Lower Cost Christmas
Setting proper expectations can save you from at least some grief.
This episode is being recorded during the holiday season and this year has been very stressful for a lot of people due to our struggling economy. Someone asked me how to tell his child that the gift he wants this year just isn’t within his budget. What do you do when Santa can’t make good on his list? It happens. Sometimes that 300 dollar game system is simply not within reach. With all of the commercialism surrounding the holidays, it can be very difficult to convince a kid that Christmas isn’t actually about the gifts. It’s a touchy subject: for some people, it's about gift-giving, for some it’s a religious celebration, and for others it’s about family and friends sharing and spending time together. Regardless of your reasons for celebrating or the actual holidays you do celebrate, the economic crunch may cause you to re-think the types of gifts your children will be opening this year.
The first suggestion I have is to communicate with your kids up front. Setting proper expectations can save you from at least some grief. Your presentation is important, of course. Kids who are old enough to hear it can be told that everyone is saving money this year, and if they make a list, ask them to include different items in different price ranges. If there is an expensive gift that they feel strongly about, ask them if they would prefer to have that one item instead of receiving several gifts from relatives. You can then ask others who would normally give gifts if they would be willing to gift money toward that item instead. Some people might balk at giving money instead of something thoughtful, but if they are going to spend the money anyway, they might reconsider if they understand that you’ve talked to your child and he’s agreed that this is the one item he truly wants. If your relatives absolutely insist on purchasing gifts, there isn’t anything you can do about it. Have your child accept the gifts gracefully and if it won’t cause a huge family battle, you could consider returning the item to the store and getting the cash back for it. Yes, it is sneaky business, so proceed with caution.
This year due to both the economic crunch and my desire to teach my kids about the gift of giving homemade, I’ve had them help me make goodies to give out as gifts. You can save money by making crafts, baked goods, or other types of homemade gifts in place of shopping. Homemade crafts and treats are great for neighbors, teachers, and people who give you unexpected gifts. While the kids are helping you bake or decorate cookies, you can talk to them about how special these gifts are because you’ve all put so much love into the process. Explain to them that the value of a gift is completely different when it wasn’t simply bought in a store. It’s also a good time to explain to your child that just because a gift costs a lot of money it isn't necessarily better than something that is actually meaningful to the recipient. Older kids can even give the gift of their time. Homemade gift certificate books with offers to take out the trash or make everyone’s beds for a week can be great gifts for kids to make for their parents. Dad can work with them to make these for Mom or vice versa. Just make sure the offers are for things that are not included in your child’s regular chores. Mom would probably even appreciate a couple of coupons for complaint-free hugs from her teenager.
Finally, keep in mind that some items do go on sale after Christmas. If you can hold out, you might be able to save some money by being patient. This year my daughter has requested an item which has been on store shelves all year, but that she’d never shown any interest in. Then during her yearly visit with Santa she let it be known that this was the item she wanted more than any other. Unfortunately, Santa had already chosen her gift for the year, so I decided to get her the gift she’d told Santa about and have it be her gift from Mommy. When I arrived at the store I discovered that the item had been sold out. I searched online and the price had increased so much that it’s completely out of a reasonable range. We’ll simply have to wait until after the holiday to see if the price will go back down enough for this item to become a member of our toy box. Until then, my daughter will need to understand that sometimes, you get what you get and that really is OK.
That’s it for now. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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