Connect / Motherhood

The Holidays and Kids: Managing Manners and Expectations, While Maintaining a Budget

Emily Moynihan Kasper  |  November 16, 2018

This mom gives her pro secrets for maintaining holiday cheer on a budget.

When we think of gifting, many of us immediately jump to our children, nieces, nephews and other little ones in our lives (and who can blame us, have you SEEN footie pajamas?).

We are approaching a magical season full of excitement for these littles, and it is our great pleasure to bring that to life for them. Nothing is more rewarding than giving a child a gift that thrills them.

(And, if we’re honest, few things less enjoyable than a festive moment spoiled by a gift thoughtlessly tossed aside).

In our house, keeping the season enjoyable with children hinges on two things: manners and expectations.

Let’s talk about manners

During the holidays the key manners to focus on are ingraining in children (really … this is for everyone aged 2-102), the process of reading cards, opening gifts and giving a sincere “thank you” to the giver (Yes, this is possible! Role play a few times at home and watch the magic unfold.

Pro tip: Have them pretend to open a gift they’re less than thrilled about and remain gracious).  

Second, establish expectations (a strong, realistic sense of what gifting during the holidays looks like).  

Prep your kids so they know what awaits them, whether it’s the simple gifts you’ve prepared (or the insane amount waiting at Grandma’s). Giving them a strong sense of what’s to come will help everyone enjoy the admittedly hectic season. This can vary widely based on your traditions.

We know families who consistently give three gifts, or one gift a day for eight or 12 days, or the ever-popular want/need/wear/read categories. Setting expectations starts early (Am I the only person whose children start asking about Christmas presents in August?).

If your child asks for something, encourage them to keep a list on paper or in your phone (even taking pictures of things and revisiting to see if it’s still as exciting days or weeks later).  Letting your child know to expect a few items from their list helps them conceptualize what’s to come, and lets parents choose items they think are best.  

Both mentally and financially, the best advice is to choose gifts wisely, erring on buying less items of greater quality for long-lasting cheer.

Encourage Experience Gifts

If you’re anything like me, chances are your toy bins and shelves are full of toys and books. If your child is looking for something specific, this is the time of year to grant that wish, but research shows that the gifts with the most lasting impact are those of an experience together.

Bonus: Grandparents and other loved ones often enjoy these most, because it gives them quality time with the child throughout the year (and a much-needed break for Mom and Dad!)  

Zoo and aquarium passes, local theater tickets, science and art museum memberships, and theme parks all make for wonderful gifts that you don’t have to step on in the middle of the night.  

Parties and Gift Exchanges

When every moment seems filled with parties, teacher gift prep, it can be stressful and time-consuming to think through purchases for each individual event.  

Keeping a batch-gift box ready for the holiday season keeps you prepared for teachers, classmates, friends and coworkers. When in doubt, consider consumables that are delightful and easily batch-prepared like homemade BBQ or vanilla extract (or the teachers in our lives tell us their favorite things are gift cards to spread the love over the whole year).  

One afternoon in November prepping can set you up for a “little something” for everyone (and the freedom to enjoy that party!).

We get it. We all want magical holidays. They’re a great opportunity to spend meaningful time with loved ones and make lasting memories with our children and families.  

What are your favorite ways to keep your financial (and mental) health during the holidays? Come join the conversation on Facebook and tell us all about it!


Next Article: