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The holiday season is upon us, and I am writing this during the pandemonium of Black Friday.  Even in Canada, where the internet tells me the deals aren’t as good as our neighbours down South, people are still clamouring to buy. As I saw my inbox filling up more than usual with seasonal shopping emails, I thought to myself, is this necessary? Key word here is, necessary. No, of course it is not necessary, and I feel it contributes to our desire to have and acquire new things. Just like everyone, I sometimes fall victim to these deals and get carried away with chasing a good price. What I’ve found over the years though is that we can always make a plan to keep ourselves in check.

I can’t help noticing that a lot of the items aren’t even on sale in Canada or the sale isn’t anything you wouldn’t see at any other time of the year. Yet I still see that people are loading up on stuff, and I wonder how many people have a set a budget and are sticking to that budget?

I was very fortunate to learn about planning for gift giving at an early age from my mother, and I think this time of the year might be one of the best times of year to talk to our families about learning about money management. Although it can sometimes seem complicated or intimidating, with the right tools it’s easier than you think.  For me, the biggest thing I have learned is to always have a plan. It’s so easy to get caught up in the fervor of the shopping deals, or the giving feeling of the holiday season that before you know it you have blown way more than you realized.

When you build your plan for the season, and make your list of gifts and meals and events, why not use the opportunity to sit down with your kids and get them involved with age-appropriate learning?  If they are young, they will no doubt love to help with the shopping and planning, and if they are a bit older they may need to develop plans of their own, too! Let’s be honest, we are all still going to buy things during the lead up to the holidays, but let’s develop a plan and stick to that budget. As they always say, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.

How did I learn about making a plan for the holidays?  As I said earlier, I was really lucky because when I was just little, I used to sit down with my mom and create a list of who I wanted to give presents to. Something for my Grandma and Grandpa, gifts for my family and friends.  How much could I spend on these people I cared so much about?  She helped me write the specifics of what I wanted to get for each them and, and then wrote down the approximate cost. Of course, in the 80’s there was no Internet to check prices, so my mom had to guess.  Not anymore: prices for nearly everything are just a couple keystrokes (or voice commands) away, so be sure to use this valuable tool when you are crafting your gift budget! Maybe even get your kids to look up the prices, so they can learn how.

Anyway, after we made my simple age-appropriate list (keeping it simple makes it easier to stick to!) and totaled it up, we counted what I had been diligently saving in my piggy bank. If I didn’t have enough, I would have to look at my list and adjust what I was going to buy. If I had pretty close to the right amount, did I want to spend it all? It made me think, and I had to learn to prioritize. Sometimes, in place of buying a present, my mom suggested I help Grandma and Grandpa with something or take them out for a treat so that we could spend time together and it would cost less (or sometimes cost nothing at all). Sometimes the answer was making a craft for my friends (keeping in mind I still had to make a budget for those craft supplies). Then I would still have some money left over to spend on something else, keep saving it up for something I really wanted!

There is always something to buy, and the retailers make it so, so easy to spend. Unfortunately, it can be hard to learn good money habits, and everyone learns by doing. My mom helped me be a money-smart kid, which set me up well to be a money-smart adult.  I hope some of these ideas will help you talk to your kids about the holiday season, and that they will be able to learn to make simple plans to keep their budgeting easy too!

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