The Beauty of Practical (Clutter-Free!) Gift Giving

It’s been so interesting to see the evolution of birthday wishes in our house. When Laurel was small, she was definitely into things. She loved princesses and little animal figures and all manner of collectibles. I personally found it a bit overwhelming given that I’m so anti-clutter and also because – as someone who grew up with very few possessions – I worried about raising materialistic kids, but it certainly made birthday gifting easy for her relatives.

Violet has proven a bit of a different animal. Though she used to be very focused on stuff as a toddler (she used to become overcome by emotion if we’d walk into a store and would say, “There’s nothing in my hands!”), over the last couple of years she’s become less concerned with stuff. I mean, she does love her stuffed animals (Owly!) and enjoys the idea of opening gifts (though it doesn’t matter if it’s hers or mine, as I discovered during my birthday a couple of weeks ago!), but when tasked to get a thing, she doesn’t always want a thing. For example, we went to Target one day with the explicit mission of spending a birthday gift card and her response after we traveled the entire length of the store was, “I don’t know. I don’t really see anything I’m interested in here.” AT TARGET. I thought that was totally awesome.

One of the great things about my ongoing partnership with Fidelity/MEFA is that it’s reminded me of the awesomeness of practical giving, not only from my personal perspective (yay, no clutter!) but also because:

1. It has helped my kids realize the power of not just asking for things for the sake of asking for things.

2. It’s a great option to offer because I know there are people in my life (like my mom and a couple of my siblings) who care deeply about financial planning and would much rather gift into Laurel and Violet’s 529s then buy something of fleeting interest.

This may sound a little boring, but trust me, I think you will see the benefits once you and your kids hop on board. Violet is 5 and Laurel is 12 and they both already appreciate the idea of family and friends contributing to their college nest. I don’t prompt them, but now when they make a birthday or holiday list, “college money” is on that list.

And to circle back to Laurel, as she’s grown out of animal collectibles and into a tween, she’s definitely moved into an age where it’s not as easy to shop for her. She either doesn’t have specific wants, or she has VERY specific wants (meaning, she’d rather look around and shop for herself). And she is a very conscientious, hard-working student who wants to go to college and knows it will take a lot financially to get there. She’s also the type of relationship-focused kid who values the reality that multiple people are helping build her college nest. I’m so grateful for her understanding and for the loved ones who have contributed.

Bottom line: Practical gifting is boss, not only because it means less clutter you need to deal with but you (and your family and friends who wish to contribute) will be building towards something. To learn more about the 529, hop over to the MEFA> website.

Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Fidelity/MEFA. All opinions about the awesomeness of clutter-free gifting and the value of 529s are, of course, my own.