“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
America has come a long way from the Depression-era society that lived by this mantra. And few would argue the fact most of us don’t listen to the advice of people who survived those hard times. That’s one of the reasons for the economic shape we’re in now.
For many of us, this economic crisis has been a wake-up call, but it’s occurred at a time of year when we historically spend a lot. Last month I addressed some ways we can practice financial discipline, but how do we do this with Christmas right around the corner?
Search Institute has identified Responsibility and Planning and Decision-Making as two of the 40 Developmental Assets. Research shows these are characteristics of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future. And financial discipline is one of the ways we can demonstrate these assets.
Here are a few ideas for making financial responsibility a family affair this Christmas.
Budget the gift-giving. Decide how much your family will spend during this holiday season. Encourage extended-family gatherings to reduce costs. Tell your children how much they can expect to receive and ask them to work their wish lists to fit within the budget (number of gifts or dollar value.)
Create a wish list. Ask kids to cut out items from magazines or catalogs, and glue them to a piece of cardstock. Stick it to the refrigerator, and as you get closer to Christmas, ask them to narrow their choices, based on the budget you’ve set.
Give one, get one free. We all have items we know we need to purchase throughout the year. There’s nothing wrong with going double-duty at Christmas. Consider giving basketball shoes, dance accessories, piano music or guitar tuner. It’s nice to have extra things to open, and you’d need to buy them anyway.
Buy pre-owned. Especially for small children, buy pre-owned. While new may make a difference to preteens, I’ve never met an infant, toddler or preschooler who looked at tags. You can get just what she ordered for pennies at Good Will, Savers, Salvation Army or garage sales. Then work out a coop with your friends so you can rotate the toys. Your kids will never miss them while the trucks and Legos entertain another toddler for a while.
Think outside of the gift-box. Consider gifts that provide future opportunity to do something fun. These can be low-dollar gifts like “DQ trip with Dad” or “free movie rental” or high-dollar items, like concerts or museum field trips. Older kids may appreciate a gift certificate to use during the after-Christmas sales instead. Even a shopping spree at a second-hand store will be well-appreciated by kids who understand the bargains to be found. (I regularly outfit both my kids in brand-name clothes for a fraction of the cost I’d have to pay at the mall.)
Shop one-to-one. Make special time to shop with your child to purchase gifts for siblings, spouse or grandparents. Encourage your child to participate in choosing the gift. Shopping can be a joy for kids, even if they receive nothing material at the end of the trip.
Find fun without presents. At large family gatherings, discover other ways to entertain besides giving gifts. Most kids would be thrilled to play board games, make crafts, watch movies or play Bunko for a white elephant gift exchange.
Start a family tradition. The holiday season is really built on traditions. Whether yours involves a menorah, midnight mass, baking a ham or helping at the homeless shelter, reestablish it this year. Help out at the church benefit, the soup kitchen, bell-ringing or caroling at the nursing home. Take a drive to see the Christmas lights, watch a holiday parade, bake krumkake or make lefse. Those memories will live on generations after the broken toys take up permanent residence in a landfill.
How will you practice financial discipline this Christmas?
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch or follow her on Twitter.