Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas

*2015 update: This article was written by a prior author of Over the Big Moon. She is no longer contributing to this website. Out of respect for her and of the experience she and her family had, any emails sent to Over the Big Moon from the media in regards to this article will not be answered. Thanks for your understanding.*

It’s true. We have cancelled Christmas in our house this year. Well. at least the version of Christmas our boys have been focusing on.

cancelled christmas

Let me explain. We have not cancelled putting up decorations, celebrating the birth of our Savior, or any of our other heartwarming traditions. But, we have cancelled presents, Santa, and stockings. Their letters to Santa this year will be asking Santa to find someone who needs their presents more.

Here is why – John and I feel like we are fighting a very hard uphill battle with our kids when it comes to entitlement. It is one of the biggest struggles as a parent these days in middle class America. Our kids have been acting so ungrateful lately. They expect so much even when their behavior is disrespectful. We gave them good warning, either it was time for their behavior to change or there would be consequences. We patiently worked with them for several months and guess what, very little changed. One day after a particularly bad display of entitlement John said, “we should just cancel Christmas.” And, so that’s what we did.

Instead we will be taking the money we would have spent on presents and put it towards service projects and giving gifts to others this season. We are trying to teach them the pleasure of giving rather than continuing to feed their childhood desire for more.

The first project we did this season was to hold a clothing driving in our neighborhood. We gathered gently used clothing, sorted them, and packaged them up to send to a village in Northern Cebu of the Philippines. The village was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan last year. Then the kids wrote letters and found hard candy from their Halloween stash that we could ship to the kids in the village. It was awesome! Instead of being sad over giving up their Halloween candy they were excited and kept wanting to give more and more. After we had the boxes all packaged up we mailed them. The kids loved it! It was a lot of money to ship and they understand that they gave up having something, so they could give these clothes to others.

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We also ordered a couple of these 12 piece Nativity sets.

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We will be choosing two families for the 12 days of Christmas. Each day we will deliver a different piece of the nativity. On Christmas day we will give them the last piece of the nativity, baby Jesus. We have a free set of printables for the Nativity countdown here. That will be 12 nights of fun memories we will be making trying to deliver the pieces without getting caught. We are also looking into an Adopt a Grandparent program. For Christmas dinner we have invited several older widows and couples in our area that don’t have family around to eat with us.

See what I mean? How cool will this Christmas be! Instead of focusing on what they will be getting, we will be keeping the focus on what they can give!

The few presents they get from Grandparents and other families members will be more cherished because the quantity will be less. They can enjoy what they get rather than feel overstimulated with so much. Christmas morning won’t be less special without Santa coming. Instead we can enjoy our Cinnamon rolls, play games as a family, and truly enjoy the few presents they did get. There is a good possibility that Santa will be writing them a letter of how proud of them he is and perhaps put a few pieces of hard candy and an orange in their stockings. We have Santa Stationary that is free for download.

I really think that we as parents need to take a step back and look at our motivation for giving gifts to our kids. Obviously we enjoy giving to our kids. That is not bad! But, have we gone too far?  I have had so many people say to me, “This is such a good idea, but I don’t think I could do it.” Which was so true with my husband and I! I think we were more disappointed than our kids when we cancelled Christmas. How often are kids threaten that Santa won’t come if kids are naughty…. yet have you ever heard of anyone that really followed through on that threat? That is where the entitlement comes from. We continue to give our children things even when their behavior doesn’t warrant it, simply because we as parents don’t want to live with the consequences.

That is why we have taken a stand this year. While this may not be the best choice for everyone, it feels right for our family right now. We really want Christmas to be remembered for the right reasons and to keep the focus on the Savior and the feeling of giving. That is the true essence of Christmas. The feeling of kindness and giving are what give Christmas its magic. I am excited that our kids get to focus on that feeling. I am almost certain this will be the best Christmas they ever have! 

Updated to add:

I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. First, my kids are in no way hurting for things. It’s not like I took Christmas away from Tiny Tim here folks. They have good clothes, shoes, and so many toys they can’t keep their playroom clean. They are not sad about what we have done! They have reacted by making gifts for each other and sneaking them into each others stockings. They are learning exactly what we wanted them to learn, because they are not moping around feeling sorry for themselves. They are thinking of others.

