How to Stay on Christmas Budget and Teach the True Meaning of the Holidays

iStock_christmasHow do you keep your children happy while staying on budget, curbing the gimmies and teaching the true meaning behind the holidays? Read on for some practical, easy-to-follow advice.

Did you know that in 1977, the number one requested Christmas gift for children was slime? For those of you who weren’t alive in the 70s, or as a refresher, slime was this mysterious gooey substance, usually made of fluorescent green. It came in its own tub, but usually once it got out, there was no putting it back. Slime was a toy that lived up to its name. It oozed through your fingers and could be placed over other toys and things to make them seem as though they were covered in, well, slime. This hot toy retailed for less than $3.

Today, it certainly isn’t slime that kids want. That seems pretty laughable. This year, practically every child ages four an older wants a tablet or a smartphone. These hot “toys” retail for up to $600. Usually that isn’t the only present request a child gives Santa, either. The lists seem to get longer as they days (and the television commercials) pass. Marketing to children is at an all-time high.

We can’t be too hard on our children. Current society offers so many messages telling them that more is good, and not having the latest whatever-it-is means you will quickly fall behind. Even a kindergartener may feel pressure to have a certain toy in order to fit in.

Unfortunately, it usually falls to the parents to deal with the consequences of all of this–or what can simply be called the gimmies.

Find Out What Your Child Really Wants

For very young children, want they seem to want can be transient and subject to whims. Just hand a little one a catalogue, and he may suddenly be begging for a lawn chair or a decorative pillow. Before you help Santa with the list, make sure a want has been on the list for a while, otherwise you may wind up buying additional gifts as new requests come up. Ask why a particular something is wanted, and you may find out something new about your child.

Invest in One Really-Wanted Gift

Purchasing one really wished-for gift, even if it is on the expensive side, might actually be the right thing to do, as long as you deem it appropriate for the child. Often, families who avoid an expensive gift wind up spending even more on a bunch of less-used things. Older children will especially appreciate this, and it will reinforce the fact that the sheer number of presents (remember Dudley Dursley, the spoiled cousin from Harry Potter?) is not an indicator of worth or happiness.

Set an Example

Adults in the family should be purposeful in setting an example for their children when it comes to gift getting and giving. Have you been focusing lately on shopping and spending to get the perfect gifts? Have you given your own long list to your spouse? While intentions may be good, children tend to focus on what they see. Put down the store ads (or at least look at them after the kids are in bed), and focus on other things this season while little eyes are watching.

Change Your Family’s Perspective

Instead of focusing on visits and lists to Santa (although they can be fun), why not take the time for a family project that turns the focus from gifts to giving? Adopt a needy family, volunteer at a pet shelter, or find some other way to invest in those who don’t have as many material blessings. Brainstorm ideas with the kids and then put them into action. Guaranteed that faced with those less fortunate, at least some of the gimmies will slink away.

This entry was posted in Kids and Money and tagged , , by Mary Ann Romans. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mary Ann Romans

Mary Ann Romans is a freelance writer, online content manager, wife and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods but close enough to Target and Home Depot. The author of many magazine, newspaper and online articles, Mary Ann enjoys writing about almost any subject. "Writing gives me the opportunity to both learn interesting information, and to interact with wonderful people." Mary Ann has written more than 5,000 blogs for since she started back in December 2006. Contact her at maromans AT or visit her personal blog