A Two-Step Approach to Preparing Kids for a Giving Holiday: Part Two

The holiday season will soon be upon us.  If you find yourself stressed out every holiday season by financial and time demands, now is the time to decide that this year will be different.  Now is the time to decide on a giving holiday. Not only will you benefit, but your kids will as well.

Last time we talked about teaching your kids to give during the holidays, and this time we’ll talk about the second part of creating a giving approach to the holidays–teaching your child to have reasonable expectations for presents.

Years back, the holidays weren’t simply a time to get-get-get.  As a girl, I loved reading Little House on the Prairie, and I was always amazed by how delighted Laura was by the simple presents she received.  One year it was a tin cup and an orange.  Another year it was a corn cob doll.  Now, our kids receive oodles of presents and still demand more and are disappointed when the present opening is over.

Preparing kids for a giving holiday part 2How to Set Reasonable Expectations

If you’re the parent of older children and you previously gave them too many presents, you might sit down with them well before the holidays and let them know that they won’t be getting as much this year.  You can explain that you want to focus more on giving rather than receiving.  Plan on some resistance, but if you hold firm and continue to treat holidays this way, your kids will adapt.

If you’re children are younger, you can start the tradition of a simpler Christmas now.  Your kids may express some resentment as they age and see how much their peers are getting, but if it’s your family tradition, they will likely understand.

How Many Presents to Give

You and your significant other will need to decide what works best for your family.

Some families decide on a dollar limit per child and don’t go over that amount.  This is the way that my mom always handled Christmas for my brother and I, but she carried it a step further and made sure that we each got an equal number of gifts, too.

Other families say that Jesus received 3 gifts from the Wise Men, so they give their kids 3 gifts for Christmas.  Another take on this is to give your child 3 specific presents–something they want, something they need, and something they’ll wear.

In our family, we are blessed with grandparents and godparents that give our children many presents.  So, we buy our children very little for Christmas.  The one time we did buy our kids a lot of Christmas presents, they simply received too much.

Finally, some families take an extreme approach and don’t exchange presents at all.  Instead, they donate all the money they would have spent to charity.

If your children are already used to lavish holiday celebrations, scaling back may be difficult, but it’s not impossible.  First teaching children to be givers and then scaling back may help ease the transition for your child.

How do you determine how many presents to buy your child?  Do you worry about going overboard with gift giving?

Original photo credit: Theresa Thompson, on Flickr

A Two-Step Approach to Preparing Kids for a Giving Holiday: Part One

While you may not want to think about it yet, the holidays are right around the corner.  The commercial machine is cranking into gear.  My local Costco already has rows upon rows of Christmas presents for kids and Christmas trees and wrapping paper. . .Soon, there will be endless Christmas ads on television for all the latest toys and electronics your kids will beg for.

Each year, Christmas seems to become more and more about spending money and over consuming.  If you’ve come to dread the holiday season and the gimmes that come with it, now is the time to plan a different type of holiday.  Now is the time to plan a giving holiday.  Make a plan now, before the holiday is in full swing.

You can take a two part approach to this.  Part one is to allow your children to have an opportunity to give.  Part two is to reduce your child’s expectations for the gifts they will receive at Christmas.

Preparing Kids for a Giving HolidayToday, we’ll be talking about part one.

Strategies to Allow Your Children to Give at Christmas

While it’s nice to get things for Christmas, giving is also nice.  Well before Christmas starts, sit down with your kids (if they are old enough) and discuss how you’d like to give of your time.  If they’re still young, say under 5, you can just start a new tradition of giving of yourselves during the holidays.  You’ll experience very little resistance from the little ones.

Put in time.  One way to give, especially if you’re on a tight budget, is to give of your time.  You could volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or to help assemble thanksgiving meal baskets at your local church.  You could go through your closets and donate excess clothes or other items.

Give your money.  If you have more money than time, you can give your money to help make the holidays better for another family.  You could pick a name from a giving tree that pops up in December.  (The post office often has one as does Whole Foods and other grocery stores.)  Take your child with you to buy a present for the child in need.

Or, you could donate to a charitable organization like World Vision.  Look through the catalog and either choose to sponsor a child or to make a one-time contribution.  Let your child know how the money will be used and help him to realize how much more he has than the family of the child who will be receiving the money.

Another organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has a giving project, Operation Christmas Child.  You fill a shoebox with simple toys and school materials for a needy child.  This is a nice project to do with your children, and you can give without spending a lot of money, if your money is tight.

If you want to get away from the consumer driven holiday season, know that you CAN have a different kind of holiday this year.  However, you’ll need to start now and take the first step–teaching your children the importance of giving at the holidays.  Next time we’ll talk about the next step, adjusting expectations.

What’s your favorite way to teach your kids the importance of giving during the holidays?

Original photo credit: Theresa Thompson, on Flickr

Get Yourself and the Kids in the Halloween Spirit for Less

Halloween is right around the corner.  While the stores seem to like to skip Halloween and Thanksgiving and shoot right to Christmas (in September!), the majority of us like to embrace each holiday as it comes.

Halloween is one of those holidays that is fun for both kids and adults.  However, it can also be an expensive holiday, if you’re not careful.  Kids’ costumes alone can run upwards of $50.  Here are some ways you can enjoy the holiday and get a little Halloween spirit for less:


Costumes don’t have to cost a fortune.  Using these tactics, you can get what you need for less than a Benjamin (or a Ulysses, as the case may be).

Halloween Spirit for Less1.  Shop resale stores.

National chains like Once Upon a Child or Goodwill have plenty of costumes for $10 or less.  At our local Once Upon a Child, costumes were about $6.50 each.  That beats paying $25 or more.

2.  Put out the word.

Let your friends and family know you’re looking for a costume.  When my son was 18 months old, we borrowed an adorable, homemade Robin Hood costume.  We paid nothing, and my son received many compliments while trick or treating.

3.  Check Craigslist.

Many parents also listed outgrown costumes on Craigslist.  Remember, you’re free to negotiate on Craigslist, so you may be able to haggle for a lower price.

4.  Make your own.

Pinterest is filled with adorable costumes for both those who sew and those who don’t.  You might be able to make a costume from items you have around the house or that you can buy cheaply.  Don’t forget that items can do double duty.  If your son has a fireman raincoat, there’s no reason that can’t be a costume.  Does your child have skeleton pajamas?  Great, there’s a costume.  Does your daughter take ballet?  Her recital costume or her dance leotard and tutu can be her costume.

How to Decorate on a Budget

Part of the fun of Halloween is not only dressing up the kids, but dressing up your home.  If you go all out, decorating your home can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be.  Try these tips.

1.  Buy on clearance.

As soon as Halloween is over, go to the stores.  You’ll find Halloween decor on sale for 50 to 80% off.  Now is the time to buy decorations for next year.  The same is true for next year’s Halloween costumes.

2.  Pinterest to the rescue again.

Pinterest (Beating Broke on Pinterest) has tons of low cost decor suggestions.  I saw a cute pumpkin decoration for a table top that used old canning jar bands.  If you have those around, your decoration is free.  You can also have the kids create Halloween themed crafts and decorate the house that way.

Halloween is a fabulous holiday for kids and adults.  Decorating and dressing up can be so much fun, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  By using these techniques and taking advantage of the many frugal crafts and ideas on the web, you can have a great Halloween while keeping your hard earned money where it belongs, in your wallet.