We spend countless hours on the hunt for the perfect gifts for our kids. We venture into malls where we spend as much time searching for a parking spot as we do in stores filled with short-tempered shoppers. Why? For that opportunity to see our kids’ eyes light up and hear their shouts of joy when they unwrap their presents Christmas morning. That moment makes us forget everything else. I certainly treasure those moments too. However, there are three nontraditional gifts that I’d like you to give your kids this Christmas too. But don’t worry – you don’t even have to buy or shop for these presents.
This Christmas morning, your children may value those brightly wrapped presents under the tree and in their stockings more, but these additional gifts are the ones they will remember forever. Best of all, these gifts are free and only require a little bit of time and effort on your part.
We do a lot to give our kids the best life possible, but too often I see parents overlook the strength of their financial foundation. This is a huge mistake. A weak foundation will crumble under even the smallest pressure, leaving you and your kids struggling. Your kids may want the latest and greatest toy but what they need is financial security, and it’s up to you to make sure your financial foundation is well-fortified.
Debt has become so commonplace and many people don’t understand the risk their debt carries. They don’t bat an eye when they slide their credit card to pay for things they want but cannot afford. Debt significantly weakens your financial foundation, so it’s important you get it under control and take steps to eliminate it, especially your consumer debt. Learn more on how to talk to kids about here.
I recommend having between 3-12 months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund. I know that may seem like a lot, but if you lose your job, it’s amazing how quickly three months go by. Additionally, if you have a job where your income is highly variable, a larger emergency fund makes sense as you may need to dip into it more frequently to cover regular expenses during slow periods.
I instantly became a Mama Bear the moment the nurse put Lauren in my arms. Everything changed in that moment and my top priority immediately became to protect, care and love her. We hate the idea that something could prevent us from doing our job as parents, yet it can and does happen. Make sure your family is protected if something happens to you by having life insurance to provide financial support, a will or estate plan to direct how your assets should be distributed and to designate a guardian for your children.
One thing I see time and time again is couples where one handles everything financial-related and the other is often in the dark. They aren’t even doing this maliciously, but this can lead to huge problems if the spouse that handles the money dies first. So first and foremost, make sure your spouse is fully aware of your financial situation, even if you remain in charge of keeping the books, so to speak. For more information, read my 7 Steps to Put Your Finances in Order.
The best way to take control of your money is to set goals and budget. And unfortunately those are two things that many families are guilty of not doing. So let’s do it together. We set save, spend and share goals as family and it’s something we look forward to doing every year. When the girls were toddlers, we started talking to them about how we were using the family money. Now that they are older, they have more input in how we use it.
The girls know our money has a purpose and the role they play in helping us achieve our goals. This makes a huge difference in how they view family money. It’s not that they no longer want things because they do, but a simple reminder of what we are saving our money for (typically a vacation), changes the discussion. Instead of feeling deprived, they get excited about our goal. They have experienced the satisfaction of achieving goals and know it’s worth staying focused on what matters most. For more help with setting goals, read How To Ensure Your Goals Align with What You Truly Want.
This is the biggest opportunity that too many parents miss. We do so much to give our kids everything they need to succeed in life, but we don’t teach them how to use their money wisely and every child will handle money as adults. Most kids struggle on their own with making good money decisions and it can take years from them to course correct. This doesn’t have to happen. You can change your children’s life with simple conversations around money.
One of the most important lessons my Father taught me was that money was emotional, which is why goals were so important. Goals could guide my decisions, even when I was feeling emotional. This was also one of the first lessons I taught my girls as well and encourage you to do the same. Being clear on what you want and letting your goals guide how you use your money will mean fewer money regrets and mistakes.
This is trap that entangles so many of us. We start comparing our lives to others and find our own lacking. We start playing keep up, just to impress others and feel good. The problem is we end up spending money we don’t have and on things we don’t truly want. This leaves us without money for the things we truly desire and enrich our lives. Encourage your kids to focus on what they want, whether or not anyone else wants it.
One common complaint against kids these days are that they are entitled. Now, in fairness, I think every new generation has that title bestowed on them because they do have advantages that previous generations did not. At the same time, there are definitely entitled kids who expect everything handed to them. I feel very blessed that we are able to provide a good life to Lauren and Taylor, but we also make clear to them that we don’t feel entitled to that life. We acknowledge and appreciate our blessings daily. Gratitude is one of the best defenses against entitlement.
Once Christmas has passed, it doesn’t take long before we find once treasured gifts discarded and forgotten. But these three gifts have no expiration date and never lose their value. Your kids will pass these same gifts onto their children, which is one family tradition you will be proud that they continue and honor. I definitely plan to give Lauren and Taylor these gifts this Christmas and hope you’ll do the same.
The Heavy Purse Store is now open! My new downloadable Money Club Workbooks are now on sale. Each workbook provides five targeted lessons to help you raise Financially Confident Kids. Please check them out in The Heavy Purse Store.