If my youngest had her way, everyone would get a purple tutu for Christmas this year. It's what she loves, and at her age (she is 5), it's the perfect gift for everyone. My father-in-law might disagree. Yet she loves to give gifts almost as much as she loves to receive them. And I love her enthusiasm for giving.
To steer her in the right direction for the holidays, I talked to Ashley Grimaldo, penny-pincher and frugal-minded blogger, about the best ways to help kids pick out meaningful gifts for friends and family for the holidays. Here are her tips:
1. Prepare your child for the experience. Dragging your kid through Toys 'R Us without buying him something is like parading a starving man through the buffet line and telling him not to eat. The first step to shopping for others with your children is talking about it. Start the dialogue with, "Isn't it great you have so many toys to play with? I wonder if there are other kids who don't have any toys?" When the time comes to go shopping, first remind your child of the reason for going to the store — it's not about them this time!
2. Shop sales and use coupons. What happens to your financially dull child when he turns 25? He moves back in with you and his lump of debt. Start now — even within the context of gift shopping — by finding deals and using coupon promotions. Take a modern approach by finding coupon codes for Target and other favorites on such sites as CouponSherpa. Toys hit rock-bottom prices around the holidays.
3. Brainstorm ways to personalize the gift. Younger kids can draw a picture inside a blank Christmas card and have you write down what they'd like to say in the card. Older kids can make their own colorful wrapping paper with a cut paper bag and stamps. Also talk about matching gifts to people. If Grandma is a diabetic, don't give her sugar cookies — find recipes that fit within her diet. Gift-giving is a great time to really think about what others would appreciate.
4. Consider homemade presents. Pick homemade presents Junior can make mostly on his own, like the beauty and baking DIY projects at Kidz World.
5. Gift services instead of material items. Maybe your tween has a gift for babysitting. Encourage her to give free babysitting coupons to a family on a tight budget. Or Junior is a pro a shoveling snow and makes homemade coupons for the neighbors to do the chore for three mornings. Make your own coupon book and print it out on cardstock for a professional look. Don't forget to remind your little one that gifting a service is a great idea, but it's only complete when they finish the service.
6. Don't buy a gift for your child while shopping for others. Other centeredness — that's the goal in shopping for other people. The best way to turn it right back to Junior's wants is to buy something for him at the same time. Make sure your "shopping for others" trip is just that. It may be tempting to buy for him, too, but resist the urge. He needs to abstain from getting what he wants to make a lasting impression.
7. Consider shopping online for others with your child to save more money. Depending on the age and maturity of your little shopper, they can learn the basics of shopping online. Yes, there are huge dangers of stumbling on unsavory content. And, no, you don't want to give Junior the laptop so he can get the job done himself. But since online shopping is quickly becoming the standard, help your child learn what sites are beneficial (especially ones that save money) and how to avoid going down a dark rabbit hole of advertising links. With Free Shipping Day coming up on Friday, Dec. 16, many popular vendors like Melissa and Doug and Barnes & Noble will offer complimentary delivery. Turn online shopping into a math lesson, comparing prices in newspaper inserts to those online.