Do you give your child money to buy holiday gifts?
Most of us will have gift-giving obligations this month. As a parent of an older kid who might not be old enough to earn their own money, it can be a frustrating additional onus on you to purchase gifts “from” them for family and friends, and/or determining a reasonable spending limit for them to stick to when using your hard-earned pay to choose items themselves. Our panelists tell us about their holiday gift-giving strategies.
Steve K. » Auburn, age 50
Father to an 11-year-old daughter
Gift cards control purchases. The holidays are a non-stop barrage of presents at our house. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas to keep all the relatives happy. This year, the two are squashed into the same time period, which will be hella-convenient for us.
When it comes to gifts, we recommend that our extended families look at our kid’s Amazon wish list. They don’t have to buy from there, but that’s the convenient place for us to aggregate possibilities. We prefer no cash gifts because there is too much temptation to buy in the moment.
Gift cards are always a good bet, giving our daughter the opportunity to choose something on or off her list. An advantage is that the gift card balance goes into our parental accounts, so we can maintain some parental purchasing authority. It also lets us to chip in, if we want. Our daughter is pretty content with that set-up, except… lately, we’ve had to use our best parental persuasion tactics to keep her impulses in check. Our new cat, Mochi, has been the recipient of our daughter’s largesse. Fragments of cheap cat toys are strewn across our living room, with more to come. That’s a sure sign the holidays are near.
Liz H. » Sandown, age 41
Married with three daughters, ages 8, 14 and 16
Earn it themselves. The girls spend their own money on immediate family (the five of us). It’s usually small, but thought out. They also help me shop for their sisters, which I think they enjoy. They are just as excited for a sister to open a specific present as they are their own!
Last year, we ran in to my oldest wanting to get gifts for everyone she was friends with at school and theater. She baked cookies and packaged them up cute (I’m sure we paid for the supplies for the cookies). Anyone extra — boyfriend, close friends — that’s absolutely on them. If girls want money to buy gifts (which I expect will happen this year), we will absolutely give jobs for them to earn it. Oldest scooped ice cream all summer and saved money; middle makes dog treats and saves that. I’m much happier to help them earn money than just hand it over.
Finally, we also do “service gifts” as a family. Last Christmas, we volunteered at Food for Kids in Manchester on the day they distributed Toys for Tots. I want all three to appreciate the value of money, how blessed they are and how much need is out there.
Lisa M. » Merrimack, age 48
Mom to two sons, ages 14 and 16
Set a budget. I have two boys, 14 and 16. Neither have official jobs yet. They do chores around the house and at their grandparents’ house, but they usually spend [the money] on themselves as quickly as it comes in. They both want jobs, but we are putting a focus more on school work, sports and being a kid. They have their whole adult lives to work.
I think there should always be a limit. I want them to have things they want but also things they need. I give them about $25 apiece to spend on each other. They provide me input on what they would like to get their father and I try to keep that around $50. If it was something really cool, I would consider increasing the budget to accommodate, within reason.
Mike C. » Hollis, age 50
Married with three kids, ages 14, 18 and 20
Gifts aren’t the focus. Holiday spending limits or providing shopping money has never been an issue in our household because we’ve never pushed the over-consumerism aspects of the holidays.
Our holidays have always been about family time, visiting relatives, and sharing a meal. We’re probably horrible parents, but our kids have always gotten very few gifts — a few articles of clothing from us, a “big toy” from Santa (usually $50-$100 range) and a smaller toy from us (usually a board game or something that promotes group activity).
If we do splurge, it’s on a family activity — a day trip, or a show, or a day sledding or skiing. Opening presents is over in about 10 minutes because it’s three or four gifts per kid. Given that, they’ve probably rarely considered buying gifts for each other, because Christmas is about more than gifts.
One of the most anticipated and cherished activities is an annual cookie decorating party, hosted by a relative. A tradition since they were toddlers, the dozen-plus now teen to 20-year-old cousins take time away from school, jobs, and commitments for a day of hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Oh, and bingeing on cookies.
What we lack in presents, we make up for in food. Holidays are usually about some feast, frequently with extended family and friends. We have always included our kids in the planning and preparation of holiday feasts, so they now each have favorite dishes they want to prepare, and holidays are usually the lot of us crowded around the kitchen whipping up some delicacies to share.
Gifts are great, but it’s more important to teach them to keep focus on what matters: having a family, people that care for you, a meal, and having a place to live.