If you are a parent you’re likely guilty. I know I am. I love to see my daughter’s face light up at the sight of a new toy. So when it comes to the holidays, birthdays or really any other present giving event it is easy to go overboard. And overboard we do go as Americans in general…
In a recent Gallup poll, Americans forecast they will spend $712 on Christmas gifts this year… per person! Just do the math for your family and you can see that the holidays are expensive.
So how DO you keep happy kids and happy parents?
For older children
This is a great way to start to teach older kids the concept of money and how fast you can spend it. Decide on a budget and then allow them to pick out gifts that still stay within the budget. You can even make it fun by printing out fake money and then having your child put the money in different envelopes for each item they wish to have. They will soon find out it is amazing how fast money is spent!
But how about if they really want that $400 video game system and your budget is half that amount? Then it is time for your children to start learning about work and savings. Have them do extra chores, mow lawns or babysit. Make them earn the money. Yes, this may mean they have to wait to get that item but think of it as a great way to teach a child that they need to have the money before buying the item. A lesson that many adolescents – and adults – are never taught.
With all the advertising and commercials, it can be even harder to control younger children who do not understand the concept of money or budgets. That is why it is important to start limiting the amount of gifts early so they do not expect everything they want. This is where the old practice of lists becomes very useful. There are a couple concepts that you can employ.
The first concept is the 3 item list. This is the idea that they only get 3 items for the holidays. This helps them really choose what they want and it stops the parents from going overboard. This can also be made fun by allowing your child to cut out items from magazines and glue them to their holiday list.
The second idea is having a list that the parent fills out. This is great for very young children and parents who need to control their own spending. In this concept, you make your own list, for example…
1 educational toy, 1 fun toy, 1 piece of clothing, 1 book
Make a list and stick to that list. If you have already bought a fun toy, check that item off the list. There are always more holidays or birthdays that gifts can be given.
Remember that gifts are not an entitlement that children should expect, but something that is a privilege. The holidays should not be centered on presents or gift giving but on family time. Start a tradition or find an organization to volunteer with as a family. In the end, remember that you can always buy presents but memories are priceless.
Amanda Ellerbe writes and teaches about family finances, frugal living and nurturing children. She is also a military wife, and stay at home Mom, of a 2 year old with baby #2 due in March. If you ever have any questions or comments please feel free to reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.