Maybe this is the Christmas your family decides that it truly is more rewarding to give than to get, and you put your money where your mouth is. Just how will you do that when it hasn't been a priority in the past? According to Dr. Marilynn Price-Mitchell Ph. D. of Psychology Today, "It is the act of thinking about and choosing gifts that is of high value to the giver." Kids, she says, "can prepare for gift giving, some with needed parental help."
You don't want to raise a crop of bratty I-deserve-it children. This Christmas is a great time to steer your family in the right direction, and here are a few tips to help you along the way.
1. Prepare your child for the experience.
Dragging your kid through Toys 'R Us without buying him something is like parading a starving man through the buffet line and telling him not to eat. The first step to shopping for others with your children is talking about it. Start the dialogue with, "Isn't it great you have so many toys to play with? I wonder if there are other kids who don't have any toys." When the time comes to go shopping, first remind your child of the reason for going to the store--it's not about them this time!
2. Shop sales and use coupons.
What happens to your financially dull child when he turns 25? He moves back in with you and his lump of debt. Start now--even within the context of gift shopping--by finding deals and using coupon promotions. Take a modern approach by finding coupon codes for Target and other favorites on such sites as CouponSherpa -- toys hit rock-bottom prices around the holidays.
3. Brainstorm ways to personalize the gift.
Younger kids can draw a picture inside a blank Christmas card and have you write down what they'd like to say in the card. Older kids can make their own colorful wrapping paper with a cut paper bag and stamps. Also talk about matching gifts to people. If Grandma is a diabetic, don't give her sugar cookies--find recipes that fit within her diet. Gift giving is a great time to really think about what others would appreciate.
4. Consider homemade presents.
But only if your little one is old enough to do most of the work herself! Nothing is more disgusting than a parent who does his kid's third grade science project, and the same goes for gifts. Pick homemade presents Junior can make mostly on his own, like the beauty and baking DIY projects at Kidz World, or don't do them at all.
5. Select a wish list request from a reputable organization.
You may be a bit leery of picking a random child to gift during the Christmas season, and I don't blame you. When Tommy two-year-old requests a pair of Nike shocks, I'm not convinced he's exactly "needy". But many organizations like Angel Tree, who give gifts to children of incarcerated parents, have targeted recipients who truly need a helping hand. The Salvation Army has partnered with JCPenney to gift underprivileged children with necessities in their Angel Giving Tree program.
6. Gift services instead of material items.
Maybe your tween has a gift for babysitting. Encourage her to give free babysitting coupons to a family on a tight budget. Or Junior is a pro a shoveling snow and makes homemade coupons for the neighbors to do the chore for three mornings. Make your own coupon book and print it out on cardstock for a professional look. Don't forget to remind your little one that gifting a service is a great idea, but it's only complete when they finish said service.
7. Don't buy a gift for your child while shopping for others.
Other centeredness--that's the goal in shopping for other people. The best way to turn it right back to Junior's wants is to buy something for him at the same time. Make sure your "shopping for others" trip is just that. It may be tempting to buy for him too, but resist the urge. He needs to abstain from getting what he wants to make a lasting impression.
8. Consider shopping online for others with your child to save more money.
Depending on the age and maturity of your little shopper, they can learn the basics of shopping online. Yes, there are huge dangers of stumbling on unsavory content. And, no, you don't want to give Junior the laptop so he can get the job done himself. But since online shopping is quickly becoming the standard, help your child learn what sites are beneficial (especially ones that save money) and how to avoid going down a dark rabbit hole of advertising links. With Free Shipping Day coming up soon, many popular vendors like Melissa and Doug and Barnes & Noble will offer complimentary delivery. Turn online shopping into a math lesson, comparing prices in newspaper inserts to those online.
Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune, Time.com, and CBS News-Houston.