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Give Your Kids the Gift of Giving

December 08, 2016 at 5:00 AM

The run up to the holidays at the end of the month is an especially great time to teach young children some money and life lessons.

Have The Kids Clean Their Closets, Rooms, and Playrooms. The goal is to create a single pile of all the toys, books and clothes that are no longer used or wanted. As a family take a look at the pile and separate the stuff that was used a lot-but has outgrown its usefulness-from stuff that was rarely used. Right there you’ve got a great lesson waiting to be taught. 

I want you to pull out one item of clothing from the used-but-outgrown pile and one from the never-or-rarely-worn pile that was something your child begged you to buy. If you have the cash handy, I want you to put the dollars you spent to purchase that item on top of the item. Or write down on a post-it the cost of each item. Then talk about whether you, and they think you got your money’s worth out of the item. Explain what you mean by that: was the cost worth it given how often (or not) the item was used, or appreciated. I think you will all agree that the money spent on the used item was worth it. But now focus on the unused item. I want you to ask your child what they would choose today: the item or the money it cost. They will likely want the money. Don’t give it to them! But use this as a lesson that you all can lean on when you’re shopping. Have them really think through if a purchase is worth it.  

  1. Find a Good Home For All Your Unwanted Stuff. Your pile of things to toss can be someone else’s treasure. Please use this as opportunity to teach your kids about charity. Discuss some local groups that might be interested in what you and the kids have decided to get rid of. Then make it a point to have your child accompany you to make that donation.

  2. Create a Holiday Money-Gift Plan. If your children receive money as gifts this holiday season, or for birthdays and other milestones, don’t miss an incredible learning opportunity. I want you to sit down as a family and talk about how money can be used: It can be spent. It can be shared. It can be saved. My recommendation is that every time a child receives a monetary gift you divide it into these three buckets: Spending, Charity, Saving. It is up to you to decide how much goes in each bucket. I would obviously encourage more go toward charity and saving. But spending is also important. Whether it is 10% or 25%, this is money you give your child free rein to spend, as they want. No judgment. There is learning to be had in making decisions about how to spend. My hope is that they will focus on things they truly value. If not, that’s a purchase that will end up in next year’s Unused Stuff Pile…and the teaching and learning can continue.

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