Thursday, December 4, 2008

Setting Christmas Spending Limits

Two days after Thanksgiving my hubbs and I had taken our boys to look around Toys R Us. I know. Not the smartest move, but they wanted special time out with Mom and Dad and it's one of their favorite stores.

One of the first things we noticed was the amount of toys being piled in the carts, and these were not cheap toys. My husband and I looked at one another, both thinking the same thing: money problems abound yet parents are spending like there's no tomorrow.

This morning on my favorite local morning radio show they had a guest on, Dr. Matt Sellers (totally guessing on how to spell his last name). The good doc is a psychiatrist and one of his biggest points was on how not to disappoint your kids this Christmas if it looks as though you honestly need to cut back.

Point 1 - Be honest with your kids. Let them know money's a little tight this year, and that even Santa's had to cut back. Believe it or not, they'll understand. How do I know? Because we did this very thing with our kids about a month ago. We've never been able to give our kids tons, but we had to let them know that because we don't have daddy's second job anymore, beyond Santa's gift they'd be getting just one present from us (and their stockings). I was incredibly relieved, and utterly pleased, when they all said, "It's okay."

Let your children know everyone hits hard times. Everyone! Just because things are tight this year doesn't mean they'll be the same next year.

If things are bad enough you can't afford presents, talk to your kids about how there may be other families who are having very difficult times, or children who are in hospitals and won't even get to be home for Christmas, and then give them the option to be generous. Tell them Santa might appreciate being able to make sure these children/families get presents, because otherwise they might not get anything at all.

Point 2 - Make Christmas about so much more than presents. We frequently hear people complaining that this holiday is too much about the commercialism and not about the true meaning. Perhaps we've muttered the words a time or two ourselves. Now can be the year you put the idea of making Christmas about Christ into action. Now is the time to bring that peaceful spirit into the lives of your family. Look to making new and more meaningful traditions.

Bake cookies or bread and take them to neighbors in need. Go caroling. Look for free concerts. Check out all the houses decorated with lights. One tradition I hope to begin this year will be reading "The Forgotten Carols" with my kids (if you haven't heard of it, look soon for a review on Mel's Book List ;D). Read through the story of the birth of Christ. Try acting the story out. There are so many possibilities.

Point 3 - Be mindful of what you're spending. The good doctor said when we're feeling strapped, down and depressed, too many of us try to deny it and spend, spend, spend. Then come January when all the bills come due we fall into deeper depressions.

I have lived in denial when it comes to money. It's too easy to do. The thing we all have to come to realize is eventually denial is trumped by reality. It is so important to bite the bullet and deal with the harshness when it comes. Times are hard right now. That doesn't mean they won't be better by this time next year, or in two years. If we learn to be honest enough with ourselves, to recognize the need to cut back for now, we will be happier in the long run.

In other words, deal with the fact that spending less now will leave you more after the holidays. Sit down, look over what you have to spend, and stay within those limits! It really is just that easy (No Errin. Not even if it's on mega-sale).

Quick review: be honest with your kids, look to making new traditions to make Christmas more meaningful, and watch what you spend. Good luck!

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I was so happy when my 5 year old reminded me and his sister that Christmas isn't all about presents, but Jesus' birth! I have always tried to keep gifts "small" and this year I decided too to cut back to one gift from Santa. Why not have it be one special gift? I love that idea. I told my kids that Santa has to give to all the other kids in the world too. I also decided on a new tradition I want to do (guess I better get on it though! Christmas is coming so quick!) But that we go out to eat as a family and then hit the "Family Dollar" store (this isn't the dollar store) and we each break off and pick a gift for each family member, as secretly as possible :).
Now I just need to keep on convincing husband that Family Dollar is a better choice than Target because it's cheaper and less overwhelming...
We've never had the kids pick for each other or for me and hubby, and I wanted to bring the focus into the joy of giving something to each family member.
Thanks for sharing your insight on this issue Laurie!