Parents are usually in a predicament at this time of year, caught up between making Christmas perfect for their kids through lavish gifts whilst trying to stay within budget to face the dreaded long month of January that follows.
The festive season also known as ‘the silly season’ has come to be associated as a time when we spoil our loved ones, especially our children. And this spoiling often comes in the form of expensive toys and gadgets. We go out of our way to make sure their expectations are fulfilled, no matter the cost.
Gone are the days when Christmas gifts consisted of toy cars and tea sets, kids of today have far more expensive expectations, such as ipad’s and the latest Play Station consoles or expensive branded clothing. Often, they expect to receive several gifts instead of just one.
As parents we get so caught up in the momentum of the festive season that we tend to spend money so rapidly, sometimes opting to use credit cards and loans to feed our indulgence. Our entire 13th cheque and bonuses are completely utilised and we cannot account what it was spent on. I know of a parent who uses a whole year just to pay off the debt incurred from the previous festive season, and then repeats the cycle all over again each year.
So what can we do to get that balance of making our kids feel special during this time whilst avoiding over-spending?
1. Set the correct expectations for your child – have them create a wish list within reason, and then let them know if they have worked hard and done well in their exams or tests you would consider more than one item on the wish list or choose the most expensive item.
2. Shop for Christmas clothes within limits – it is tempting to open a clothing account at this time of year and then shop till you drop because you don’t have to pay for them upfront. Avoid this trap and have your kids pick a few necessary items within financial limits.
3. Stay within budget – Explain to your child there is a budget for their gift. Your child needs to understand money is not unlimited and just because it is a festive period does not mean it is an excuse to be reckless with spending.
4. Create memories – Believe it or not, buying your child expensive gifts does not create memorable moments. Doing something fun like going out as a family to the movies and enjoying time with each other is much more memorable. Use this Christmas to start your own special family tradition, be it the meal you prepare together or going to church on Christmas morning.
5. Prepare for January – If you can try and pay your January expenses upfront so that you don’t need to stress about not having enough money to cover January’s costs. I know of parents who pay the January school fees and uniforms before the festive period even starts.
Do you think it is justified to over-spoil kids during the festive season?