Kansas City Star
release December 5th, 2004
Wishes and gifts
Strategies to help your children keep holidays in perspective
It's tough enough being a parent this time of year without worrying
whether your children will be consumed by commercialism.
With product buzz in full force, marketers are trying to hook kids
on hot gizmos, gadgets and toys — not to mention clothing with cool
logos. But the holiday season doesn't have to mean caving in to your
child's every excessive desire and zeroing out your bank account in
Here are answers to gift-giving questions I routinely receive this
time of year from parents and grandparents. Following these
strategies just might help you (and your kids) maintain financial
control and keep the holiday season in perspective.
Q. My kids have papered our refrigerator with their wish lists and
they're asking for everything. I hate to disappoint, but how can I
keep this from getting out of control?
A. My kids are big list makers, but my wife and I reserve the right
to make executive decisions on what's too expensive or
inappropriate. Kids shouldn't expect to get everything After all,
these are wish lists.
If your kids have a list a mile long, have them prioritize and rank
the top five or so gifts they most desire. It's also fine if kids
attach catalog or Web site information that details exactly what
they want, where to get it and how much it will cost.
Q. Should I tell the kids that money is tight this year?
A. By all means, be honest with your kids about money, especially
with older children.
"Let them know there will be less under the tree this year,” said
Gary Buffone, a Jacksonville, Fla., psychologist and author of
Choking on the Silver Spoon: Keeping Your Kids Healthy, Wealthy and
Wise in a Land of Plenty.
Buffone suggests using this opportunity to remind your kids what the
holidays are all about. Instill the notion that it's better to give
than to receive.
If feasible, it might make sense to settle on one family gift that
might last longer than toys and video games. A table tennis or
hockey game also just might pull your kids away from the TV, too.
How good is that!
Q. How can I encourage our kids to give to people who truly need
A. Have them do something hands-on, such as volunteering at a
homeless shelter, a children's hospital or nursing home during the
holidays. Singing carols or making hot chocolate and cookies can
make a big difference in another person's life. Or donate old toys
or outgrown clothes to other children who might need them, and have
your kids help with the delivery.
Q. Should we give our kids money to buy gifts for brothers and
sisters and other family members, or should they use their own
A. Once kids are getting an allowance or have a job, let them get
involved monetarily in the shopping process. Using their own cash
will also teach them lessons in budgeting. Also, encourage handmade
gifts — you'd be surprised what kids can make with clothes pins,
wiggle eyes, magnets and a little glue.
Q. Is it OK just to give my teenage grandkids money?
A. Older kids are just fine with holiday cash. Be really creative by
giving the kids a roll of gold dollar coins or crisp $1 bills. Gift
cards also work, though check on expiration dates.
Q. Do you have some suggestions for gifts that will teach kids about
A. Here are two ways to introduce young investors to stocks.
One route is a $20 youth membership in the National Association of
Investors Corp., which entitles members, among other things, to five
issues of the Young Money Matters educational newsletter
(1-877-275-6242; www.better-investing.org). Members also can
participate in a low-cost stock-purchase program.
Or check out Sharebuilder.com, which offers investment cash
certificates that can be applied to buy stocks online.
Kids need help
The Police Athletic League is looking for help so kids can enjoy
some holiday laughter and loads of cookies. The organization is
holding its annual Christmas cookie baking party on Dec. 17 at its
facility at 1801 White. The event will run from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
The league is looking for donations of flour, sugar, mixes and other
ingredients to make cookies. Or come by that afternoon to help kids
bake cookies and make Christmas decorations.
For more information on the Christmas party, call Paula Willett of
Bank Midwest at (816) 412-1704, or send her e-mail at
Do you have questions, comments or column ideas? Call Steve Rosen at
(816) 234-4879, send e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him c/o The Kansas City Star,
1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.
For more information contact:
Paul S. Richard
Institute of Consumer Financial Education
PO Box 34070
San Diego, CA 92163
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