Christmas

How to Create Your Child’s Holiday Gift List

How to Create Your Child's Holiday Wish List | www.TheHeavyPurse.comThe Christmas season is officially here! People are making their lists and checking them twice when it comes to who they are buying presents for this year. Prior to having our own kids, I remember often feeling a bit overwhelmed and confused as I stood in the toy aisle, looking for gifts for my nephews and nieces. It isn’t always easy knowing what to buy kids and ensuring your money is put to good use.

My goal when it comes to buying presents is to stay within budget and buy something the recipient truly wants/needs. It’s a win-win. They love their present and I feel good about the money I spent without worrying that I bought gifts no one wanted. Kids can be particularly tricky at Christmas since their immediate response when asked what they want for Christmas isn’t always the things they truly want.

How To Determine What Kids Truly Want this Christmas

Helping your kids create their true list doesn’t take long and those buying your kids gifts (yourself included!) will appreciate their holiday shopping becoming a little bit easier.

Step 1: Identify Everything They Want

I know. I know. Everything they want? Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but you do want them to create a very robust list now because we will pare it down later. Take out all those toy flyers that have been filling your mailbox and give them to your kids. Give them some time to familiarize themselves with the flyers and have them circle the things they want. Ideally you want your kids to have circled twice the amount of gifts you expect them to receive. So if you expect your kids to receive 8 gifts between family, friends and Santa, then have them circle 16 items. Before they start, set a price range as well, so they don’t pick gifts no one can afford to buy them. Give each child 30 minutes to look through the flyers and circle the things they want.

Step: 2: Narrow the List Down to What They TRULY Want

It was probably pretty easy for them to find toys they wanted, but they also picked a bunch of toys they liked or sort of liked or not really liked but if Mom is going to buy it for me, then I won’t complain toys. This is where you weed those toys out. List out each toy and have them compare one toy against the other to decide which toys they like best. “If you had to choose between this toy or this toy, which one would you rather have?” Go through the list until you have identified the 8 gifts they truly want.

Bonus Holiday Tip: While kids definitely like tangible gifts, don’t forget about experiences either, especially those of you on a tight budget where you’ve had to eliminate some fun activities. Here is your chance to bring back some of those activities. Instead of asking only for toys have your kids ask for gift certificates to movie theaters so you can catch the next big blockbuster or for tickets to a local sporting event or concert. Or gift certificates for Park and Rec activities, the Zoo, a museum or the bowling alley, etc.

Look For Teachable Money Lessons

Don’t overlook opportunities to talk about money with your kids while you’re helping them create their lists. When you give them the price range explain to them why you set it (i.e. people earn different amounts of money and have different budgets. It’s another great place to talk about saving goals too.). When your kids are choosing which items they truly want, help them figure out what really makes their heart happy by asking them “why” one item is better than the other. Express your gratitude for all the things you have.

Bonus Holiday Tip: I am forever grateful that my husband and I are able to give our daughters a magical Christmas, but I know not every parent has that luxury. Kids receive so many new toys at Christmas so consider starting a new tradition in your home where one old toy gets donated for every new toy received.

The True Magic of Christmas

Gifts are a part of the Magic of Christmas, but they make up only a small part of it. Throughout December, I’ll be sharing how we make Christmas magical in our home.

Shannon

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.

The Heavy Purse Store is now open! My new downloadable Money Club Workbooks—based on age or level of expertise—are now on sale. Each workbook provides five targeted lessons to help you grow Money Smart Kids. Please check them out in The Heavy Purse Store.

