How to Set Realistic Holiday Gift Expectations with Your Family

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It’s common for the holidays to be a stressful time because of the additional responsibilities you may be taking on. You may be dealing with travel, holiday parties, and seeing family you haven’t seen since last year. Gift giving can also be stressful, especially if you have had to make budget cuts. While picking out thoughtful gifts can be fun, going out of budget can greatly increase your stress. Luckily, there are a few ways to set realistic expectations for your family.

Practice Good Spending Habits

Budgeting isn’t just for the holidays. If you only budget around Christmastime and spend lots of money on birthday or other gifts, it will be more obvious you are cutting back around the holidays. Instead, consider minimizing gift spending throughout the rest of the year as well. This will give your child the right expectations in December as well. List out the other holidays and birthdays you want to give presents on and set a total amount you are willing to spend for the year. Then distribute that amount among these gift-giving occasions. 

Of course, you will likely spend more around Christmas and birthdays, so budget accordingly. One way of making sure you can set aside enough for gifts is by refinancing student loan debt. Taking advantage of student loan refinancing reduces your monthly expenses and lets you set aside enough for all the gift giving occasions during the year. Consider opening a separate checking or savings account for this money so you won’t spend it on other things.

Focus More on Memories

Your kids will look forward to seeing gifts on Christmas day, but there are other things to look forward to around the holidays as well. Creating some family traditions can give them something to look forward to during the whole season, not just on Christmas morning. There are lots of new traditions you can create, including: 

  • Building gingerbread houses and eating them afterward
  • Making Christmas cookies to give your neighbors
  • Putting up the tree as a family
  • Having a holiday movie night next to the tree

After doing these things for a few years, your kids will look forward to these things as much as the gifts. While your kids might think they prefer to receive more gifts now, they will have great memories of holidays with the family. Traditions are a wonderful way to show support to your family and make it clear how important those bonds are. 

Talk About the Meaning of the Holiday Season

With so much to do around the holidays, you might feel like you aren’t sure how to survive the holidays and it can be easy to get caught up and not take the time to think about what they mean to you. Whether or not you are religious, Christmas may have a special meaning to you. The spirit is all about thankfulness, love, and giving. While talking about the spirit of the season might not change expectations, it can help your child learn to appreciate the season for what it is about instead of just presents.

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For your wife or husband, you may want to consider a Christmas bouquet of flowers. With this option, you can talk about gratitude, love, and passion with your kids to write a card of appreciation, then send it along with flowers. You will discuss the flower arrangements with your children as well. Will you pick a bouquet of yellow lillies or a bouquet of pink peony tulips? Throughout the whole process, family members will be able to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday season.

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Focus on Giving

Christmas isn’t all about getting presents. Giving to others can help your child experience the meaning of Christmas in a tangible way. Emphasize giving gifts to other family members or charities. When your child gets excited about giving, they will be excited about Christmas morning for the giving, not the receiving. You can also volunteer your time with your child. Of course, you can do this at any time, but there are opportunities as the end of the year approaches. You can sing carols at local nursing homes or hospitals, volunteer at food kitchens, and give back to your community. Volunteer work teaches your child about being part of the community, and it helps teach your child to be grateful for what they have. They may see others who can’t afford a meal, and they will be more thankful for parents who can afford to feed them and give them presents.

Talk About Gifts Early

Even if your kids are still young, it’s never too early to talk about money’s limits. Explain there is not an unlimited supply of money and it has to be managed carefully. Having these honest, open conversations early can help them have more realistic expectations. The earlier you have these conversations, the easier it is to instill these values into your kids. Still, make sure you keep things positive. If you are feeling stressed about your money, your kids will pick up on that because they can pick up on emotional cues easily. If you are disappointed or stressed, your kids will feel the same way. Instead, use this time to teach your kids in a positive way about the importance of a good budget. You might explain the budget allows you to pay for birthday gifts, vacations for the rest of the year, or other fun things. When you have healthy spending habits around Christmastime, you’ll be able to enjoy other things for the rest of the year.

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