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.