Prepare Now for Spending Time and Money During the Holidays
It may seem too early to think about the holidays, but, actually, now is just the right time. Having some discussions about holiday expectations and laying out plans for how time and money will be spent can avoid stressful, budget-breaking situations during the holidays. This early planning can establish realistic expectations for children, as well as adults, in the family.
Start with a plan
Make a budget for spending money. Start putting events on the calendar now. Decide how much money your family is able to spend this year. Gifts, greeting cards and postage, food and decorations are the four things people typically spend money on around the holidays. Include holiday traditions at home, at work, with friends, and at children’s schools as you plan your calendar of events.
This is a good time of year to gather gift ideas. Think back through the year — do you remember having a great gift idea for someone? Now is the time to buy it, maybe even wrap it. Doing this for several items or people on your list will put you ahead, both with time and money. As the holidays get very near, and the weather turns colder, shopping becomes a challenge.
Use cash to stay on budget
Stay within your spending budget by paying with cash. After developing your gift budget, make an envelope for each person on your list and put that amount of cash in the envelope. Use the cash to buy each gift, replacing the money with receipts. Once you’ve taken all of the cash out, you should be done.
Using credit cards for holiday shopping has advantages in that there’s no need to carry cash. There may also be warranty benefits, depending on the item or the credit card you use. The drawback with credit cards is that people sometimes don’t stick to their budget and overspend. Research has shown that people often spend 30% more when buying with a credit card compared to spending cold, hard cash.
Is there such a thing as too many toys?
It’s easy to go overboard and shower children with lots of toys and gifts. Keep in mind that the reality of the research is that most children tend to have three to five favorite toys. Don’t be the family that jokes about the children having more fun with the boxes than all the toys they receive. A good resource for people looking for age-appropriate gifts for children can be found on the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website.
The gift of being together
Spending time with those you care about is important, too, and that can be done without spending a lot of money. Include children in as much planning and preparation as possible around the holidays. Children can be part of gift wrapping, baking, or visiting family and friends. Including children in holiday activities will be their best gift in the long run.
Incorporate learning into holiday preparations. Buying a Christmas tree becomes a lesson in decision making and consumer choices when you discuss different prices and options: cut-your-own, buy at the nursery, or use an artificial tree.
Teach basic baking skills, as well as numbers and measurement when you bake cookies together. And there is no better lesson in time management than preparing a holiday meal, and having it ready to put on the table all at once! Children will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they are included in holiday preparations.
Passing along family traditions to children
Share your family traditions for the holidays with children. Many will be fascinated with how these traditions started with past generations and the meaning they have for your family. Emphasize the quality of time spent together over the quantity of objects everyone receives.
There are fewer than 100 days left till Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Better get busy!