The second thing I wanted to clarify is why I wrote this post. Some people seem to think I wrote this for attention. Ummm, the attention you get from posts like this is not good and actually extremely difficult to handle. Right now there is a whole thread, not only ripping me apart as a mother, but also ripping my kids to shreds. The reason I wrote this post is I want to empower parents to feel like it’s okay to take a stand. I think half of the reason we as parents are afraid to take a stand, is because we don’t want our kids to feel like they have the mean parents. I wanted to share what we are doing, so any parents that feel they are struggling with the same issues in their home can see what others are doing and get ideas for their family. My intention is to help support other parents and to raise amazing kids. Unfortunately we had to close the comments. There were too many people who were not being respectful to our family and also other commenters.

I wrote a follow up to this post on December 15th about how our month is going and also my response to the all the craziness surrounding our decision. You can read my response here.

You can also read the follow up on how our Christmas morning went here.

 


Lisa

Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

Comments (1,448)

  • We did this and it WORKS! One caveat, we made each other christmas presents as well as volunteered. No store bought gifts. We got the other family members involved by reserving a neat room at the Ronald McDonald House, making crafts together and the price of admission was socks for the homeless and donated items to the Ronald McDonald House.

  • I ABSOLUTELY agree with every.single.thing. you wrote… I am an American, my husband is from Paraguay and therfore the culture of Santa is not too big in our house… last year I bought my 12 year old a chromebook for Christmas… but my husband insisted that we give it to her before Christmas becuase she needed it and it was too much and would fost the environment of entitlement… Our kids want for nothing and sometimes that is what they get! They enjoy more the few things they receive… and when they ask for something, they usually get it beucase it is so very seldom! I can’t tell you the last time I was asked to buy someting… ! Kudos to you! And don’t listen to the other spoiled Americans that choose to harrass you!!!!

  • i am glad to read this. i enjoy giving gifts to my children so much it would be hard for me also. i have removed santa but thanks to grandma , friends and tv , the kids didnt believe me when i told them there is no santa. grandma was upset that i wouldn’t play the santa game. oh well. i think it was easier for me as a child to differentiate between fantasy and reality and when i found out santa was mom, i wasn’t really bothered. but because of “reality” tv and so much media exposure everywhere, i believe that is why its harder for the kids to understand the difference. I will continue my uphill battle against santa and strive to show them why we celebrate christmas after all. people that speak out against you are just feeling bad about their own situations so they take it out on you. sorry you have to deal with that. have a merry CHRISTmas!!

  • I think you can do both. Our children give every year and still receive on Christmas morning and are very appreciative. I’m not sure I agree with your post, but I will say, this does fell like a who many pins can I get on pinterest type post.

    • Are you kidding me? Yes. I am sure your children are just PERFECT. You sound like the type that would be saying that while picking your child up from jail. “Why officer, there is no way my little Timmy would EVER do something like that. You must not have seen it right.”

  • I commend you in your efforts to teach them about giving and not so much about receiving. I applaud you and your husband’s decision. At some point in our lives as parents, we have to make some decisions that will benefit our children, even if there will be some negative back lash from other’s. Who are we to judge… Definitely not God. I look forward to keeping up with you blog and final outcome.

  • I’m not typically one to comment, but have to throw in my voice here too – I know people can be quite judgmental sometimes and want you to know that they are the minority here. HUGE props to you for doing what you think is right for your family! Each stage comes with new challenges and only you know what is best – it is a private endeavor between you, your husband and the Lord as you seek to raise his children. May the Lord bless you as you strive to do right by them. They will remember it forever and for all the good reasons! 😀 – Erin

    http://www.minutesformama,blogspot.com

  • I’m grateful to have stumbled across your post today. My husband and I made a similar decision when our eldest was only three. We made Christmas more about “how can we be a blessing in the lives of others?” instead of “what else did I get?!” Our child had not developed anything that could be labeled as a bad trait or habit yet, but we wanted to spare them the work involved in unlearning such things at an older age. We witnessed enough people (of varying ages) around us with this entitlement problem, and devised a similar plan to yours which we hoped would prevent our children from becoming entitlement minded. We’ve been celebrating Christmas with these principles in mind for 5 years now, and every Christmas seems more magical and loving/caring than the one before! We now have 4 children and a 5th on the way and each of them view Christmas as a time of giving and sharing, a time of strengthening family bonds, and a time of being an active blessing in the lives of others; rather than a time to “get stuff.” Interestingly, my husband and I have noticed that as our children have grown, this charitable attitude has been displayed more and more throughout the year and not just at Christmas time! I commend you in your efforts to be such wonderfully involved parents. Your children will certainly be blessed for it!

