Christmas on a budget with children

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

“If you want something expensive, you should ask your grandparents.” Matthew, aged 12

‘Money makes the world go around!’, as Liza Minnelli sang in “Cabaret”, but debt is on the increase and Christmas can stretch family finances at the best of times. Here’s how to turn the situation around:

  • The gift of knowledge. Learning about money is an essential life skill for your children. Teaching them the value of money this Christmas could be a blessing and a valuable long-term life lesson.

Talk to them about the gifts they want and what you can afford – don’t feel embarrassed about saying “no” to some of your child’s ideas. Having the most expensive present isn’t really what it’s all about, is it?

Children learn their attitudes and values towards money from you, as you are their first role model. Your child learns a lot by just watching you and how you deal with money. Helping children to develop good money habits and teaching them how to save and budget will steer them towards a better financial future.

  • Practise using money. Learning how to handle money is a practical way for your child to develop their sense of independence, confidence and self-esteem. Pocket money helps to teach children about making choices, about saving up, and about learning to wait for things they want. They’ll also learn the hard way about the consequences of misplacing it, losing it, spending it all immediately or giving it away!

Today’s children are constantly exposed to the power of advertising which has a very strong influence on them. It is therefore important to explain about how advertising, particularly at Christmas time, can make them want things that they don’t really need or can’t really afford or may just be completely unsuitable for them.

Help your child learn the differences between needs, wants, and wishes as this will prepare them for making good spending decisions in the future.

You may be worried about being more like Scrooge than Santa this Christmas so I think it helps if you just relax and grab a cup of coffee and a pen and paper (I’m a great believer in writing things down for clarity and commitment!) and just ask yourself better questions.

  • Do you know exactly what your family wants for Christmas?Just stop for a moment and really prepare youself by asking yourself some simple questions:
  • What does Christmas mean to me?
  • What memories do I want to build for the children that they can tell their own children one day?
  • What traditions do we have and what new ones could we introduce this year that would be fun?
  • What would the kids say is the best thing about our family Christmas?
  • How could I get more involved in just playing with the kids over the festive season and having simple fun with them, like making our own decorations or having an impromptu Christmas party?
  • What family games are great fun and would get away from the Wii or Playstation?
  • What would be the benefits of spending more quality time with the kids?
  • How can I remember to have fun but still keep a firm hand on my discipline and routines at this time when over excitement can lead to bad behaviour?
  • What is an acceptable amount of money to spend on the kids for me?
  • What values about money, having and sharing am I passing on to them?
  • What gifts will last longer, as they have to use thier imaginations to play with them?
  • What could the kids share, so I don’t have to buy a big present for each of them?Christmas can be a time of frantic, stressful consumerism or it can be a great time of magic memories and time spent together having fun. It’s all about your focus, your attitude and your vibes! Children spell love and T-I-M-E: aside from all the gift hype at Christmas, deep down each child just wants to know that they are loved and special.

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