Control Spending to Keep Meaning in the Holidays

Couple Returning Home From Holiday ShoppingThe holidays are high season for generosity and goodwill. We donate to toy drives, volunteer at soup kitchens, and find reasons to smile at strangers.

Yet consumerism also takes hold at this time of year. Mom wants spa services and “bling,” dad wants the latest tech toy, and the kids want everything under the sun. Spending takes priority over saving and living within one’s budget, and we brace for a blizzard of bills in the new year.

So, how do you tame the financial excesses of the season, without being dubbed the resident Grinch? It’s a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort. Start by getting the kids on board with the idea of a less-commercial holiday. Here are some holiday budget tips on how to do just that:

Banish expensive brands: Remind the kids that big-name brands can mean hefty price tags for many items. This year, insist that the youngsters learn to cut elite brands from their wish lists and graciously accept gifts of quality that lack nothing, but a fancy label.

Use that allowance: If the kids want to buy gifts for family and friends, don’t fork over dollars from your own wallet for their purchases. Tell them that they must use funds from their own savings or allowance. It’s a great way to instill the value of a dollar. You can help children set up a holiday spending plan as a way to teach them the basics of budgeting.

Think ahead: The holidays can be a great time to talk with your children about needs versus wants. Remind young ones that every dollar spent on them for gifts is a dollar that’s not socked away for a rainy day or for their future, such as in a college fund. Discuss the importance of higher education, and the daunting costs involved. Broach the topic of retirement planning with the older kids. It’s never too early to start learning about the financial realities of life.

Shop smart: Everyone wants to give gifts that will be treasured by the recipient during the holidays. However, that doesn’t mean heading to the priciest store at the mall. Make it a family goal to purchase fewer items overall this year. Resolve to make the season more meaningful with homemade gifts or purchases from local craftsmen. You can shop at small, mom-and-pop businesses to support your community. And, you’ll show the kids you’re serious about saving money if you buy at least a few gifts from consignment stores or flea markets.

Brainstorm ideas: Call a family financial summit and brainstorm ideas on how to control spending this holiday season. Give the kids a voice in how to streamline gift-giving, meals, decorations and parties. Get those creative young minds working. Ask for the kids’ input on bargain hunting via the Internet, designing homemade decorations, or even selecting gag gifts for your office party.

Good citizens: It’s not always easy for kids to control their spending habits, but parents can help by steering young ones away from goods and toward good works. The holidays offer children ample opportunities for volunteering and charitable endeavors. This can be as simple as helping elderly neighbors by shoveling a walkway or running errands. Kids can also donate money to a charity that they choose themselves. Organizations that help children, such as Toys for Tots or the Make a Wish Foundation – may be appealing to youngsters who wish to start a tradition of holiday donations.

As you take measures to focus the children on giving, not buying, you’ll be putting the heart back in the holidays. And, you’ll have less financial strain in the new year – what a great present for you!

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Categories: Saving Money
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