December 2, 2013  •  60 Comments  •  Christmas

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  1. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Great post Shannon. We do not have kids yet but are hoping to adopt soon, and I will certainly look to your blog for lots of great advice on how to help kids grow up to be financially responsible adults. Thanks so much.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Dee! Best wishes on adopting. So many children in need of a good family and it's wonderful that you are opening your hearts and home.
  2. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    I like it Shannon. Our son is too young at this point to tell us what he wants but this will be great to keep in mind.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Matt. Yes, your little guy is a little too young but in just a couple of years, he'll be ready to create his true list. :)
  3. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Great post, Shannon! My kids have so much that it pains me to look for more stuff to buy them. I'm going practical this year and getting them clothes and art supplies. Santa also got us a family kindle that my daughters can play games on when they're good! =)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Holly! I hear you; our girls have plenty as well! Sounds like a great plan and I know your girls appreciate everything they get, so they will love it! And I'm pretty sure the girls will love what Santa is bringing the family! :)
  4. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    When my kids were younger, and their lists were very long,I would always have them do their list a second time...placing the top 10 things on one side of a page, and the rest on the other side. Then I would pick and choose only from the top ten. :) Now that my kids are older (14 and 11) their lists are pretty darned short, but the things are fairly expensive.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Great minds think a like, Travis! :) Kids will ask for everything without really taking the time to think about what is that they would really like to see under the Christmas tree. Making them pare down the list really makes them think about what are the things they want. My oldest turned 10 and she's starting to branch past toys now too. I imagine their lists will get shorter and more expensive too. :)
  5. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    We always have our kids pick their "top 5" on their Christmas wish lists. This helps us to know what to focus on, since the monetary value of their lists is often far above what we spend. :-) Can't wait to read more about how you guys make Christmas magical in your home - sounds like fun stuff!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Smart move, Laurie. I really thinking making kids pare down their wish list helps ensure you're buying them something they truly want. Otherwise with all the marketing that bombards them during the season, they think they want everything but really only truly want a few of things they say they do.
  6. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Great tips Shannon! We do something similar in our home with our oldest and will likely as our other two get older. We work in how we purposely have a limited budget and also try to work in some sort of volunteering/giving as well. One thing we do is hold back a good chunk of what we have budgeted for each child and use it for experiences throughout the year. They remember those much more and they already get enough junk from their grandparents. :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, John! I love that hold you back some of the money to use on experiences instead of gifts. We really do remember experiences far more than we do gifts. And you are right, they get so many gifts from grandparents and others and it is nice to look forward to some special experiences/outings throughout the year.
  7. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Great tips, Shannon! I'm for sure in that overwhelmed stage where I just stand clueless in the toy aisles for my friends' kids. :) I love the idea about experiences - I'll have to see if there's specials going on for Sea World or the SD zoo to take them!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Glad to hear that I wasn't the only one overwhelmed in toy aisles! :) I bet there are some great deals you can find for Sea World or the Zoo or Lego Land that your friends kids would love. It's definitely something they would remember!
  8. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Very good points to help everyone stay within budget but still have a nice Christmas. I had to chuckle when you mentioned to give the kids the flyers to browse through. I remember as a kid at this time of year going through the Sears Wishbook Catalogue. We looked forward to it every year to see what was new and available.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Oh, I remember the Sears Wishbook Catalog too! :) It was very exciting when it came in the mail. We didn't blasted with ads as much as kids do today. Sort of sad. Takes a bit of the magic away.
  9. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    When my kids were little their Christmas list was a long one. And a lot of the times it was stuff that was too much for my budget. Most of the time we would get what we could and look at their list and see what if there was anything within our budget we'd get it...it was tough with four little ones.

    Now that they are teens they want stuff like a laptop and a guitar. I haven't decided if I want to get them that because it is pricey....I'll need your tips here for sure :).

    Thanks for sharing Shannon...looking forward to your posts this month! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Kids always seem to have long Christmas lists, which can make it hard on budgets and to know what they really, really want. That's one reason why I have the girls pare their lists down because it forces to really decide which things are most important. Teens seem to always want expensive things and at that age you can definitely talk to them about being on a budget. You might not be able to buy new but you could find good deals on Craigslist or eBay that better fit your budget.
    • Sunday, December 8th, 2013
      Hm. Craiglist or eBay. I might just check out those sites.

      Yes, teens do ask for more expensive items but for one day a year...at least once, I'd like to be a kid and open gifts that are a surprise. They'll realize that when they're my age :).