  • As an elementary school teacher, PLEASE believe me when I say what you did is a BLESSING for them, and will continue to help them through their lives. I can’t tell you how many (maybe not rich, but certainly affluent) kids I see come through that have PLENTY and expect to get more, just because they always have! It may be “cute” at four or five, but parents don’t seem to understand how UNcute it is at TWENTY-four or five (and beyond). Godspeed!

    • Thanks for being a teacher. Its a thankless job, Sarah, and we really can’t thank you enough. As far as the other commenter, Jenni, your negativity sucks and I hope it doesn’t bring Sarah down to hear your bullshit, because she sounds like a great person, unlike you.

      • Ummm… Actually it would be your not you are. You are negativity makes no sense in the sentence. And lastly your is a form of the possessive case of you used as an attributive adjective

        • You’re not your our “your are” which is what was posted in the comment in question. Regardless, can we stick to civil, intelligent discussion instead of name calling and nitpicking?

          • Ginger Kinnas Hirsch

            After reading the comments so far…….It does not surprise me how many of the children in America are turning out. They learn what parents live.

          • Thank you Ginger. My thought too. Staying safe behind a screen makes some people really mean.

            Thank you for this blog post, Lisa! I think your idea is splendid. Entitlement is one of society’s biggest problems today. Giving your kids a chance to understand the value of money vs the value of love and service AND combining those two is a great idea. Kudos!

          • Since you insist on nitpicking, the previous reply to the original “your” comment was “YOU are”, not “your are” as you mistakenly stated. If YOU’RE going to try to correct someone, first make sure they’re wrong, THEN make damn sure YOUR comment is correct.

        • ummmm actually, if she was trying to use YOU and ARE it would be [YOU’RE a complete idiot] not (YOUR a complete idiot) she may have been typing too fast and just hit enter without proofreading….either way… as we read it on the reply it IS grammatically incorrect. On another note…. do people really have to be this mean to someone who is trying to share a part of her life that works for her and may be the answer to some other family’s similar issues?

        • You are correct that “your” is a possessive adjective. What makes YOUR statement incredibly ignorant, however, is that there is nothing to be possessed in the statement, “Your a complete idiot.” Furthermore,there are no negative words in the statement, “You are a complete idiot.” You is the subject, are is the linking verb, complete is the adjective, and idiot is the predicate adjective. To all genuine grammar experts out there, YOU are the complete idiot.

        • Dude, she said “Your a complete idiot.” It’s You are, or You’re. I think you missunderstood what comment she was reffering to.

      • Language bullies. The scourge of the internet. Lurking in comment sections, and on social media. Always ready to educate strangers on the correct use of you’re, and your. Because doing this most definitely indicates to everybody else that you must know more about the subject being discussed than the person who committed the error. Wankers!!

    • I THINK IT IS A VERY GOOD IDEA. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT CALLING HER AN IDIOT JUST BECAUSE YOU DO NOT GO ALONG WITH WHAT SHE IS TRYING TO TEACH HER CHILDREN. ARE YOU GOING TO CALL THE PEOPLE THAT DO NOT DO CHRISTMAS AT ALL IDIOTS? CHRISTMAS ISN’T ABOUT THE PRESENTS. IT IS ABOUT GOD.

      • It’s not even just about God, it’s about getting together with family. Caring, and loving others, and giving to others and thinking of others other than just yourself. What she is doing with her kids is a wonderful idea, and I have almost taken Christmas away from my children. Mine just have happened to change their attitude, and stopped being so selfish. I agree with her, and I am happy to see more children caring more for others.

