Tuesday, December 9, 2014

“Save your pennies” was a phrase commonly heard in my house growing up. “If you want it badly enough, you’ll need to use YOUR money.” It made me stop and think how long it would take to earn that money or is the wanted item/s really what I wanted.

Whether on the radio, watching TV or on the Internet, we are inundated with advertisements for things we just have to have: the newest electronics, the latest fashions and coolest toys.

It is hard to push aside the common desire for immediate gratification and pleasing others through “things”. In an era of credit cards, we don’t often “feel it” until the bill comes. When we give into impulse spending and overspending, what message are we giving our children and reinforcing in ourselves?

“The worst aspect of overspending at Christmas is that it can educate children to expect funding from their parents, at the cost of real love. There is a term in psychology about creating 'hungry children'. The child says: 'Can I have...?' and you give them what they ask for. But, instead of satisfying them, you create a hunger in them. You can't feed them enough." Dr. Michael Carroll: Bristol University.

I get excited when I see a good deal. I love finding a great bargain, paired with a coupon, and a rebate (utilize rebate and coupon apps!). How much do I really need? Ask yourself, “do I/they really NEED it?”

Making an impulse purchase is like taking a bite of a favorite food. We indulge and savor the flavors, but when the excitement is over, we look for something else to bring back the “high”. Repeated spending doesn’t bring lasting happiness, just a cycle that potentially leads to unwanted debt and stress.

Here are 5 ways to make healthy spending choices during the holidays:

1. Set a realistic budget and keep a finance sheet: Don’t try to “keep up with the Jones”. Try a cash only budget vs. using a card. Track all purchases so you can monitor your spending.

2. Service project or donate gifts: Choose to donate some of your budget to buying gifts or doing service for others. This turns the focus from “what do I get” to “what can I give”.

3. Make your gifts: The internet is full of $10 and under DIY gifts. We love giving “service” coupons in my family (i.e. “coupon–good for a foot massage.”).

4. Clean house and avoid impulse buys: For each item you plan to purchase or bring home, donate two items to charity. Don’t bring it home just because it’s a good deal.

5. Make a list of needs vs. wants: Make lists with your children with wants and needs, then, as a parent, decide the number of gifts each will receive.

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