For the past ten years in a row, Gallup polls have shown that Americans spend over $600 each on Christmas presents every year, and studies have shown that it takes months for most families to recover from the holidays after financing most of their spending with credit cards.
Unfortunately, our overspending has been filtered down to our children who have grown accustomed to larger Christmas celebrations and far too often a deluge of presents under the Christmas tree. So, as parents, the real struggle comes with finding ways to curb consumerism in our children at the very time of year where we are supposed to be celebrating something much more important than the allure of physical goods.
How do we hold back the flood of consumerism and teach our children the true meaning of the season? Here are three ways to help you curb your children’s consumerism this Christmas.
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Limit The Number Of Gifts From Santa
I love to play Santa Claus at my house, and I tend to go overboard buying presents for my two little boys much to my wife’s annoyance. It started to get so bad that she had to implement a rule that each of our children could only receive three gifts from Santa each Christmas. She sat our two boys down and told them without breaking the mystique of Santa that he would only be bringing three gifts. When they asked her why the number three, she told them that it was because that is how many gifts that baby Jesus received from the Maji. It turned out to be a great duel lesson bringing our family closer together with God while helping to curb consumerism’s stealthy expansion into the Holiest of holidays.
Make Your Children Buy Their Friends’ Gifts This Year
We all want to buy our friends a gift to show them how much we care about our relationships with them, but the truth of the matter is that we simply cannot buy a gift for everyone on our list. We have finite resources and have to allocate them accordingly. There is a line that we all have to draw in the sand on who we will give gifts to and who will only get a Christmas card in the mail this year. By giving your children a certain dollar amount to spend of gifts or simply making them pay for their friends gifts out of their own pocket will teach them about making the hard choices of who and how much to give within their very limited resources.
Show Your Children Your Bank Account Statement
In today’s day and age, young children often struggle with the concept of where their parents’ money comes from. I have a four year-old son who knows that I go off to work every morning and that’s how we have money to pay for things. But, he does not quite understand how the money ends up in the ATM and how the debit card plays into it all. I can remember seeing my mom’s checking account register one day and thinking that we were rich because it had a thousand dollars or so written on the line as a starting balance, but then she sat me down to show me what all had to be subtracted from that starting number in the register for items like the mortgage, electric bill, car payments, and other necessary things. Soon, that thousand dollars didn’t look so big as it kept dwindling. With cash playing a less prevalent role in our finances than ever before, we owe it to our children to properly explain where the family’s money comes from, how it gets into the bank account, and how much is really left over at the end of the month when all the bills are paid. With a little explanation about your family’s budget, you may be able to hold back the tide of consumerism.
We are all bombarded with advertising every time we turn around, and our children are no different. This makes it extremely hard to curb the allure of consumerism that is ever present. It is a fight that every parent must wage in today’s society of overspending and consumer debt in order to teach our children to be good financial stewards. With these three tips, you will have a few tools that hopefully will make your job of curbing consumerism in your children this Christmas season a little easier.
What about you? Are there ways that you have been successful at curbing consumerism from creeping into the lives of your children or even your own life? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Hank Coleman has written extensively for many financial websites and publications as well as his own personal finance blog, Money Q&A. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and is currently pursuing his Certified Financial Planner credentials. Be sure to follow him on Twitter too @HankColeman.