, which suggests that parents buy their children only the following four gifts at the holidays: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. If four presents seems like too few, you can still limit the number you purchase by being sure that when you do give something, it's because you truly believe the person receiving it will like it. It's a matter of quality, not quantity.
5. Give back as a family. Sure, it's the most wonderful time of year, but for some Central Texas families who are struggling, it might also be the most stressful. If you’ve been looking for a way for your family to give back to others who may be less fortunate, pick a date and schedule a family volunteer outing. Places like the Central Texas Food Bank, the Austin Humane Society and Generation Serve have options for children as young as 3, and remember, the need extends well past the holiday season. You can also make a donation in someone's name to a cause that's important to them instead of purchasing a gift. Find a list of volunteer opportunities at austin360.com.