        • Kate, there would be no Christmas to celebrate if it wasn’t for the birth of Christ. So, yeah, it’s all about God! The rest of everything is gravy…but I do love the gravy, too.

          • And you don’t know anything, Original this was a celebration of the new start for reaping next year harvest, you know the ground being reborn.

            The idea of Christ and GOD came when Christianity was MADE by humans.

            Other areas celebrated Winter Solstice.

            As I said it depend where in the world you where, but GOD please.

            The idea of GOD and Christmass came many many many many years later. So it never had anything to do with GOD. Heck I still celebrate how my ancestors did before christianity came.

          • No, actually there would be no Christmas to celebrate if it weren’t for Saturnalia. Jesus of Nazareth’s birth story tells nothing of what time of year it was.

    • while i don’t believe that the parents should say “they are canceling Christmas” because Christmas is the birth of Christ and thankfully we cannot cancel his glorious birth, however, the parents certainly show their strong Christian love for their children by teaching them lessons they can not only learn from, but also gain the wonderful gift of giving. hopefully they will gain a better appreciation for their parents and the good lifestyle that so many don’t get to enjoy (please excuse any grammar mistakes made.)

      • You mean Christ who was born in around March or Maj year 6 basicly around 6 years after when christianity claimed he was born and also several months before they claim lol.

        Beside Christmass existed before Christianity came and before “god” as you call it.

        • No, other celebrations existed before Chrismas, not Christmas itself. Dec 25th was Mithras birthday. Saturnalia in Roman times, other celebrations in other cultures. Pray look to historical sources not LLewellyn.

          The Catholic Church is the one that changed the time to celebrate for their own reasons. Right now, and currently to Christians, Christmas is about Christ, he is the reason for the season.

      • What you say is true, however Christmas before Christianity was called Yule not Christmas. The term Christmas comes from the term Christ Mass which would have been a religious service. Yes the true birth of Christ and thus the Christ Mass was in the spring (which is when Easter is celebrated and we don’t need to discuss how obviously the date for Easter each year is based on Pagan rituals) but since the celebration was incorporated by the Catholic church and kept by the Protestants as well after the Reformation, many Christians view the celebration as that of welcoming Jesus, and to use them wanting to celebrate that as a means to attack them is rather shallow and ridiculous. You can celebrate whatever Christmas means to you however you want to, but allow those with different beliefs to celebrate what it means to them how they want to instead of attacking them for what the Catholic Church did centuries ago to bring in those who were called pagans.

    • It’s sad that you 1) think the teacher above in the way you do 2) were neglected to be taught if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing 3) chose to make a belittling statement without backing it up with a rational, civilized reply.

    • Parenting is not about your kids being your buddy, it is about teaching them to be decent human beings that get along with each other. I see so little follow through from parents, and their kids know it. That is the definition of a spoiled child. They misbehave with no real consequences. This mom as well as the teacher are actually being responsible adults. Kids need boundaries. Parents are doing them and the world a disservice by letting things slide.

      • Our grown children understand now why as young children we told them that we are their parents, we cannot be their friends.

        • It would be a blessing if so many parents acted like parents instead of trying to be their child’s friend…or the cool parents. If the child does something wrong, take away their material things. In the long run, they will become better children and thank you for it once they’ve grown up. A parent that gives their child any and everything is setting that child up for failure, because once that child doesn’t get what they want…look out. When we were kids and our parents punished us, they took away everything that they knew we liked…the TV, the radio, video games, etc. The only thing we were left with were books to read. I can’t tell you how many times I read several books over and over. Lol
          To the mom who authored this article…kudos to you! No matter what anyone says, you and you husband continue to parent your children just as you are doing. No one can tell you how to raise YOUR children. Everyone has an idea of what a parent should do…but what you’re doing is putting them on a path to become caring and responsible adults.

    • Jenni,

      Did you mean to say “You’re a complete idiot?”

      I think we all know who the true idiot is.

    • …or the monster they have created by the time they become teenagers. They will sing a different tune when their angel calls asking them to bail them out of jail. Have seen it happen too often.

    • My wife is a Kinder teacher which is a wonderful thing that she loves. Even at that age you can see the kids that get everything they even blink at and the ones that don’t. The school itself is in a very affluent area, but the students come from all over our city.

