Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.
What’s the meaning of Christmas in your household? While it can sometimes feel like spending a small fortune on gifts and food is non-negotiable, it’s not the only option. And, if you have kids, the holidays are a great time to teach them about the value of money – 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 doesn’t 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 ‘true meaning’ of Christmas, surely it’s this one?
What’s the real meaning of Christmas anyway?
From the celebration of Yule 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 it’s become a major economic driver for our economies.
Australians are expected to spend $54.3 billion this Christmas, up 2.8 per cent from last year. And that’s 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
There’s 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 ‘they don’t need to know’ about the finances, or doing the Christmas shopping without them. But there’s 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, they’ll 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 you’ll be able to give more generously to others – 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. They’ll learn how to compare prices, stick to a budget and even save money if you find a good price!
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 they’ll do with any money they receive as presents. How much will they spend and save? If they don’t 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 through The Smith Family’s 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?
Or if you’re 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. Seek Volunteer 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
There’s 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 you’re feeling keen, try substituting regular gift giving with handmade gifts in your family. It’s 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, soaps… even face masks are on the list this year. Not only will you save money, giving will feel more meaningful when you’ve 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 a hand printed Christmas tree, bon bons or a gorgeous 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. Here’s a list of 14 fun Christmas traditions 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. It’s 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. There’s 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 you’d like to get your money working harder so you can reach your financial goals sooner, speak to a financial planning professional today. Use our Match My Planner tool to find one near you.