Shopping for Your Kids Affection

If you're trying to make up for a parent's absence with holiday excess, you're in for more than you've bargained -- and budgeted -- for. Also, check out our seven tips for a special and affordable holiday season.

Faced with debts she couldn't handle, this mother of three realized she had to hold a family meeting and reveal her vulnerable financial situation. Even if the kids were too young to grasp her predicament, she had to let them know money was tight. The kids, ages four, eight and 11 got the message, or as best as you can at those ages.

Were they happy about it? Not really. But at the next year's holiday celebrations, there was no whining for toys she couldn't buy. The kids even began to help with work around the house. Now that's progress!

What about you? What can you do to make the holidays special without breaking the bank? Here are seven suggestions:

1. Start a new holiday tradition where each of you write, paint or build something that expresses how much you love the family. It's both inexpensive and priceless.

2. Cut the cost of your gifts by shopping at secondhand stores, flea markets and thrift shops. Retro clothing is very hip. And there are often some barely or never-used items in these stores that make great presents.

3. Think about making gifts or writing out a special certificate for your kids that they can cash in for special time with you, one-on-one.

4. Talk to your children about your money situation, so they understand what you can afford. At the same time, you need to keep from getting pulled into the mania of holiday gift giving.

5. Set a budget and make a gift list. Truthfully, younger children can get by on less. They're looking for volume. Lots of very inexpensive gifts will go just as far as a couple budget-killers. And don't even think about baby and toddler splurging; these youngsters don't even begin to understand holiday excess.

6. Pay cash!

7. Start saving now for next year's holidays.

Remember, kids are a lot more resilient that you think. Don't let them guilt you into an overspending nightmare that will haunt you for years to come.

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