How to Ring in the Holidays by Reigning in Gift-Giving Expenses
Well, the turkey has been digested, Central Park’s tree is glowing LED-bulb bright, and the “days until Christmas” can be counted in hours. That can mean only one thing: the Super Bowl of seasonal gift giving has arrived, with all its NFL-style hype and overindulgence.
Before parents and children gear up for that fourth quarter Hail Mary buying spree, perhaps we should call a collective “time out” and reign in how loud we ring in the holidays.
For many American families, this is far from an easy task. Don’t worry if you’ve tried to impart this lesson before, only to fall a few yards short of a first down. With each passing year, it seems the “holiday creep” – the advancing of the so-called “holiday season” earlier and earlier into the calendar — has become epidemic.
Ghosts and goblins begin popping up in big box stores by as early as August and pine-scented Christmas trees, wreaths, and other holiday decorations adorn department stores long before even the highest Rocky Mountain elevations measure a single snowflake.
Thanks to the increasingly mobile nature of the Internet, promoters and marketers have new tools to aggressively offer daily deals, location-specific marketing, and an almost non-stop stream of anywhere advertising. This makes it extremely difficult for parents and children to tune out the shopping frenzy noise. Just Google “Black November” – a play on the “Black Friday” term once relegated to a single day of the month – and you’ll find nearly half a million hits. I can guarantee that by the time my readers see this post, the number of Google hits for the same phrase will have grown.
Too often our society equates emotional value with monetary value. If something is more expensive, the logic goes, it has more meaning. In my opinion, this is a very unhealthy way to live, and a particularly damaging lesson to impart to our children.
While it may sound a bit clichÃ©, it really is the thought that counts.
The bottom line is to make sure your kids (and adults) understand the importance of giving appropriately. An overgenerous gift can indicate too much of a need for approval or control, it can embarrass the receiver, or it can signal the beginning of an unhealthy materialistic competition.
You can explain to kids that parents and other family members love all gifts the same, no matter how much is spent. A solution is to have the kids pool their resources for one gift, with everyone putting in what they can afford as a percentage of their allowance.
This serves as a dual benefit teaching intelligent budgeting and saving.
Once your children know how much they’re going to be spending on gifts, they can begin to make a saving schedule. If they take the cost of the gift and divide it by the amount they are going to be saving each week, they know how many weeks they are going to have to save, so they can mark on the calendar the week they are supposed to start saving.
For very important gift recipients within the family – perhaps parents or grandparents – you may want to help your kids get that very special gift. They should still work for each gift they’re giving. But you can help them with a matching fund. In other words, if they save diligently according to the schedule you’ve agreed upon, you’ll match the total.
Do this if you can afford it; don’t do it if you can’t. Discuss what gifts can be subsidized with a matching fund in a family meeting.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of all this planning, preparing, budgeting and scheduling, is time. Slowing down the shop-till-you-drop adrenaline rush makes it easier for families to focus on what really matters: enjoying quality time together and sharing monetarily appropriate gifts that say “I care” more than they say “I spent.”
Thanks for indulging in this little holiday season “time out.” Consider it your family’s first step in shopaholicism’s full-blown recovery. Now back to the game!
Neale S. Godfrey is an acknowledged expert on family and children’s finances who has been in the financial field for more than 30 years. Early in her career, Neale became one of the first female executives at The Chase Manhattan Bank. Later, she became the president of The First Women’s Bank and founder of The First Children’s Bank. In 1989, Neale formed Children’s Financial Network, Inc., whose mission is to educate children and their parents to take charge of their financial lives. Neale is the author of 17 books that deal with money, life skills, and STEM education, and has been honored with a #1 New York Times Best Seller, Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children . She is on the Board of Directors of UN Women and sits on Governor Christie’s Task Force for Gender Parity. Neale is the proud mother of two amazing children and two incredible grandchildren. Follow her on Twitter, Check out her Facebook page.