My wife is part of a large family. With 6 siblings, and those siblings have 18 children of their own. That’s a huge number of birthdays, Christmases and special events where presents are expected. We have been trying to go another route with presents for the kids.

With so many grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends the children are showered with presents. Toys and books and batteries and stuff. So much stuff. Christmas morning looks like a toy store exploded under some Christmas trees. Instead of buying more stuff for their kids, we have been giving different sorts of gifts.

  • College Funds

We have encouraged anyone who doesn’t have a 529 account to set one up for their kids. Then we can send them money for their futures instead of toys for today. It’s a good gift for the parents and helps a little with their kids’ future. It also encourages them to setup the account (if they didn’t already) and I hope makes the conversation easier to have with others. Instead of buying the kids another toy, do something that will benefit them in the future.

But think of the children! I can hear the wails of grandparents everywhere needing to see the kids filled with delight over the wrapped packages. This brings me to the second part of winning at gifting.

  • Awesome Greeting Cards

Instead of spending $20 (or more) on a toy, find the coolest car you can with with the current favorite cartoon character, prehistoric creature or just neat artwork. We sent Thomas the Tank Engine card (for a little Tommy) and that elicited running around and showing everyone who was near with the card for the next week (and it remains intact 7 months later). For Christmas, we found a card with a series of little pop-open windows and different scenes playing out. And the boys love opening the windows and seeing things pop-up.

Instead of another toy in a pile of toys, it’s fun to have the kids talk about the cards months after we send them. I know kids love what they love. But it’s so much fun seeing them love the cards as much as we loved picking them out. And now you’ve got extra money to send for their futures. Or to get their parents something nice, like an Instant Pot.

Seriously, if you haven’t found the Instant Pot, it may change your life. It’s the best gift we gave to an adult last year.