By now, we all know that money is going to be tight this holiday season. Our kids have been raised with high expectations for Santa, and its possible the jolly ‘ole guy in the red suit could fall short this year. Keep your child’s expectations in check this year by getting them involved early in the gift giving and getting process – making a list and checking it twice. Prepare your kids now, and you may find this holiday season one of your best yet.

1. Make a list. Start by asking your entire family to sit down together and make a list of people they want to remember with a gift this holiday season. Each family member should compile his or her own list. The list must be in writing. A written list is easier to focus on because it is tangible. Also ask each family member to create their own “wish list”, with the top three items listed in order of importance. Kids hand off their wish lists to mom and dad and mom and dad to each other.

For Santa devotees, explain that you want to estimate the costs for Santa. Armed with this list and the costs, you can talk about making it easier on Santa to meet everybody’s needs, not just theirs. Talk about what is the most important item on the wish list and mark it with a star and send it off to Santa now!

2. Set a spending budget. Now that you know how many people are on your list, write a dollar amount next to each name. That is how much you would like to spend on that person. Total up the list to see what kind of money you are thinking about spending. (Remember, the amount you plan to spend on a person can be $0 if you can come up with creative and free gifts such as a home-made coupon book promising hugs and kisses for Grandma.) Compare the potential costs.

3. Cut the budget down to size. Once you have the total, chances are it will add up to way too much money. Now is the time to cut the list and trim the budget. It may mean cutting certain people or it may mean spending less on one person or another. Do whatever it takes to bring the budget within your means.

4. Create an earning/savings plan. Now that you have a list and a budget, where is all that money going to come from? Talk about a plan to set aside money from earnings. Help your children create a job list that will help them earn the money they need to pay for the gifts they want to give.

5. Don’t shop without your list. As a family, agree only to shop with the list and budget in hand. Also, agree only to buy for those on the list and at the amount specified.

These are just a few ideas to help you get started this holiday season. I’ll share some additional thoughts in the next couple days.

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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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