Holidays Kids And Money

Dear Jeff,

I just got a look at my son’s Christmas list, and among the many high priced toys are an iPad and a new Xbox. I want him to have a great holiday, but I also don’t want to end up in debt. Do you have any suggestions on how to talk to my son about money and teach him the value of a dollar without ruining Christmas?

Blair G.
Winnipeg Manitoba

What a great question Blair!

First, I want to assure you that at this time of year you are not alone when it comes to juggling your kid’s holiday expectations and your holiday budget – and all the while trying to ensure that your son grows up with a healthy understanding of money and finances!

When it comes to our children’s financial literacy I like to say that the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree. Meaning that the first place our kids learn about money management and the value of a dollar is at home. Your attitudes, actions and feelings about money are going to rub off on your son – one way or another.

That being said, we also have to recognize that as we get closer to December any notions or attitudes our kids have about money are often lost in the gift giving (and gift getting) spirit of the holiday season. Even the most frugal of kids is apt to get lost in their holiday wish list.

But this is also what make the winter holidays an ideal time to teach our kids the value of the dollar.

Start by having a household discussion about what the holidays mean to you as a family, and ask you son some of these questions:

  • What do you enjoy most about the holidays?
  • What is the one thing you would most like to do this holiday season?
  • What are your best holiday memories?

While I am sure “presents” will be the answer to a few of these questions, you might be surprised to learn that the winter holidays mean a little more to him than just the things that you can buy from a store.

If you have a holiday budget in place, this may be a good time to share it with you son (or even the whole family) and show him that not everything on his list fits into the family holiday budget. It may be worthwhile to have him create his own holiday spending budget if he is planning to purchase or make gifts for family and friends this year.

Finally, when the topic of “Santa” comes up – and it will – gently explain to your son that Saint Nick is also operating on a budget this year. And with millions of children around the world to give gifts to, Santa and his helpers can’t possibly afford to provide each and every child with a new Xbox or iPad. Use this opportunity as a lesson in the true spirit of the season, the spirit of giving, and encourage your son to choose a less expensive gift so that Kris Kringle may spread more holiday cheer to those less fortunate than him.

Talking about money with your kids can often be a difficult discussion, and this is especially true when it comes to the holiday season. But as a parent you are a role model for your kids, and the most valuable life lessons they learn are from you – and this is just as true in money matters as in any other aspect of life.

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about budgeting with kids in the household or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to AskJeff@ConsolidatedCredit.ca. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.