By Michelle Ramsey
When the holiday season rolls upon us, everyone has great ideas about how fancy it’s going to be this year. It’s no different around my household as new friends are added to the Christmas list and old ones are scratched off. My children’s list that is. Some years, they have teachers they absolutely adore. Then there are those times they want to purchase a gift for a whole gang of teachers. Other years, they don’t much care for their teachers and don’t want to purchase anything.
Depending on my daughter’s mood, she may want to purchase a gift for a few close friends. Other times, she wants to purchase a gift for only one. Then there are the Christmases like this one that she is only thinking of her family. With all of their additions and deletions, they also want to purchase a gift individually for me, their father, and each other every year.
We quickly have to rein in the controls of their long Christmas lists that swiftly outgrow our budget and the constraints of our pockets. While we are placing limitations on their lists, we also desire to empower them. The important lesson here is learning to budget, prioritize, and manage their wish lists. When they were in elementary school, we would allow them to take a gift to their teacher. Once middle school was upon us, there were an assortment of teachers for each subject. We imposed upon them the importance of selecting one special teacher they could add to their list and purchase a gift for.
Now that they are in high school, that list definitely needed to dwindle down, but as moody as teens can be, we never had to make that request. They decided on their own that they were not interested in purchasing gifts for any of their teachers. Every blue moon, one of them will have a particular teacher that they have bonded with and they want to show their appreciation at Christmas time. This we don’t mind.
Providing teens with a budget for their Christmas shopping empowers them to make decisions on their own. It also teaches them about fiscal management and equips them to make the right choices. When they know in advance the amount of money they have at their disposal, they can make a list that is more realistic. Sometimes this still does not work. This is especially true if you have a teenage child that is more of a dreamer than a realist. This happens with our daughter. In her mind she has illusions of grandeur and she can get everyone on her list a gift she desires them to have...until she goes shopping.
Our son is more of a realist. He can do the numbers in his head and dwindle his list down or up quickly. If he desires to have more funds at his disposal for shopping, he will quickly find ways to make money. Our daughter alternatively believes she only needs to beg more and give us the pouty face. Doesn’t work by the way. We encourage her to create a business venture the way our son does to generate more income. He uses his money to purchase snacks to sell at school and other events, multiplying his original income and expanding his budget.
Equipping your teens with a plan and a budget enables them to grow their own income and make realistic decisions about Christmas shopping. This also prepares them for managing their own income when they have a job. Regardless of the amount of money they have, it is still a smart decision to impose limitations on that budget. I believe it allows them to set guidelines, and prevents them from incurring too much stress about what they can or cannot do. With the remaining money they have after shopping is complete, they can consider buying something special for someone who did not make the original cut, or even start saving now for gifts next year.
Teaching these valuable habits of saving and budgeting now teaches them at an early age to avoid debt and stress later down the road. Because my daughter is always looking for another way to increase her income, I am often concerned that when she becomes an adult she might consider credit cards. That’s a debt road that I do not want her to go down. It is also an example that we have shown her how to avoid, therefore, we can only pray that she follows our lead.
The most valuable way to teach your teen how to make responsible decisions at Christmas time is by modeling them yourself. When they see mom and dad set realistic budgets and adhere to them, they know they can take you at your word. You should also consider teaching them the rewards that come with staying within the budget. Maybe the extra savings you earn can go towards a family vacation the next year, or maybe just a special treat for mom or dad. Or perhaps you don’t want to spend it, but just allow the money to earn interest in the bank. No matter the way you demonstrate the reward system, show them that sticking to a budget has its ups and downs.
If your teen finds him or herself in a bind, do not be so quick to rush and pull them out. Instead encourage them to think of ways they can resolve their own issue. Maybe like my daughter they have to reduce their list, or change the gift they planned to purchase originally. Alternatively, like my son they can find productive and positive ways to earn extra income to satisfy the wishes on their Christmas list. Sitting down with them in advance to discuss budget setting goals, their wish list, and placing realistic guidelines in place to adhere to will eliminate much disappointment in advance. And for those who are dreamers, they just might have to learn the lesson the hard way.
What ways do you empower your teens to make responsible decisions at Christmas time?
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