      In most cases you can’t tell that difference, but when it comes to holiday and birthday times it becomes night and day. This time of year is the hardest.

      1) It seems that even the parents don’t have a grip on reality as far as teacher incomes go. They know and EXPECT that my wife and I fund some sort of holiday gift craft project for their kids to give them. Which we do, but they tend to just toss them.

      2) The lessons that this teaches the kids are always tough to deal with.

    • I think this is a brave thing to do and only the strongest and most caring parents can pull this off. You are an example to me. Don’t worry about the negative posts. People like Jenny that call others names are sad people that weren’t raised properly themselves.

    • Bless you for being a caring teacher, hard to find these days and let me tell you a good teacher can make all the difference in what kind of adult a child becomes. I have recently been in touch with my 5th grade teacher who had a profound impact on me and crazy as it is he remembers me! Now that is dedication and love.

    • When my son was a 5th grader, he climbed into the car one afternoon announcing,”You are the best mother ever because I got nothing that I wanted for Christmas.” He was astounded that the affluent kids at his school received expensive gifts they cared nothing about, and in comparison, the thoughtful gifts my son had unwrapped suited him. He tells this story now at 16 as a good day story. Take that, Black Friday. I and my wallet win!

      • But your son received gifts nonetheless… and special thoughtful ones! Good for you. That was the better choice. You put a stop to entitlement but still celebrated the love of Christmas.

        I don’t think what you did for love compares to what this mom is doing out of frustration. Had you “cancelled Christmas” do you think your son would have reacted the same way, or been resentful towards you for NOT being thoughtful?

    • At least she knows the difference between “your” and “you’re”. I believe what you mean to say is “You’re a complete idiot!” but I could be wrong…maybe I’m the idiot (eyeroll)

    • ‘Your are’ isn’t correct grammar, maybe before calling others idiots you should look in a mirror…
      btw, it’s ‘you’re’, which stands for ‘you are’ if you hadn’t known…

    • We want to enroll Christina in YOUR school when she is older. Can you leave your contact information please?

    • Hell of an ironic response to an elementary school teacher, Jenni.
      YOU’RE really showing her who is an idiot and who is not.
      Perhaps you should brush up on YOUR grammar before hitting enter.

  • Lisa, I just love this! My husband and I were just talking about the entitlement thing! I hope you will do a follow up post and let us all know how this goes! I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I wish we were neighbors! xoxo

    • Thank you so much! Good to know some people don’t think I’m the worst Mom ever 🙂 Lets do lunch soon, we live so close its lame we never get together! Neighbors would be better but lunch is better than nothing!

  • When I was a kid we spent all of our Christmas money to go on a vacation together to Hawaii. No presents, but an awesome family vacation that we loved way more. Another year, we agreed as a family to give up all our presents and our big dinner to give Christmas to a family in need. I still remember showing up when the kids were asleep and bring tons of gifts and food into their house and how grateful the parents were. We didn’t know the family and never saw them again, but it was a magical Christmas. My mom surprised us with stockings with a few small trinkets and candy on Christmas day, but it was an awesome experience to have growing up.

  • ok, thats awesome, but not giving a present to your children is just mean, and no santa well lets make them grow up now !!!!!!! really ????????1 or 2modest gifts wouldn’t make them feel entitled ? they r doing great with the giving now !!!!!!!! they deserve a traditional christmas .

    • They will be getting 3-4 presents from family members so they are not by any means hurting for presents on that day. Not to mention we are taking a trip to Disneyland in the beginning of December. We are also trying to teach them money management. We told them how much we normally would spend on presents for them and with their help we picked service projects to spend that money on. My husband and I are hoping that this Christmas will have a big impact on them and help them remember how fortunate they are in the future.

