How have you liked our “How Much to Spend on Christmas” series so far? Friday we covered Part I of the 3-part series, where we talked about balancing want vs need, and giving our kids a fabulous Christmas without spoiling them rotten (see it HERE if you missed it). Today it's time for Part II…the “WHY” of it all (P.S be sure to come back for Part III tomorrow!)
In Part 1 we discussed how to avoid going into the “unnecessary” territory when buying gifts (overspending on things that don't need to be overspent on). Warning, today with Part II I'm going a little Dr. Phil on you. We are digging deeper to the why of the matter. Ultimately, if you can't figure out the root of why we overspend, we will never be able to overcome the issue. So, as hokey as it seems, please take some time to really ponder these questions! Then be sure to come back for Part III tomorrow, because I will (finally) give you price-points and guidelines for spending (woo hoo!). So without further adieu, here is the second important question you should ask yourself when deciding how much to spend on Christmas for your kids (and others):
Question #2: Why am I giving this to them, really?
As we already established yesterday, most of what we give our kids isn't out of necessity. So why, then? Why are we spending our hard-earned money on this item, that we've already established they most likely don't even need it? This is an important question to ask yourself because once you get to the bottom of it, it might help make your gift-buying decisions easier.
“Because I love them.”
I don't know about you, but I love my kids with such ferocity that it almost hurts sometimes. So, naturally, we want what's best for them. We want to see them happy. We love the look on their faces when they are introduced to something new and exciting. But really, at the end of the day, do you think showering them with gifts is what will truly-madly-deeply show your love for them? I'm sorry to say but no, no it won't. While gift giving/receiving is in fact a love language, chances are your child won't know you love them more or less, based on the physical items you give them one day a year.
I challenge that there are 10001 better ways to show love to your child, ways that will last in their memories far longer than it takes to open a gift. Shovel snow with them. Take them on a date. Go shopping for a Secret Santa family together. Read a book together. Write a book together. Talk to them, making eye contact. Take a class together. Teach them to cook. Find out what their interests are. Tell them why you love them. I hate to say it, but using money to show your kids how much you love them is an easy out. Sure, it can help and it sure is fun! I'm 100% on-board with giving gifts! But if you're going overboard on gifts because you want to show them love, I suggest you put away your wallet, turn off the TV and cell phone, and prove to your child you love them in a way that matters more.
“Because I want to create memories.”
Valid. To me, the most important part of Christmas is traditions and memories. But…I have spent hours upon hours on this post, much of the time racking my brain trying to think back to my own Christmases growing up. To be honest, I can't remember more than 4 or 5 gifts from my childhood. Total. (No, not exaggerating.) The memories of Christmas that come back to me are of my family driving through the lights, hanging out the windows in our PJ's. Cutting down our own Christmas tree, and complaining the whole time. Hanging our own ornaments. Playing out the nativity at our neighbor's house every Christmas eve, with me always stuck playing a sheep. I can remember a few things I got for Christmas last year, but only because Bubba helped me remember. But the year before? I'm at a complete loss. Please don't rely on gifts to make memories for your family. Because in the end, the gifts just won't stick.
“So they like me more; makes me a cool parent.”
Many of us would have a hard time admitting this one, but isn't it true? I absolutely LOVE when my child thinks I'm the greatest thing on the planet. For those with teenagers, it's harder than heck to get your kid to realize how cool and hip you are! Can I get a whoop whoop and a holler from my fellow uncool parent homies out there?!
We all strive to connect with our kids, especially our teens. Thus, many of us do this by way of giving cool, hip, trendy gifts. And, I'll call it like it is, sometimes buying your kid something really cool, hip, and trendy will in fact endear them to you! (darn it all…)
…giving them everything they want doesn't mean it's what's best for our child. Go back to Part I and re-read it 50 times if you need to. Then go back to the “because I love them” point and re-read that. If you want to connect with them, do it. But do it right. You don't need to break the bank and overspend to accomplish an invaluable connection with your kids.
“Because all my other friends bought it for their kids.”
The only way to make a difference in the world is to stop trying to be just like it. Be unique. Be different. If you spend your life living by every one else's standards, you'll look back on your life and have a hard time seeing anything but regret. Social awareness is very important, don't get me wrong. But at the same time, I urge you to let go and decide to not care what everyone else things. I promise you'll be all the happier for it!
“Because it's Christmas, and it's special, and I want them to enjoy it.”
The most poignant Christmas I ever had as a child is the one where I was in Middle School. My family all went shopping together and filled a huge moving box full of clothes, food, and gifts for a family in our small town. We were giddy for days leading up to the oh-so-important doorbell ditch mission. We loaded the box onto the back of our truck late one night, turned off the truck lights, and us kids jumped out of the truck and ditched the box on the doorstep of an unsuspecting family. It took all 3 of us to carry it. We snuck quietly to the door, carefully set the box on the doorstep, hearts pounding. We made our oldest brother ring the doorbell because we were all afraid to do it.
We ran like maniacs, jumped into the back of the truck yelling to my parents in the cab, “Drive! Go! Move move move!”. There was a feeling of elation and satisfaction like I had never felt before…and not just from the thrill of not getting caught. It lit a spark in me that had never been before.
I remember seeing some of the “secret Santa family” kids at school, and always feeling a little jolt in my heart while trying to hide a sneaky smile on my face. It feelt so good that we anonymously helped someone in need…and pulled it off with McGiver-like execution.
That same Christmas our poor garbage man had to do his round on Christmas morning. When he pulled up to our house, my dad had us sprint out in the snow and hand him $100 and a huge box of chocolates that someone gave our family (one of a bazillion). He choked up as he took the money. I can remember it with intense recollection, even to this day.
It was the greatest Christmas of my life…and I don't remember a single present I received that year.
That, my friends, is how you make Christmas special. You stop focusing on yourself, and turn the tables to those who need it more. You give your family wonderful, beautiful gifts…within reason...then you focus on giving them gifts (life lessons, memories, and experiences) that will stick with them forever.
I encourage us all to hold back a touch. Focus on what matters most. Save the extra, and give it to others, or use it to provide a better life for ourself and for others. Let us teach our kids the value of sharing with others, the power of delayed gratification, and the reality that we just don't get everything we want handed to us in life…
…and give them the best Christmas of their lives.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 3 where I will (finally) give pricing guidelines on what I recommend spending on Christmas. Don't worry, it's not as skimpy as you might think. Until then!