You want to know what I love about the holidays?
FINDING. THE. PERFECT. **budget friendly** GIFT.
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are my best friends, y’all. So are coupons.
You know who else likes all of that nifty gifty stuff?
But there’s just one problem: Their budgets are even tinier than mine, even though their hearts are equally full.
They’re too young for “real jobs.” They can’t drive anywhere. They don’t have unsupervised access to the internet…or a credit card/Venmo/Paypal account to place orders.
Basically, this whole Christmas shopping thing is a huge challenge for them, because they are at an age where their desire to give far outweighs their resources to do so. By a whole lot.
This presents a challenge for me, as well, because I truly want them to learn how to give. I want them to understand how to make decisions with their money – whether it is for charity, siblings or friends. I want them to make those same stupid money mistakes that we all make with as few negative consequences as possible (hello, college credit card/free t-shirt fiasco). My hope is that by learning financial wisdom while young, they will have a solid grasp of spending, prioritizing, and giving as they move into adulthood. Let’s just call it “financial training wheels,” shall we?
Here’s the kicker, though. We don’t just toss them money to spend at the holidays. While we certainly don’t want to nix the giving spirit, we also don’t want to fund their random shopping spree either (e.g., poop emoji pillows and stickers). Besides, my kids make far wiser decisions with money they’ve worked to earn. So they earn their holiday spending money.
That sounds easy enough, right?
It is ridiculously difficult, like everything else associated with parenting (womp womp). I’ll compare it to watching your kids decorate the tree in those weird little ornament clumps while not saying a word. You’ve been warned.
Here’s the 411: As soon as our kids learned the basic value of money, we started a system where they could earn money or screen time through chores using this system. Although we upgraded to an app last year, the method stayed the same. My kids almost always prefer screen time.
Except in November. That’s when everything changes.
Starting around Thanksgiving, my kids are suddenly EXTRA. They live for chores; lucky for them, our house is a disaster all the time, so there is never a shortage of things to do. Just as I give them a budget for birthdays, I also help them work on financing the holidays with a budget of sorts.
We offer to match their earned money on one condition: They are using it for others.
They can use it to buy a sibling’s present.
They can donate to charity.
They can buy me fabulous jewels (still waiting on that one).
They simply can’t spend the money on themselves.
We try to empower them to make good decisions with money. The tough part for us is to acknowledge that “good decisions” vary with age (think ornament clumps).
In mid-December, I have a one-on-one date with each child to help them shop for sibling Christmas presents, and I match whatever they have. Five dollars turns into ten. Twenty turns into forty. You get the idea. The more they earn, the more they can spend or to donate to *charity.
My husband and I work very hard to inspire a realistic view of holiday shopping, and, like everything else in parenting, part of that process is leading by example. The other part is giving them enough freedom to engage in thoughtful giving – and zipping it when we have “better” ideas. Spoiler alert: That is the hardest part. My kids need to learn how to be good stewards of their money, so that they have learning opportunities when they’re young – instead of when the stakes are higher.
I’m sure that once they get real jobs making more money they won’t need our help, but for now, it is fun to watch as they make decisions about how to spend money. My hope is that we are fostering a sense of stewardship within them so that they understand not only the value of money, but also the importance of doing for others.
After all, that is the true spirit of Christmas.
*FYI: Our kids’ favorite place to donate is the Memphis Union Mission, because the flyers present a nice breakdown of how many people a price point will help. What’s your child’s favorite?