5 Ways to Impress Your Kids for Less This Holiday Season

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When it comes to holiday gifts, you don't have to blow your budget to wow your children. Here's some proven advice.

Who better than a financial planner for doling out advice on how to not spend money this holiday season?

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has just released its strategies [PDF] for “making a child happy this holiday season.” And all of them are frugal.

“Even with a sour economy, many parents will continue to agonize over finding their child just the right present, whatever the cost in time and money,” the CFP Board says. Here are their tips…

1. “Use a Gift-Giving Structure.” Too often, parents try to buy themselves out of a stressful situation with their kids – even if it breaks the budget. But the CFP Board says, “By thinking more about the types of gifts to give, parents can buy more effectively. The gift categories might include: most wanted, fun, practical, educational, or totally unexpected. By buying a present within each category, parents will be less likely to overspend.”

2. “Make a Privilege Coupon Book.” Here’s one of those corny no-cash ideas from years gone by that really works: Give your kid a “book of privileges.” Basically, spend an hour and design some coupons on your computer. The coupons can be reimbursable for privileges such as staying up an hour past bedtime or getting an extra portion of dessert. Remember when you were a kid? These were the really important things.  (Btw, this was one of the ideas we also suggested in our recent story 6 Tips to Save on Holiday Shopping)

3. “Give Gifts of Time and Experience.” Gifts that offer lasting memories – like tickets to sporting event or a series of Saturday “dates” to explore the city or neighborhood – are cheaper than the latest fad toys and last much longer.

4. “Play Gifting Games.” Talk about short attention spans: kids rip open all their presents before Mom and Dad even make it to the living room to watch. So this year, hold some gifts back and incorporate them into a “gift game” where each player gets a turn at picking a gift, according to rules you create. By slowing down the gift-opening, you can buy fewer gifts while downplaying the “what did I get?” mentality. This is also a chance to create new, meaningful, and inexpensive holiday traditions.

5. “Use this Holiday for Teachable Moments.” Holidays are the perfect time to teach your kids the importance of giving to others – and basic financial principles. If your children get money or gift cards, encourage them to recite the many ways the gift can be used: spend some now, save some, give away some to others or a charity. “Help your child understand the idea of gift exchange, which involves choosing gifts for others as well as receiving gifts,” the CFP Board says. “Gift-giving also provides children an opportunity to create and work within budgets.

Concludes CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney: “Now is a time to re-think gift-giving so that parents stay sane and solvent, while still making the season special for their children.”

And Blayney is not only a financial planner: “I’m a parent and grandparent who always looks to make the holidays a season of memories.” So she knows what she’s talking about.

Stacy Johnson

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