A Letter to Parents – Concerning Christmas,
My Christmas memories as a child are of a magical time when Santa Clause filled our house with piles and piles of presents. He would wrap most of the little treasures in sparkling paper fit for the elves, but he would set out the large gifts like an enchanted department store window display right in our living room!
And when I realized (parents, stop your kids from reading past this point) that my parents supplied the gifts instead of Santa, I did what any other reasonable child would do.
I kept pretending that I believed in Santa because I didn’t want the toy train to stop.
Nothing could ever match the excitement I experienced on Christmas morning as my sisters and I raced down the hallway and into Santa’s Unloading Zone – aka, our family den.
My Financial Awakening
I didn’t think much about the money spent on Christmas gifts in our house until I got to college. Before that time, I had simply accepted Christmas as a time when parents went spend-crazy to ensure a happy Christmas morning.
But one Christmas break home from college, I decided to do some math. My parents had spent more than $3400 to bring us Christmas smiles. That’s a massive amount of cash!!
From that point on, I decided to stop asking for anything even remotely expensive. Just being together for the holidays was enough for me – plus, I didn’t want to see my parents struggle financially in an effort to afford Christmas.
When I got the courage to speak to my dad about my parents’ Christmas budget, I was told that there was no budget. My mom and dad simply kept buying until hiding space ran out.
When I started repaying my student loans, I began wondering why my parents had never started a college savings plan.
As I thought more about it, I realized that my parents never really attempted to control their spending. There were never budgets or limits or spending plans. There was no extra money because it was spent too carelessly.
And then, like a punch in the face, I remembered Christmas. I thought back to all of the money it must have taken to give us so many gifts. I mean seriously, my sisters and I regularly averaged 10-15 gifts each Christmas. And the older we got, the more expensive the gifts became.
I don’t know if my parents always spent more than $3000 per Christmas, but I do know that they never had a budget – for Christmas or for any other time of the year. We always got what we wanted, we always took amazing summer and winter vacations, and we even had twin dirt bikes.
Back to the Future
But when it came to college savings (or retirement for that matter), the well was dry. If I could go back in time, I would show my parents how saving even $50 or $100 a month could have helped immensely with college tuition. I would show them how such a simple budget and spending plan could lead them to success with college savings for the kids and retirement for them.
But I can’t go back . . . so I plead with you parents reading this. Don’t lose sight of truly important and long lasting financial goals in exchange for an overflow of Christmas presents.
The joy of Christmas morning shouldn’t be determined by the amount of money that was spent on gifts.
My Challenge to Parents
As a parent myself, looking back at the cost of throwing around so much money during the holidays brings an aching to my heart and a frustration to my mind. I mean, my sisters and I would still find unopened toys in June and July. There’s only a certain amount of stuff a person can enjoy before it’s just taking up space.
I am in no way saying we should cancel Christmas, or that parents should avoid celebrating Christmas with presents under the tree. What I am saying is that parents need to abide by a strict budget when it comes to the frenzy that is Black Friday and Christmas shopping.
We all get emotional around Christmas. And we all, for better or worse, tend to shop as though we believe that a higher number or higher cost of gifts correlates into more love shown to the recipient.
We can teach our children the meaning of giving without breaking our bank accounts. We can express our love without going broke (or into credit card debt).
Don’t throw away the chance to save for college or secure your financial future because you can’t control your spending around the holidays.
Lead Writer – Deliver Away Debt
Photo By By life’s too short