Family budget photoIt’s that time of year again. The holidays are done and the New Year’s headache is cured. Or is it?  Now we wait for the end-of-the-year bills to arrive.

If you did not overspend, let your kids share in the victory.

Talk as a family about how you stayed within your budget.  Did you make a list of all those you wanted to remember and take that list with you to the mall each and every time you shopped?  Did you place a dollar amount next to the name and make sure you did not exceed that amount?  Did you discuss what you had to “give” to gift-giving before you went out and shopped?  Did you come up with ideas that would replace a purchased gift – like baking or a gift of time or a talent?

Leverage  your “purchase fatigue”  and your family’s contentment as you think about next year.  It is much harder to remember how you feel now, next November.  Talk together now, while the memory is fresh, about what worked and why.  Then, place all lists and ideas in a file for next year so you already have something started to work with when you start your season in 2012.

Create one more list with the kids of things you can purchase now that are on sale.  Watch out for the one pitfall of advance planning – you might find you spend more. Be sure you place all items in a location you will remember and have easy access to all year long so you can remind yourself of what you have purchased.  Be mindful of return policies.  Nothing much can be returned a year after it is purchased, so be careful when purchasing.

Gather the gift cards received and show your child how to keep track of the stored value on each card. (I use a piece of masking tape and list the original amount and have them write the amount used each time so they know what is left to spend.)  Have them set a goal for the use of the gift cards.  Make sure gift cards are spent with a plan in mind and used to the penny.

Make a date to sit down and talk as a family quarterly about the upcoming season to review lists for opportunities in advance of the season.  Plans for a summer garden and some canning – yes canning! – of summer’s best could be a great addition to the homemade gift list.  Planning this far in advance will allow you to take advantage of time – time to cut coupons, shop sales and create options that take the place of purchased gifts.

If you did overspend, show them what that means and make a pact now to plan for the holidays this year. Talk about the consequences of the overspending.  You played now you pay.  There are powerful lessons to be learned in money mistakes – but only if you talk about them with your kids.

Keep it subtle but clear that in January, like every other month, bills need to be paid.  If you have overspent, talk about adjusting the budget to accommodate the expense.  If as parents you did the overspending, and the expense was due to gifts for your kids, you do not want to make this their problem.  But you can use this as a moment to address how the family handles a budget and how savings comes in handy when the budget is stressed.

Susan Beacham
Written by Susan Beacham

Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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