“You know that coupon book you gave to Virginia?” my seven-year-old daughter asked one Christmas, staring at me seriously as if a lawyer in a courtroom. “That’s pretty cool.”
Thankfully I had made one for her, and it would be ready for her eighth birthday in a few months.
Do you remember favor tickets from your childhood? I was re-introduced to the idea by the Center for a New American Dream, an organization that is redefining the American dream towards “what really matters: creating a meaningful life, contributing to community and society, valuing nature, and spending time with family and friends.”
When I was reading more about the New Dream’s ideas for simplifying and de-commercializing the holidays, I was intrigued that the most memorable family gifts for psychologist Tim Kasser, author of the book and video The High Price of Materialism, are coupons for favors.
On Christmas Eve, my wife and I sit down and make little colored pencil drawings on slips of paper as coupon gifts for our two sons.
Some coupons let them skip their fruit or vegetable at dinner but still get dessert, some let them stay up 15 minutes past their regular bedtime, some let them not have to pick up their mess after they’ve been playing, and some make it so my wife or I stop what we are doing and read them a book or play a game of their choice.
For their birthdays, I also give each boy a “Fun Day with Dad” coupon, where each gets to plan a whole day of activities.
Now our boys sometimes give us coupons for presents too – my wife and I have received coupons for back massages, taking out the compost, and even “no bickering for the whole day.
Handmade favor tickets are free yet meaningful, and my daughters liked them so much that I recommended the idea to Sarah (a participant in the Frugal Mama Makeover Series) who was looking for ways to keep Christmas fun for the kids without getting more into debt. (You can see the before and after videos at Discovery’s HowStuffWorks Videos.)
Make This Coupon Book in 1/2 Hour
This printable ticket book is so simple that it requires no measuring and minimal cutting. And you don’t have to have a paper-cutter (that’s just me being obsessive).
- 8.5″ x 11″ paper
- Stapler (or ribbon — see below)
- paper cutter (for super straight lines)
(I used card stock for the cover by feeding it into the manual slot of our old laser printer, and our new printer takes card stock right in the paper tray. Regular copy paper is fine too.)
Print the book pages. There are 4 per page, so if you print 10 pages, you’ll get 40 coupons.
As you can see, I printed my pages on a different colored paper, because I had it lying around, but white looks crisp and clean.
Fold the cover page in half, then in half again, so you have 4 equal sections.
Cut the cover into equal fourths by cutting along the folds. Either with a paper-cutter or with scissors.
Now for the coupons themselves. Fold them in half and then half again, just like the cover, so you get 4 coupons per sheet.
Cut them into four tickets by cutting along the folded lines, either with a paper-cutter or with scissors.
Now you should have a front and a back cover, plus a stack of coupons.
Stack the front and back covers with the pages together like a book, making sure all the coupons are facing the right direction.
Either staple them together, or punch two holes in one end with a hole-puncher.
If you use the hole-punch method, you can tie them together with a short length of ribbon. (I used ribbon recycled from birthday presents.)
Feed the ribbon from the top to the bottom and then up to the top again, so you can tie the bow in the front.
Write who the book is for, and who it’s from. (Coloring in the title with colored pencil was kind-of fun, but I’m not sure it made it look any better.)
Fill in each ticket. I love writing with a thin Sharpie.
See my Printables page for more fun free stuff to print out.
So what else did I give my kids besides staying up later? Here are some of our past favors, but the privileges that your kids would want (and that you are willing to grant them) will probably be different.
- 1/2 hour of one-on-one time with Dad (or Mom)
- watching a movie together this weekend
- choosing what’s for dinner tonight
- a playdate this week
- skipping a chore this weekend
- an extra story tonight
Just like Tim Kasser, I too have gotten some amazing coupons from my kids on Mother’s Day, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. The tickets are good for hairdos, foot massages, nail treatments, breakfast in bed, or “anything you want me to do for you when you’re stressed and tired.”
I love that my kids know that I value their creative, self-invested gifts much more than the impersonal store-bought ones that they could afford with their allowance money. I’ll trade clutter for quality time with my kids any day.