Christmas is often a difficult subject for me to write about from a ‘frugal’ perspective because, as much as I shop around for the best deals and set myself a budget depending on how much I’ve saved throughout the year, I don’t think it’s a time when I’m particularly good at being frugal.
When I started writing this blog, the idea was that as a family we’d try and live a more frugal lifestyle and I think we’ve done a pretty good job for the most part. We’re much more financially aware than we were back then and we do things that we know we should be doing to ensure that we save money where we can and that we always get the best deal possible for things but Christmas is the one thing that we don’t want to cut back on.
I like to buy the kids the things they want for Christmas as well as the things I see that I know they’ll love and every year, my Christmas Day highlight is seeing their faces when they open the things that we’ve lovingly bought and wrapped for them. I probably buy more than I should for them (which is why you’ll never see a photo of my living room after Santa’s been) but I do so knowing that I’ve saved up for what I’ve bought and that I won’t be feeling the after effects of Christmas on my bank account for months to come.
But it’s a fine line between buying them the things they want and spoiling them isn’t it?
I want them to have nice things and if we can afford them, then I don’t see that it’s a problem for the most part but at the same time, my worst nightmare is that they grow up into materialistic adults with a sense of entitlement because that is not what I want for them as a parent.
So how can you buy your children the things you want to buy them but also encourage them to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and a healthy appreciation of what they are getting?
Encouraging children to help those less fortunate them
These are the things that I do annually with my children at Christmas to encourage them to help others who aren’t as lucky as them:
- Both children are expected to save some of their pocketmoney to buy a child in our local area who isn’t as lucky as them a gift for Christmas. We don’t set a minimum or maximum amount as it’s up to them because I don’t think it would be as beneficial if I told them to bring me a set amount – this way they can think about what they want to buy and I’m proud that the amount they give is always more than I would have asked them for. If we buy them in a shop where there’s a 3 for 2 offer on then they get three nice presents between them which they have put time into choosing. We have a great toy appeal in our area which we take part in and it’s always a pleasure to help with such a worthy cause.
- As well as the pocketmoney donation to the toy appeal, Master Frugal always asks me to buy him less and donate an extra toy so I buy something too and give that to him to donate as well as the one he’s bought himself.
- We always set aside some money to do a shop specifically for the food bank in our town and the kids get to push the trolley and fill it with the things we’re buying. You can go online usually and get a list of what your local foodbank needs most so we do that and they work from that but add in some Christmas treats too.
- We have a big sort out at the end of November every year to find things to donate to the local charity shop and I’m always surprised by how much we get rid of.
Consider buying ethical gifts or gifts that benefit others
I’ve just come across a great ethical gift guide for children written by Ali at Incredibusy and it made me realise that this is a great way to make children feel grateful. Buy an ethical gift and explain the background to it and how buying that makes the world a better place, in whatever small way it does.
Encouraging children to appreciate what they have and not to feel entitled
It’s not just about helping others less fortunate than us because as much as we’d like to help everyone, it’s simply not possible and we can only do so much. I want them to help others as much as they can but equally, I want them to appreciate the things we’re lucky enough to have:
- Make Christmas more about family and less about material things by spending as much time together as possible. Spend the money you’d spend on expensive advent calendars (seriously, Miss Frugal just showed me one that she’d like for £40) on days out together or fun things to do as a family. Or even better save your money and do free things instead! Our Christmas Family Traditions Advent calendar is great for this and it’s not too late to make your own!
- Now that my children are older, they are much more aware of the need for a budget at Christmas and I’m open with them about that. I explain that we have a set amount to spend on them so if they want to spend it on one big thing then they can but they won’t get very much else.
- Even if everything on their Christmas list was within budget, I wouldn’t buy it all for them. I make sure that they know that their Christmas list is just there to give me ideas and that they will not get everything on their list. If they got everything on their list then I think that would contribute to a sense of entitlement from then on.
- I make sure that they know how lucky they are by telling them – not in a way to make them feel guilty but in a way that they know that not all their friends will be getting the same things that they are so they shouldn’t be showing off.
- You could make a blessings jar together as a family like we often do. You just need to get everyone to write down five things that they’re most thankful for in their lives on pieces of paper that you can then fold up and pop in a jar. Just before Christmas lunch you can then give them a good mix and take it in turns picking one and reading it aloud for a guarantee warm fluffy feeling.
- Similar to the blessings jar is our gratitude game (not sure it’s a game really but we call it one) that we play at Christmas every year where we write everything that we’re grateful for on post it notes. We stick them all up on the wall and read through them together. The results are often surprising and it always gets the kids thinking about how much they take for granted.
We do lots of other things to encourage gratitude through the year too but these are the things I consciously make sure that we do EVERY Christmas.
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