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Challenge: Your Special Traditions

This mom's monthly mailbox saved Christmas

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It seems like society is finally accepting an idea of less consumerism and more simplicity for the holidays, but the fallout from kids not being in board with this transition is falling on tired moms who are still hustling to keep the magic alive.

While we recognize that the fact that our family lives in a tiny house of only 301 square feet already makes us a stand out against what is most widely accepted, that alone doesn't mean that our kids didn't cringe when we let them know that Christmas would be simplified.

Kids struggle with change and — if I'm being totally honest — so do I. Anxiety overtakes me and my mind spirals with endless 'what-if's'. So when my husband and I decided to save money and space in our tiny home in exchange for flipping the focus from 'stuff' to experiences for Christmas, I wasn't fully on board.

Of course, I loved the idea of making memories together while not giving in to the temptation to overspend. But I also knew that our then 2- and 7-year-olds weren't likely to see things from the same perspective.

How could we get them to understand the weighty importance of service to others over consumerism or giving back versus greedy 'getting'?

So we made a plan. (Okay, I made one. Because I'm Type A and, in the opinion of my husband, I color-code fun. You're welcome!)

Our family still exchanges gifts and we don't necessarily abide by the, "one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read," rule because my parents made such a big deal about Christmas that the idea of only giving four gifts made me hyperventilate. (See! Change is HARD!)

We gift each child a couple of fun things they will use, like craft kits or sewing sets, science experiments or Legos. They also get a couple of wearables that they actually need. And they get something we know they will love but that are also practical such as the be bedding that will be under this year's tree in their favorite characters with a small stuffed toy to match.

To ease the transition from piles of 'stuff' for both myself and for our kiddos, we implemented the Monthly Mail gift.

Our kids love to get mail, but we don't have the money or the patience for subscription boxes of crap they'll build and never play with or that I'll just forget I subscribed to when it was on a promo and it will end up costing me my left arm over 4 easy payments.

Our M.M. box is handmade, costs about $2 in cardstock and envelopes, and takes about 30 minutes to put together.

We have one card per month with a planned activity, mixing in a few gift cards, plus free events to save on cash. For the freebies, we print out certificates so they know what's coming. This gives them something to open every month of the year and a fun family day that doesn't have to be stressy or even planned ahead.

We've chosen lots of different things like movie gift cards in a month a movie is releasing that we know our kids will like, a picnic in the park, family board game night, or homemade pizza making. We've also done a long weekend trip to somewhere near home or a gift certificate to the local trampoline park.

There is no need for frill or fanciness with this gift and they can all be personalized for each recipient. This costs next to nothing ... or as much as you want. Your kids won't expect Pinterest perfectly decorated envelopes. They are psyched to do something fun together and get to open a surprise each month.

Because the change felt harder for me in paring down Christmas, this monthly gift-giving idea helped to ease the transition and the experiences have been well worth it.

Our kids now get to look forward to a gift each month instead of a pile of presents on one day a year and the memories are, admittedly, pretty magical.

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