Lessons for Children from a Frugal Christmas

This Christmas, many of us are thinking DIY gifts and even IOU “time with me” coupons.  While we’re saving money, though, why not take the time to explain to your kids a few important points about this time of year. 

If your child looks up at you with puppy dog eyes, silently pleading for that next gift that won’t come (it wasn’t in the budget), answer that plea with knowledge instead of longing.  After all, Christmas is a time for giving.

When your child looks forward to Christmas, do they think with glee, “It’s time to give!”  Or do they jump for joy at the idea of getting.  My guess is that they’re normal and fall into the latter of the two.  I know I did. 

Naturally, if someone is giving, that means someone is receiving.  Still, who says that "giving" has to be something of monetary value?  Why not take a moment to show how money cannot buy happiness, but how giving can?

Give a five year old a fifty dollar bill and watch them smile.  Give that same five year old a toy of their choice that costs fifteen dollars, and they’ll jump around like they just won the lottery.  Why?  To a child, it’s the what, rather than the “how much” that matters. 

Now, go grab the “it” gift from last year.  Take away the fifty and the new toy, and give them last year’s gift.  What?  They didn’t seem excited? 

Material things don’t bring happiness forever.

Take a minute to talk about why they want the new gift over the old, and let them make the connection that the happiness drawn from material things is temporary.  Of course, you probably can't explain it in so many words, but they’ll at least have been exposed to a very important life lesson.

Now, change focus.  What did your child “give” (more than likely with the help of another close relative) or make for you last year?  How happy did it make you?  Express that happiness.  Re-tell the experience.  See if your child seems to brighten at the thought of giving you so much joy. 

The happiness that comes from giving lasts forever. 

Maybe this year, you’ll tell your child that one of their gifts is that you’re going to teach them how to make pie, cake, or cookies.  Chances are, you planned on making them anyway, so why not let the shared experience be a gift.  Then, enhance the lesson of giving by allowing your child to be the one to take the credit for making the yummy treat as he or she hands it out to guests.  See if those puppy dog eyes don’t start smiling again after the warm reception they’ll get from giving their masterpiece away to be happily devoured.

Having a frugal Christmas by choice is never a dream experience, but having another opportunity to teach your child a valuable lesson always is.  Many parents probably don’t think that Christmas is a good time for teaching lessons, but why not?  What about the ultimate lesson in Christmas?  The story behind the season—does your child know it?  How well do you? 

Christmas is a time to get together, to love, be merry, and to focus on what really matters.  Sharing that with your kids is probably the best gift of all -- and it doesn't cost a cent.

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Anonymous's picture

Weekend Reading: Christmas Edition | Invest It Wisely wrote:

Sat, 12/25/2010 - 04:59 Comment #: 1

[...] Lessons for Children from a Frugal Christmas (MomVesting) [...]

Anonymous's picture

Money Reasons wrote:

Sun, 12/26/2010 - 16:02 Comment #: 2

My recently turned seven year old daughter created tons of cool gifts with just construction paper! She made a three dimensional house with a side walk and a girl skipping to see her mother inside. I thought it was a spectacular idea...; she didn't get that kind of innovative thinking from me (although she did create me a robot piggy bank that was close to an idea I had as a kid).

Sounds like you got some great kids too :)

Anonymous's picture

Ghost of Christmas Past - Christmas links | Money Reasons wrote:

Sun, 12/26/2010 - 16:08 Comment #: 3

[...] Lessons for Children from a Frugal Christmas Kids develop interestingly with respect to money and gifts.  Christmas is really about giving, so kudos for her that her kids have progressed to that level of Christmas spirit! (Monvesting) [...]

Jessica Schmeidler's picture

Jessica Schmeidler wrote:

Sun, 12/26/2010 - 17:54 Comment #: 4

A robot piggy bank and 3D construction? That is innovative! She sounds like she has a very nice balance of creativity and intelligence. She's a little entrepreneur in the making. :)

Anonymous's picture

Shaun wrote:

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 02:51 Comment #: 5

Love this post Jessica! Too many people get caught up in the hype and forget that it should be about giving and more importantly spending time with loved ones. Children learn from those around them, so it's worth taking time to teach them the true meaning of Christmas. Thanks for the reminder ;)

Jessica Schmeidler's picture

Jessica Schmeidler wrote:

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 03:11 Comment #: 6

"Children learn from those around them." So true! I'm glad you liked the post.

Anonymous's picture

Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog wrote:

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 20:05 Comment #: 7

I think this message is lost on a lot of people, but I agree with it. Christmas often is about what you get as a kid (I was the same way) but if you focus on what's really important (The things you dont learn till later) you can still let your kids give small, thoughtful gifts, but to focus on the time spent with family and friends.

Jessica Schmeidler's picture

Jessica Schmeidler wrote:

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 21:54 Comment #: 8

Well said, Jeff. :)

Anonymous's picture

The Kids-and-Finances Guide for Parents | MomVesting wrote:

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 21:45 Comment #: 9

[...] have the best ideas for gifts on a budget, don't you [...]

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