How to Curb Overspending at the Holidays

Christmas is nigh, and along with the holiday comes major overspending. We’re all guilty, but what happens when our kids get used to receiving mountains of gifts? You know the drill: Your mother-in-law sends mountains of stuffed animals, buckets of Legos and so many craft kits you can’t close the closet door. Of course, it’s just her way of showing love, but if you’re starting to dread the UPS man this season, then it’s time to slow down the spending. April Masini, author of the “Ask April” advice column, breaks down why family members go overboard and some savvy ways to fix it.

“We all have jammed schedules—and kids are no exception. So instead of bonding in a more traditional way (picking up your kid from school, taking her to the park), Grandma grabs pricey UGGs and an iPad. Last-minute shopping is also a factor, which means your mom hits the stores in a panic on December 23rd and overdoes it as a result. Some family members also use gifts to mend a relationship or to overcome living far away. And lastly, there’s the (irrational) fear that if you don’t buy big, you’ll come across as the lesser grandmother or lame auntie.

Wondering how to put a stop to it? Try a little humor, if you can. Appreciate what your family members can do and don’t be confrontational (you’ll be setting a good example for your kids, too). It’s better to let them have their own relationships with your kids, without you trying to control them. Of course, if the present is totally inappropriate (a car, loads of cash, weapons), you have the right to keep your kid safe and take it away. You could also suggest other ways to spend time–rather than money–this season (think volunteering in a homeless shelter, baking cookies, or seeing a local production of A Christmas Carol).”