To spend or not to spend this holiday season. It’s not really a question of what to spend or not to spend this holiday though, is it? It’s more a question of what and how much we will spend – and why. In addition to all the gift-giving, the holidays also give us a chance to stop, think and reflect (my favorite three words) about our life and those in our life.
Experience as a holiday present
This year our family decided that we would focus our birthday and holiday gift-giving on an experience rather than a bunch of gifts. So, for two weeks we went on vacation together. The kids – now adults – saved up their time off for this vacation. We picked and funded the experience – going through the Panama Canal. Both of our girls are recently married, and we, as their parents, saw this as possibly the last time we could gather as just the three couples. We relaxed together, ate three meals a day together, and got to know one another in a distraction-free environment.
We all gave each other the gift of time and attention. Uninterrupted time full of discussions – both personal and worldly. Michael and I read the book, The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough before heading to the Panama Canal. What a feat that canal is – and what a marvel to see it in action.
You don’t have to go as far as the Panama Canal to give the gift of an experience. But the gift of time to create that experience takes planning. And family discussions. You can keep it local by enjoying local museums, theatre, sports or music offerings. Instead of a week-long vacation, you can set a weekly or monthly family meal gathering that everyone participates in and dedicates a chunk of time.
The point is to carve out time for a family experience that you build your family foundation on for the future. It’s well worth the investment.
Save as much as you spend
There is a lot of talk about not spending money this holiday season – but that is just not realistic. So, to help you manage your spending, commit to saving as much as you spend. Or half as much as you spend. Analyze each purchase in those terms – knowing you need to set aside at least a portion of what you are spending in a savings account. Savings accounts are now paying serious interest – so take advantage of that and make a deposit that will have your money work for you.
I bake a lot of my gifts. I have a great cookie recipe that is gluten free and quick and easy to make. My friends LOVE this cookie. I’ve included the recipe at the end of this blog. The ingredients are not expensive, and it’s very kid friendly.
Baking is the gift of time and talent as well as the money needed to buy the ingredients. And it’s an opportunity to set up a tradition that you do every year with your kids. I’ve noticed that my own girls, now age 32 and 30, love the familiarity of some of our holiday traditions. So, start some of your own, and I promise they will bring you a lot of joy without spending a lot of money.
Speaking of traditions…
Thanksgiving happened during our family vacation this year. You could have knocked me over with a feather when my oldest reminded us at dinner that night that it was now time to say what we are all grateful for. I remember when I first introduced this tradition to my family holiday gatherings and there were a lot of groans and rolling of the eyes. But now the kids are the ones making it happen at our family gatherings. And for that, I am grateful.
Bottom line – gratitude is a learned behavior. We as parents need to teach our kids how to feel gratitude. Thank you notes are an excellent way to start that journey. My kids had to keep a list of gifts they received, and then write a note and review the list with me until it was done. One of my friends even told me that they won’t let their kids use a gift until they write that thank you note. Friends have called me to tell me how much they appreciated the thank you notes that my daughters wrote.
All those years of thank you notes and table gatherings where we expressed our gratitude have paid off. My daughters write the most beautiful thank you notes – yes – real ones. And I can tell they get as much out of writing them as does the recipient.
So, this holiday season, spend time together, plan experiences, write thank you notes to experience gratitude. And if I have not said it recently, let me say how grateful I am to you for the last 25 years of working together to teach the kids in our lives about the choices they have for money. It has been a privilege to be on this journey with you.
And for that, I am so grateful.