      Hope you're having a great weekend! Have a great new week ahead Shannon!
    • Shannon
      Sunday, December 8th, 2013
      Definitely check them out. You might find some great bargains! Yes, some day our kids will understand everything we went though. Just like we did! :)
  10. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Great post Shannon! I'm all for creating memories with my daughter this Christmas. They are only little for so long :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Mackenzie! I agree - kids grow up so fast and I want to make sure that I'm creating treasured holiday memories with the girls, which goes far beyond presents.
  11. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Great tips Shannon! We tell our 7 year old son that Santa likes all kids to keep their lists within a price range so he knows that they are not spoiled. This not only helps our son understand the idea of a "budget" at an early age, but we also discuss the prices of items and the pros and cons of keeping certain gifts on the list.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Love it, Shannon! Kids don't automatically grasp budgeting, so it's a great way to explain it to them while you're helping them put together their Christmas list. Learning how to prioritize is another great skill for them to learn. All things that will help them as adults.
  12. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    Love this post Shannon! I still struggle buying for other people's kids even though I have my own daughter to think about. She's quite easy to buy for as she just wants a doll with a yellow dress?! My nephews have everything so I bought them a science set (build your own volcano type thing). I prefer to go for educational toys although I'm probably seen as the boring auntie!

    I really like this way of weeding out things to buy for our kids, especially the point about setting price limits beforehand and teaching them lessons about money along the way.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Hayley! I love how specific your daughter is - doll with yellow dress! Hopefully you know which doll it is. :) Putting together Christmas lists can be so much fun and give you plenty of opportunities to teach them invaluable lessons about money without it seeming like a lecture.
  13. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    With only one kids, we probably buy too much, but we do make her give away her old stuff before we replace with anything new. Luckily, toys are pretty cheap at age 6. I dread when she starts wanting electronics.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      It sounds like you've gotten into a good habit of having your daughter share her old toys when she gets new ones. A great habit for her to form at such a young age. Yes, the older they get the more expensive their gift choices become. :)
  14. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    I have cousins who are 5 and 7 years old and they had their Christmas list ready to go at Thanksgiving. It was funny when we talked to my Aunt and she told us what they REALLY wanted and didn't want.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      That's hilarious! They were prepared. And very interesting that their Mom knew what they REALLY wanted and what was extraneous stuff on their list. Most parents probably know what's the "extra" on their kids lists too, but it's good for the kids to recognize that too. :)
  15. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    I love these ideas! We have really struggled in the past with getting our kids gifts "we think" they would like, only to see them played with for a few days then sit on the shelf, never to be touched again. I like the idea of getting the kids involved and expressing what they want.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Brian! We've been there too. You think you found the perfect gift only to be met with a shrug. I find making the girls pare down their list really makes them think about which ones they truly want instead of stuffing their list with everything they see. I find it helps them really start to figure out what things make their hearts truly happy which is something we always ask ourselves whenever we see something we want.
  16. Monday, December 2nd, 2013
    I love experiences for adults and I think they can be just as good for kids, plus no extra clutter. The zoo or a children's theatre show are great ideas.
    • Shannon
      Monday, December 2nd, 2013
      Absolutely, Stefanie. We treasure experiences and often remember them for years. As an actress, I'm sure you see the excitement of kids attending their first theatre shows all the time and it's something they will never forget.
  17. Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
    I will have to keep this in mind when my son can actually talk and tell me what he wants. Now, he just gets money deposited into his 529!
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 5th, 2013
      LOL! Yes, being able to talk is important. :) Soon he will be talking non-stop! And getting money deposited into his 529 is pretty good gift in my opinion.
  18. Thursday, December 5th, 2013
    Fabulous post! I wish someone would do this with my niece and nephew. I always seem to buy the "throw away" gifts. Now that my nephew is older and can understand experience gifts, we are going that route (trip to Legoland for him this year!).
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Michelle! I've been there too and it's definitely frustrating. Legoland will be a great gift and one your nephew will remember for a long time!
  19. Thursday, December 5th, 2013
    Great tips! My little one has told me she wants some kind of doll. But she told Santa that as well. So back to the drawing board. Ha! My parents now, are getting up there in age where they don't want to be out shopping around, so they've been giving me the money and say, here you go, buy our granddaughter something, "you know best, what she likes" Ha!
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Anthony! LOL! I always love it when they only have "one" thing they want and tell everyone. :) Sometimes it seems like we know more what they "don't" want than what they do. Good luck!
  20. Friday, December 6th, 2013
    Hi Shannon,

    Lovely post indeed :)

    Yes, narrowing down on the list to what they really want is the best option so that they also realize that they will get what they asked for, but within the set budget. I guess they learn a great deal about budgeting and saving too this way.

