The festive season, while being a good opportunity for family gatherings after a long year of hard work and the ups and downs of earning a living, comes with an added burden for parents.
According to a study by WorldRemit on the true cost of Christmas festivities, a majority of Kenyan households spend more than half (54%) of their monthly income on Christmas expenses.
A related study by Tally, an app-based automated debt manager, found that one of the reasons parents overspend is to avoid the burden of guilt as almost 74% of parents with kids under the age of 18 said that they would feel so guilty if they did not buy their children gifts over the holidays.
The downside is, instead of just unwinding and enjoying the festivities, most of the parents normally end up worrying over what to get for their children or families and how much money they can realistically afford to spend during the holidays.
While you are struggling to make ends meet, your children's wish list might feel like an added weight. Holidays are indeed a time for celebration, time with family, and gift-giving all of which are great but can be overwhelming at the same time.
Here are a few strategies that can help you to survive the holidays economically when you have children and also help reduce the holiday strain on yourself and your pocket.
During the festive season, kids enjoy making endless lists of what they would want to be bought. Inasmuch as holidays might come off as a time to tick off the wishes on your childrens’ bucket list, it is also not a time to spoil them at the expense of your financial wellbeing.
If your household budget is limited, make it a point of letting your children know upfront. Let them know why mommy can't take them to Mombasa for the holidays or why daddy can't buy them the bicycle they've been desiring all year. In doing so, you can be able to make it through the season on your budget as a parent.
However, this doesn't mean that you have to brush everything on their list off, but you can concentrate on the most important and the ones that fit into your set budget.
When your children start comparing their Christmas presents, clothes, destinations, and customs to those of their friends, you can let them learn that every family is unique. People don't earn, save, give and spend in the same manner.
On the Martinis and Your Money podcast, Liz Thames, an award-winning personal finance blogger, noted that children often demand what you create for them. She further added that different parents do things in their homes in different ways, and that's fine. But as a parent, you are in command. You get to choose which holiday traditions you want to have in your home, which ones you want to continue with and which ones you'd like to drop.
Just because ‘family A’ does a couple of things for their holiday celebrations and tradition, that doesn't mean that your family should do the same. Clearly explain this to your children and make them understand. You can choose to have your own unique family traditions and way of doing things.
It could be baking, trying out new recipes, going out to the park for a walk or picnic, going swimming, staying indoors and watching a movie, trying out DIYs among many others.
“But I want it...”
Your kids may insist on getting a specific toy or dress, or pair of shoes. Use that time to have an open and honest financial dialogue with them. Explain to them the difference between needs and wants.
You can start by identifying their needs and wants with them and creating a list of both. Help them to understand that wants and needs also go beyond material things and extend to values.
Set a budget for the presents that your child would like to receive during the festive period. You can do this by making a list of your child’s wishes and the things they would like to get. Set a limit for the total amount you are going to spend on them and then make your budget.
If you have more than one child, ensure that you allocate equal amounts of money to go to every child. You can also spice it up and make it more fun and memorable by having them buy gifts for one another with the allocated budget. You will realize that kids are very thoughtful.
When the lists and budget are allocated, you can also direct them to explore those that are on sale. This will also make them learn how to shop smart. Motivate them to look around for the best sales and deals in order to get the most out of their money. While doing this, ensure that you help them to keep track of their spending so as not to go beyond your budget.
Christmas has always been magical. However, it is erroneous to presume that it must be extravagant in order to be meaningful.
In fact, basic yet thoughtful gifts and activities such as family come-together, are frequently appreciated more. Make creative handicrafts with them as souvenirs, or ask them to help you make homemade snacks for the family, friends, and neighbors. Demonstrate to your children that the best presents come from the heart. It is the thought that matters.
Teaching them to value moments and memories more than things will enable them to appreciate everything that crosses their path. This may also minimize their tendency to be dissatisfied when they do not get what they desire. Teach them to look for a value that will last even after the festivities are all done and in the long run, you will end the holidays with your finances still in check.
You can choose one of these strategies or combine all of as well for an even better outcome. Whatever approach you take to navigating the festivities as a parent and making your finances work, make it count because Christmas only comes once a year.
Happy and safe holidays to you and your loved ones.