Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)
Whatâs the meaning of Christmas in your household? While it can sometimes feel like spending a small fortune on gifts and food is non-negotiable, itâs not the only option. And, if you have kids, the holidays are a great time to teach them about the value of money â while having a heap of fun along the way!
Lavishly decorated homes, piles of presents under the tree and children waiting excitedly for Santa are much-loved Christmas traditions in Australia.
But if the idea of consuming your own bodyweight in food doesnât hold the same excitement for you this year, it could be time to re-evaluate what really matters.
After all, if there ever was a year to embrace the âtrue meaningâ of Christmas, surely itâs this one?
Whatâs the real meaning of Christmas anyway?
From theÂ celebration of YuleÂ and the winter solstice in Scandinavia, to the Roman festival of Saturnalia, and the later Christian tradition, this is one holiday with a rich history.
Many of our traditions are rooted in values like giving to the less fortunate or needy, and giving thanks for what we have.
Are we losing sight of the value of the holidays?
But since the mid-1800s, the focus has shifted sharply onto Santa and the exchange of gifts. So much so that itâs become a major economic driver for our economies.
AustraliansÂ are expected to spendÂ $54.3 billion this Christmas, up 2.8 per cent from last year. And thatâs in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has sent us into the first recession in Australia in nearly 30-years.
Teaching the value of money at Christmas
Thereâs no two ways about it, Christmas celebrations can get expensive.
For kids, the meaning of Christmas can get lost in the excitement of receiving piles of presents or gorging on Christmas goodies. But there are lots of ways to save your cash and shift the focus back onto healthier values. Here are nine ideas to get you started.
1. Include the whole family in your plans
We often leave our kids out of the budgeting, thinking âthey donât need to knowâ about the finances, or doing the Christmas shopping without them. But thereâs real value in allowing them to observe and participate in your discussions about the Christmas finances.
Not only do they learn how to apply budgeting skills in a real-world situation, theyâll experience the finite nature of money first-hand; and learn to allocate it accordingly.
So make a time to sit down as a family and talk through your Christmas spending. Set a spending limit for each gift recipient to help you stay on track. Remember that spending less on your immediate family means youâll be able to give more generously to others â another valuable Christmas lesson for kids.
2. Put the kids in charge
Giving kids control over their finances from a young age can help set them up for better money management down the track.
At Christmas, you can involve your kids by having them write a list of everyone you need to give gifts to, along with the agreed budget. Then brainstorm together to come up with gift ideas and take them shopping. Theyâll learn how to compare prices, stick to a budget and even save money if you find a good price!
3. Get saving
If you start early enough, you can teach your kids the value of saving up for major expenses like Christmas. If they have regular pocket money, get them to put some aside each week or month to spend on special gifts.
Talk about what theyâll do with any money they receive as presents. How much will they spend and save? If they donât have a savings account, now is a good time to set one up.
4. Start with giving
Giving your time or money without expecting anything in return is the perfect way to embrace the spirit of the holidays. And for kids, this is a chance to switch the focus onto giving, rather than receiving. Here are some options.
- Instead of buying gifts for family and friends, you could give the gift of learning to a child in need throughÂ The Smith Familyâs charity gift range. Or volunteer your time to help sort, pack and deliver toys and gifts to kids in need! What could be more Christmassy than playing Santa?
- If donating cash is more your thing,Â The Salvation Army runs an annual Christmas appealÂ to help families in need.
- Or if youâre keen to volunteer your time, you could help wrap Christmas gifts in the lead up to the big day, or serve Christmas lunch at a local homeless shelter.Â Seek VolunteerÂ has lots of opportunities listed, or contact your local charities.
- The major retailers also run food drives and in-store Christmas promotions where you can purchase Christmas presents for people in need.
5. Prioritise family activities
Thereâs no shortage of great events and activities you can do with your family and friends to really bring Christmas to life. Look out for local Christmas carols or concerts, or take a trip to see the best Christmas lights in town. Have a games night, or movie marathon on Christmas eve, and focus on spending quality time together. Your kids will thank you!
6. Make your own gifts
What could embody the spirit of giving more than creating your own beautiful handmade gifts? This is the perfect activity to do with kids (or without!).
If youâre feeling keen, try substituting regular gift giving with handmade gifts in your family. Itâs bound to end in lots of laughter and your kids will be so proud when you open their beautiful presents.
Baked goods, photo albums, scrapbooks, drawings, paintings, jewelry, soapsâŚ even face masks are on the list this year. Not only will you save money, giving will feel more meaningful when youâve put time into it.
7. Make your own decorations
Making your own decorations helps everyone get into the spirit and celebrate the meaning of the holidays. Again, this activity can be adapted for any age. From paper wreaths to aÂ hand printed Christmas tree,Â bon bonsÂ or a gorgeousÂ front door wreath, there are endless options for all ages and abilities.
8. Explore other traditions
Just like Australia, many other countries have developed their own unique Christmas traditions. You can add an element of fun to your preparations by learning about traditions from a different culture. Have your kids choose some to adopt as part of your family celebrations. Hereâs aÂ list of 14 fun Christmas traditionsÂ to get you started.
9. Assign everyone tasks
Much like budgeting, the whole family will benefit from being involved in preparations for the big day. If your kids are old enough, ask them to help with the menu and even cook a special dish or dessert for the big day.
They can also help set or clear the table, wrap gifts and place your handmade decorations around the house. Itâs all about participation and learning to enjoy the festivities, as much as the presents.
Whatever Christmas means for your family, and how you choose to celebrate (or not), is completely up to you. Thereâs certainly a rich tapestry of traditions to draw from. So why not take a look at your Christmas plans and embrace the spirit of giving and gratitude this year.
Start the new year right! If youâd like to get your money working harder so you can reach your financial goals sooner, speak to a financial planning professional today.