Spend Less, Enjoy Life More for the Holidays

Americans are expected to spend $682 billion on the holidays this year, running up credit card debt and blowing out their budgets. In the midst of this spending binge, what are we missing?

Parents want to teach their kids “it’s better to give than receive.” Yet we are bombarded with advertisements for the latest gadgets and pressured to “keep up with the Joneses” by having the latest fashions and toys.

Kids need to be shown a clear, alternative vision to the “spend, spend, spend” mentality and culture of immediate gratification that surrounds them. By helping them learn sound financial principles, parents can teach foundational lessons kids need for life: the value of a dollar, the importance of saving vs. spending, and the generosity that comes from thinking of others.

In that spirit, here are 5 Ways to Teach Your Children How to Give Well!

  1. Encourage them to spend strategically: Show kids how to get the biggest bang for their buck. Help them distinguish between things they want and things they truly need.
  2. Show them how to be selective: Train your child to rate the true value of presents before they buy. One way is to have them write down “Why I Want It” and rate each gift according to the satisfaction they expect.
  3. Make a list, check it twice: Teach kids to make lists of what they really want, and to do the same for their family members and friends. Before going shopping, ask them to think about what they might want to buy, estimate costs, and set limits.
  4. Inoculate them against advertising: Help kids understand the psychology of marketing and how advertisers try to manipulate their buying decisions. You’ll help them become more independent in their thinking, and develop goals and values that really matter to them. 
  5. Practice true generosity: Look for unique ways your kids can help those less fortunate during the holidays. Visit a nursing home to sing carols or volunteer as a family to serve meals at a shelter. Ask them to come up with ideas for ways to help others in need.

We all know kids are more likely to learn by the example we set than by the words we say. Here are some additional ways parents can practice what they preach, in order to help kids learn the value of managing finance.

    * Get clear about wants vs. needs: What do we really need? Stop and think about it and get some clarity for yourself. Encouraging your children to do the same will help to empower them for life.

    * Create value comparisons: Rather than falling for some marketer’s value comparison, how about setting up your own? Put a price tag on the things you really enjoy and value.

    * Know your spending triggers: Do you feel driven to buy extravagant gifts? When you have a rough day at work, do you crave some retail therapy to feel better? Are you triggered to overspend in a bookstore, hardware store, or swap meet? “Know thyself”—and especially know your spending triggers so you can outwit them.

    * Curb you buying impulses (and break the spell): Next time you feel the urge to buy something you hadn’t planned to buy, simply clench your fist or flex your bicep. Voila! The spell is broken and you can actually think clearly again!

    * Wrap your charge cards: Some financial advisors tell you to leave your cards at home to avoid temptation. I prefer to wrap my cards in my goals. Every time I take a card out, I see a picture or some words that represent a goal that’s important to me. I get the opportunity to stop and decide whether what I’m about to purchase is more important than that goal.

    * Distinguish “big happy” from “little happy”: The big happy for most of us is having memorable experiences and being with the people we love. That other stuff we chase? That’s usually the little happy—fleeting and not very fulfilling. Here’s an example: One year our family decided to skip the ritual of exchanging gifts altogether. Instead, we took a walk together through a beautiful park. To this day, I still remember that walk almost like it was yesterday. The cost? Zero.

    * Be consistently, consciously grateful: When we practice gratitude, we feel “wealthier” and more prosperous in all ways. Our self-esteem is greater and we just generally feel happy and appreciative of many aspects of our lives. Because of this, we’re less likely to crave material goods to feed an emotional need.

So there you have it—ideas to help you and your family spend less and enjoy life more, through the holidays and year-round. Remember: Teaching children to save wisely, spend strategically, and give thoughtfully to others will help them become financially independent for life.


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