      • I do not think it is mean to not give kids gobs of presents. Read accounts of life 100 years ago or in the 1800s. I remember – I mention it to my own kids and students – that I was really taken aback in 2nd grade when I read “Little House in the Big Woods.” Laura talks about getting a peppermint stick and a cornhusk doll for Christmas. And being THRILLED. I too have been guilt of overdoing Christmas, and I put everyone on a budget. I told them, my cap is $200-300 per kid. I gave them the option of either getting year passes to the amusement park nearby or getting gifts. They chose the passes. In addition to that, I bought pjs bottoms and I am looking for another small gift. That’s it. I am not as stressed over finding and wrapping gifts, and now the focus will be on us doing things, not getting things.

        • Its so true! I think that is what I am trying to show my kids is that they don’t have to have so much to be happy! I feel like in the past we have overwhelmed our kids with so much stuff that we have taken the pleasure out of the individual gifts.

        • I told my kids that $30 is the limit this year. They get presents from grandma too, and haven’t complained yet about not getting a ton of gifts.

        • Ginger Kinnas Hirsch

          Thank you for such wonderful ideas. I agree with the entitlement issue. My son expects gifts, or a toy whenever I run to the store. We are working on this. Jenni, don’t listen to any of the negative words. You guys are awesome parents and you are truly involved in your children’s lives. Awesome Job!!!

    • I completely disagree with Susan’s comments. First there is no malice, therefore Lisa and her husband are not being “mean” to their children. They made a decision, came up with a plan and are executing it. There are so many lessons their children are learning from this, like the fact that mom and dad say what they mean and mean what they say. How many times do parents make a threat and then don’t follow through? Far too many.

      Since when did Christmas become about the amount of money we spend on gifts? Christmas is about Christ, end of story. When we lose sight of that fact then we’ve missed the point of Christmas.

      Now if you want to talk about a “traditional” Christmas, it sounds like they are having a “traditional” Christmas. There are decorations, a tree, Santa stockings, and presents to open Christmas morning. Sounds pretty traditional to me.

      As for what children deserve. When you deserve something it implies that you work for it and earn it. Christmas isn’t something to be earned, it is a gift.

    • They ARE getting a traditional Christmas….I guess you’ve forgotten that the Christian Bible told the story of 3 wise men giving gifts to the King of Kings….and that King eventually gave his life to “save” everyone, the ultimate gift. THAT is tradition…..Pay it forward.

    • Mean? Are you kidding? She points out in her blog that santa will ‘probably send them a letter saying how proud of them he is’. I imagine that will be treasured long after any toys they could have received from Santa would be. Every child is born with a pure heart. Parents tend to lose sight of this by giving and giving, in turn all they receive is the sense of entitlement.

      As a child, my family always did ‘secret santa’ for another family. Or the same twleve days of Christmas and it was so much fun as we piled in the van and drove to the other huses, snuck up to the house to leave the gifts, ring the bell, and run like crazy. And if we knew we couldnt get run back to the van quick enough we hid behind a bush til they closed their door with their gifts in hand. You know what I cant remember? Those gifts from santa.

    • Where is it written that we have to give our children gifts? As long as they are fed, clothed, housed and loved then they don’t need much more. I am tired of seeing 3 year olds with Ipads and grade school children with phones and other electronics that they don’t need. If more parents concentrated on teaching their children to work for things that they want and to help people less fortunate themselves then maybe we wouldn’t have so many people on welfare and we wouldn’t have riots where looting is the goal. This society is to focused on what can I get for free and heaven help those who stand in my way!!! Give your child the gift of respect for themselves and others. The gift of self responsibility. The gift of love. If they don’t receive the latest Frozen doll or Iphone I highly doubt that the world would end!!!

    • Is it awesome or mean? They are getting presents from family. They still have a tree and are celebrating, just not with material things from parents. Why modest gifts? It sounds like they have enough and are experiencing joy and satisfaction by doing for others. Deserve? That sounds like entitlement! They deserve a roof, food and clothing. This of course is just my opinion.

    • You are an IDIOT and I am sure your children are spoiled little turds. Yes, when children are acting up ANY gift is going to make it worse. You do not reward a child, no matter what the reason, when they are acting in a way that is inappropriate

  • Your post was great. We have always kept Christmas very small, but I like the idea of going this next step. I have grandchildren now and want them to understand why this Nana doesn’t lavish them with presents, but rather lots of time together experiencing the day and our community.

    God bless you and your husband as you endeavor to do what you know is right for your family and your kids.

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