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Harrine Freeman is a speaker, author and personal finance expert. Read more »
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The holiday season is quickly approaching. While it is a wonderful time of the year, many parents find themselves filled with stress, anxiety, pressure or guilt -- especially if their finances are tight. Children don't make it any easier, as they constantly recite the list of games, toys and electronics they're expecting.
If you don't have the money to buy a lot of gifts or celebrate the holidays the way you would like, then it's best to be honest with yourself -- and your children. Buy what you can afford and only use your credit card to purchase gifts if you can pay off the debt in two or three months. Remember, we just finished experiencing a recession and many of us are still feeling the effects. Besides, the holidays are really about spending time with your family and friends, being thankful, reflecting on the past year, and thinking about things you would like to change in the New Year.
So, before December arrives, consider these seven tips to navigate your finances during the holidays:
1. Manage expectations. Many times, children's expectations for holiday gifts are obtained from friends, classmates or from watching television. Be realistic: Let your children know your financial situation and give them a price limit for holidays gifts. If they can only get one big gift or one toy, tell them as soon as possible. If your children still believe in Santa, buy several small gifts from the dollar store (gifts that actually cost a dollar). Also, help your kids understand that receiving gifts doesn't mean a better holiday experience; spending time with loved ones is the most important thing.
2. Create a budget. Set a spending limit for your holiday shopping including groceries, gifts, etc. This will reduce your chances of going into debt and relieve the stress of having to buy things that aren't in your budget. Don't go into debt trying to buy gifts for your children. Do they really need a new desktop or laptop, or can they use the one they have until next year?
3. Be strong. Don't give in to puppy-dog eyes, whining or complaining from your children. Stay firm with your decision about gifts for the holidays. Giving in to your children sets unrealistic expectations and does not prepare them for the disappointments that occur in the real world.
4. Be prepared for unexpected gifts. If your children decide to give gifts to their babysitter, teachers or new friends, don't be alarmed. Let your child help you bake cookies or make handmade gifts for those people.
5. If you have an ex-spouse, consult with her or him. Make sure your children are not asking for the same gifts and are not using guilt as a way to get more from both parents.
6. Follow traditions. Continue or start inexpensive family traditions such as cooking or baking special treats together or going through the neighborhood caroling. Another idea is to have your child gather gently used toys to donate. This will get her in the holiday spirit, keep her active and distract her from thinking about all the gifts she wants for the holidays.
7. Volunteer. Consider letting older kids volunteer to help sick children or the homeless. Not only will they learn the meaning of compassion, but it will also help change their perspective about life and what's really important. Other children and families have less than they do. Explain that they should be appreciative of whatever they have.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Tell me, what kinds of things are you going to do to save money over the holidays?
Sorry, Harrine Freeman is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.