When I was growing up, my siblings and I worked hard in November and December to earn money for Christmas presents. You see, along with the joy of receiving, my parents really wanted us to fully experience the joy of GIVING at Christmastime. So from the time we were very young, we worked, earned money and purchased all our own Christmas gifts. And some of my favorite holiday memories are centered on the gifts I was able to give to family members and the thoughtful gifts I received from siblings.
I’ll never forget one year when my sister gave me a very unexpected and generous gift. Whenever we were shopping with my mom, I’d been loudly admiring a little wind-up doll that played a beautiful song. I’d already requested something different from Santa. I knew my parents would only be buying me clothes. So I figured it was worth letting my siblings know about my interest in the doll, even though it cost $20, which was way out of the range of what my siblings could afford. I was so surprised and delighted to find that doll in the lovingly-wrapped box my sister handed me on Christmas! But I think that she might have been even more delighted than me when she saw how happy I was.
With our own children, my husband and I have carried on this tradition. As a mom, some of my all-time favorite moments have happened as I’ve watched my children’s excitement as they’ve carefully picked out gifts for their siblings, barricaded themselves into a secret spot to wrap those gifts, and then watched with great anticipation as their gifts were opened and appreciated.
There’s some serious rivalry between these two, so the proud and appreciative and loving looks on their faces as they exchanged thoughtful gifts on Christmas were especially beautiful.
Here are some simple steps to help you give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season:
1. Work with your children to figure out a Christmas present budget. You may want to look online or check out what’s available at stores to help them get a sense of what types of gifts would be available in different price ranges. Setting a Christmas budget and shopping around for the best prices on gifts is a great and simple step towards teaching our kids real-life economic principles. Of course the budget needs to be somewhat flexible. I’ve loved seeing my children occasionally dip into the funds they were saving for something for themselves or team up with another sibling to buy a perfect gift that costs more than they’d planned to spend.
When my children were younger, I found that it worked best to have them simply work towards a dollar per family member and buy their gifts at the dollar store where everything is conveniently the same price.
2. Set up a way for your children to earn their Christmas budget. If you already have a money/economic system in your home, great, use that (and maybe add in some extra opportunities to do extra work and make extra money). If you don’t already have a working system, now’s a great time to get your kids going on working, earning and saving and our new Work and Money Program will offer you everything you need to get that rolling. For younger children, you can make a simple chart with a square for every $.25 or $.50 they’ll need to get up to the overall amount they plan to earn and create a list of “money jobs” they can do around the house to check off each square on their chart (Watch this video to see my twins explain how they learn money toward specific things using a chart: Learning About Earning).
3. Set aside a special time on Christmas or even Christmas Eve for the kids to give out their gifts. This way, your children’s thoughtful gifts will not be overshadowed by grander ones. After all the hoopla of stockings and Santa gifts on Christmas morning, we eat a special Christmas breakfast and then spend an hour or two having each child give out their gifts, one at a time. We make a big deal of every gift and ensure that every giver gets a great hug and thank you from the receiver plus praise from us for their thoughtfulness.
We wish you all the best as you strive to give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season!
QUESTION: Do your kids give gifts during the holidays? Do they budget, use their own earned money, and/or pick out the gifts they’d like to give? What works in your family?
CHALLENGE: Come up with a way to give your kids more “ownership” when it comes to earning, picking out and giving gifts this holiday season.