They started showing up the week before Halloween.
The catalogs, big and small, from stores and online vendors. The next thing you know, the kids have gone through every page, circled what they want from Santa and then they remind you every day what they want to see under the tree on Christmas morning. It is impossible to fit everything circled under the tree, and it is definitely cost prohibitive to buy it all.
The next thing you have to do is have a conversation about pairing down the list to make it both reasonable and cost effective. You can use these discussions to discuss tried and true financial concepts to your children. These concepts may be the best gift of all, since they can use them when making financial decisions during their lifetime.
Even Santa Has a Budget
At Christmas, we spend the same amount on both of our grandchildren (a gift she picked up from her mother). They are aware of it, and it allows us to have really good conversations about the limit and how purchasing a more expensive gift could result in one of them not having as many gifts as the other. We also let them know that we have a budget as well.
Not all Wishes Come True
Now, more than ever, kids have the ability to create a wish list, whether they use the tried and true method of using paper and pencil or creating one online. Then, we get the job of letting them know that just because it’s on the list, does not mean Santa is going to deliver it.
Most kids will ask for something that is not age appropriate (this differs from family to family). Younger kids always want what the older kids are getting, regardless of age. Use this opportunity to let them know which gifts will be removed from the list and discuss at what age that gift would be appropriate.
What Gifts Will They Be Giving
What a great way to teach your kids about the true spirit of giving than to ask them what they plan on giving to those closest to them? Maybe it’s helping with the chores on Christmas Day, or maybe it’s creating cards with colors and construction paper, or even just wishing family members a heartfelt Merry Christmas. Instilling the concept of giving in your children at a young age will play a big part in who they become as young adults.
Make One of Your Gifts a Piggy Bank
For older kids, maybe open a Savings Account instead. The concept you’re teaching here is the importance of saving. Just about every child will be receiving cash or gift cards of some sort over the holidays. Work with them on developing a plan for saving a percentage of these gifts and add a match from you to make it more appealing (say 25 percent). Then, set short- and long-term goals for saving additional money over time.
Volunteer As A Family
Most schools or church organizations perform some sort of Community Outreach during the holidays. Whether it’s providing meals to the needy or gathering warm clothing for those less fortunate, being involved in these efforts will help your child grow into a compassionate adult, a skill all of us should have. Setting an example by serving the food together, or coordinating the gathering and distribution of the clothing, will help make volunteerism just part of what your child will do as they become an adult.
The high school my son went to has a long history of providing Thanksgiving meals to the needy. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, each homeroom is responsible for gathering money through donations, in-classroom activities, and gifts from different alumni classes (one alumni class pays for all of the turkeys). On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, each homeroom purchases the rest of the items needed to complete the meal and then delivers the entire meal to the home of a deserving family. My son, and his classmates, still participate, and now, they are getting their children involved as well.
While most of us think of presents when reflecting on the holidays. Focusing on the opportunity to teach important lessons to your kids or providing a helping hand to those in need are equally important and will have a larger impact on the adults your children will become.