We have all been affected by the economic downturn in America. We are checking our kid’s "Dear Santa" list, scratching our heads and wondering, "How am I going to afford the mortgage, let alone little Johnny’s wish list?" I have been implementing several family traditions over the last five years and have found that theses tips will help take the emphasis off the money, and place it where it belongs, in the holiday spirit of Christmas and the holidays. Here are five practical and fun suggestions that any family can utilize for quality holiday time with family, without a quantity of bills come January.
1. Pass The Rubber Chicken, Please!
A long-standing and treasured hilarious tradition in my family has been passing along the same Rubber Chicken, with special additions created by family members, which reflect the gift recipient’s year. I believe every family with kids should have an inexpensive and preferably funny holiday tradition that the kids and adults look forward to experiencing annually. And even if you have a normal tradition such as exchanging ornaments, get creative in searching out that one-of-a-kind piece.
One great way to decide on your annual holiday tradition is to ask your kids what they most remember about Christmas last year. If it was going out and getting the Christmas tree, then perhaps your tradition is a tree-trimming party. If what was most memorable was going out to breakfast in new flannel pajamas on Christmas morning, perhaps there is now the annual Christmas Eve gift of new pajamas for everyone.
2. Give The Gift Of Gratitude, Not Guilt.
Family members can give a group gift instead of individual gifts. For example, save money by getting one gift for Dad that’s from Mom and the kids, or a gift for each of your children that is from Mom, Dad, grandma and grandpa. Holiday fun can quickly turn into holiday remorse if family members try to one-up each other on the gift giving. If individual gift giving is practiced, make it an even playing field when buying gifts for kids by setting a dollar limit that everyone can spend on the children. Tell children that the most important thing is that you are together as a family. Model gratitude for your children by placing a priority on the connecting and spending time with each other rather than a frenzied focus on what we’re getting each other for Christmas.
3. Have a Christmas Budget Family Meeting.
How many times has the reasoning behind your child’s Christmas list been "Dear Santa: I don’t know why I want this but I just do!" You must investigate why your children are asking for certain items in order to determine what’s really important to them and what will work with your budget. If you plan a family meeting where you are going to be open and honest and talk to your kids about having to scale back on holiday purchases, you’re teaching them self-discipline and you can discuss the bigger picture of what you want as a family. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could spend more time together versus working harder to pay off our Christmas purchases?
Kids have plenty of creative ideas and it can empower them and make them want to get on board when you ask, "What do you think we can do to get out of debt, or not go into debt, as a family this year at Christmas time?" Make a Christmas list right after Thanksgiving, during the biggest shopping weekend of the year, and then put it away for a couple of weeks. When as a family you revisit the list, narrow it down to the three things your kids really want. Then, talk to them about why they want something: What’s so special about this? It doesn’t hurt to quiz them a little to understand if it’s truly something they can’t live without.
4. Teach Children The Meaning Of a "We" Not "Me" Christmas.
The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to teach children about the power of giving of themselves to help others. Inspiring children with the story of Kris Kringle, a child who liked to give more than he liked to receive is a great start. Explain to your children why it’s important to give to others as a family and select a charity that you want to support, either with your time or money or both. Make it a family weekend project in November to start collecting hand-me-downs from everyone’s closets that you plan to give away to charities at Christmas.
5. The More Mini-Moguls, The Merrier.
When you buy a financial investment for your children, it is a gift that can educate your children as well as entertain them forever. Children have the gift of time, and there is no better time then now to invest in your child’s financial future. Children very rarely remember the gifts, but for years to come they will be thanking you for investing in their financial future. Family members can open a high interest savings account, like ING Direct’s Orange savings. Sharebuilder for stocks is a great way to get kids started in buying individual stocks through dollar cost averaging. Start teaching children the value in saving and investing money early, because as we have learned over the last year, when you have the security of money in the bank it’s your number one asset.