Holiday Economics

Last week, I was in the labor and delivery with my wife while we were waiting for our, then, unborn child to make his first appearance. Because my wife’s water had broken but labor hadn’t started, we started having idle conversation with a wonderful nurse named Suzanne. Suzanne has three sons, who, like most kids, clearly never read the Wall Street Journal, so they have no idea what’s going on in the economy. They also don’t realize that the money that grows on trees, falls off in autumn with the leaves and get raked into bags and thrown away.

Suzanne’s boys each let her know what they wanted for Christmas. Each gift cost the roughly the price of a first class round trip ticket to North Pole. (By the way, Jetblue doesn’t fly there).  As we were discussing the billions of dollars that the advertising industry spends to connect with your kids on levels that parents only dream of, I thought about giving you a few pointers on how to prevent tantrums and meltdown from your kids, while keeping you out of bankruptcy court.

#1 Make a list

Have a conversatin with your kids. Tell them to give you a list of several gifts that are within a pricerange that you determine.  Also, tell them, how many gifts they will get off of that list.  If they want to negotiate that’s fine. Instead of two $40 gifts, Johnny may want one $90 gift. Work with him. Be creative. Have him contribute the extra $10.

#2  Check it twice

Now go through that list and choose the gifts you’re going to buy. But don’t tell them what they gifts are. (if at all possible, get them something that’s not on the list ALSO. Total suprises are still in season)

#3 Don’t be naughty. Be nice.

If you have relatives who you know will give money (grandma, grandpa, Grandma…), talk to your children (or the relative) about using that money to get something off the list that you didn’t choose.

Most kids know you’re Santa. It’s a really good idea to help them understand the life lessons of sharing, planning and compromise. This is a perfecrt opportunty for that. Also, remember to talk to them about the gifts they are going to give.

Do the same with younger kids. There’s no reason that they should be lead to believe that they can ask for and receive everything the advertisers are showing them on television and printed ads.  Furthmore, you may want to have them watch more commericial free programming. PBS, Netflix and the ever reliable DVD are great for that.

By the way, when my son was born at 11:30 that night, I asked him for his list. He gave me a blank stare. You know the one. You may get that too. But work with them. Have a happy holiday!



Donald Somerville
Senior Family Services Coordinator

Change a child's life.