    I think it's a very kind gesture to donate a toy in place of any new one you receive, something that we keep doing at home, all year through too. It's not just with toys, but with everything that's not being used at home. I think it's the attitude of giving that we need to instill in our children, which happens when they see their parents do the same, and Christmas is the perfect time for teaching them such lessons.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend :)
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 6th, 2013
      Thanks, Harleena! Yes, creating their wish list can really help children learning about budgeting and prioritizing their wants/needs - two important life skills! I absolutely agree we need to instill a giving mindset into our children and seeing their parents do the same is very powerful. You have a wonderful weekend too!
  21. Friday, December 6th, 2013
    I love the concept of making donating used toys as part of a Christmas tradition. Growing up, we used to do the Samaritan Purse shoebox. My sister and I would each get to go to the store to fill up the shoebox with toys, bathroom products and other requests from children in need. It's a memory I still cherish.
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 6th, 2013
      Thanks, Erin! Sounds like a wonderful memory and I think it's so important to having a sharing/giving component as part of your Christmas celebration. Have a great weekend!
  22. Friday, December 6th, 2013
    You always have so many wonderful suggestions Shannon.

    As you know I don't have children and of course all my nieces and nephews are grown now. My youngest just turned 19 last month. Oh wow, they're all adults!

    Great lessons for all those parents out there this holiday season and I'll be sure to pass this along as well.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    ~Adrienne
    • Shannon
      Friday, December 6th, 2013
      Thanks, Adrienne! I have some nieces and nephews that are in college too and it boggles my mind! :) I appreciate your support, as always! Have a wonderful weekend, Adrienne. :)
  23. Saturday, December 7th, 2013
    Great tips Shannon. Especially like the "teachable money" part. Just went through that this week with my youngest. He's a Lego junkie, and so his list is full of Legos, which are expensive! He wants this particular one that is $150, so we discussed how that one Lego costs the same that several smaller Legos on his list combined would cost. So I asked him - if you had $150 would you buy the one Lego, or the 4-5 smaller Legos. I was surprised actually when he said he would get just the one, and he'd even put up $100 for it! So now I know he really really really wants that one Lego.
    • Shannon
      Sunday, December 8th, 2013
      There are so many teachable money moments and I love that you take advantage of them. And now you do that he truly wants that lego set. :)
  24. Saturday, December 7th, 2013
    I love the idea of putting experiences on the wish list! The method of choosing the number of items on the list is a good life lesson in prioritizing and not expecting everything. Wonderful!
    • Shannon
      Sunday, December 8th, 2013
      Thanks Maggie! It's easy to overlook experiences but kids really do value and remember them. But toys are so heavily marketed to them at Christmas that they don't think to put things like trips to zoo on their list. Yes, understanding the importance prioritization is a good life lesson to learn at a young age.
  25. Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
    I hope to show my children as well that gifts are a small part of Christmas and not the main focus. I look forward to seeing how else you make the season magical :)
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
      Thanks, Arelis! Gifts are a lot of fun but it's good to balance it so it's not their sole focus. :)
  26. Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
    Like Sicorra I remember the Sears catalog was my wish book. I had the pages so worn looking at it over and over again. :) We stress the importance of giving to others during the holidays by donating food and our time to make food baskets and letting our son choose a name from the Angel tree and pick out gifts for that child.
    • Shannon
      Thursday, December 12th, 2013
      The Sears catalog had a lot of power back then, filled with so many wonderful toys! We stress giving too and I think it's great that you let your son help pick out gifts for a child a need. We do many of those things too.
  27. Sunday, May 31st, 2015
    I hope to show my children as well that gifts are a small part of Christmas and not the main focus. I look forward to seeing how else you make the season magical :)
  28. Sunday, May 31st, 2015
    I like it Shannon. Our son is too young at this point to tell us what he wants but this will be great to keep in mind.
  29. Monday, June 1st, 2015
    Great post Shannon. We do not have kids yet but are hoping to adopt soon, and I will certainly look to your blog for lots of great advice on how to help kids grow up to be financially responsible adults. Thanks so much.
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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