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Wishes and gifts

Written by Steve Rosen
Kansas City Star

For release December 5th, 2004

Wishes and gifts

Strategies to help your children keep holidays in perspective

It's tough enough being a parent this time of year without worrying whether your children will be consumed by commercialism.

With product buzz in full force, marketers are trying to hook kids on hot gizmos, gadgets and toys not to mention clothing with cool logos. But the holiday season doesn't have to mean caving in to your child's every excessive desire and zeroing out your bank account in the process.

Here are answers to gift-giving questions I routinely receive this time of year from parents and grandparents. Following these strategies just might help you (and your kids) maintain financial control and keep the holiday season in perspective.

Q. My kids have papered our refrigerator with their wish lists and they're asking for everything. I hate to disappoint, but how can I keep this from getting out of control?

A. My kids are big list makers, but my wife and I reserve the right to make executive decisions on what's too expensive or inappropriate. Kids shouldn't expect to get everything After all, these are wish lists.

If your kids have a list a mile long, have them prioritize and rank the top five or so gifts they most desire. It's also fine if kids attach catalog or Web site information that details exactly what they want, where to get it and how much it will cost.

Q. Should I tell the kids that money is tight this year?

A. By all means, be honest with your kids about money, especially with older children.

"Let them know there will be less under the tree this year, said Gary Buffone, a Jacksonville, Fla., psychologist and author of Choking on the Silver Spoon: Keeping Your Kids Healthy, Wealthy and Wise in a Land of Plenty.

Buffone suggests using this opportunity to remind your kids what the holidays are all about. Instill the notion that it's better to give than to receive.

If feasible, it might make sense to settle on one family gift that might last longer than toys and video games. A table tennis or hockey game also just might pull your kids away from the TV, too. How good is that!

Q. How can I encourage our kids to give to people who truly need help?

A. Have them do something hands-on, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter, a children's hospital or nursing home during the holidays. Singing carols or making hot chocolate and cookies can make a big difference in another person's life. Or donate old toys or outgrown clothes to other children who might need them, and have your kids help with the delivery.

Q. Should we give our kids money to buy gifts for brothers and sisters and other family members, or should they use their own money?

A. Once kids are getting an allowance or have a job, let them get involved monetarily in the shopping process. Using their own cash will also teach them lessons in budgeting. Also, encourage handmade gifts you'd be surprised what kids can make with clothes pins, wiggle eyes, magnets and a little glue.

Q. Is it OK just to give my teenage grandkids money?

A. Older kids are just fine with holiday cash. Be really creative by giving the kids a roll of gold dollar coins or crisp $1 bills. Gift cards also work, though check on expiration dates.

Q. Do you have some suggestions for gifts that will teach kids about investing?

A. Here are two ways to introduce young investors to stocks.

One route is a $20 youth membership in the National Association of Investors Corp., which entitles members, among other things, to five issues of the Young Money Matters educational newsletter (1-877-275-6242; www.better-investing.org). Members also can participate in a low-cost stock-purchase program.

Or check out Sharebuilder.com, which offers investment cash certificates that can be applied to buy stocks online. (1-866-747-2537; www.sharebuilder.com/store).

Kids need help

The Police Athletic League is looking for help so kids can enjoy some holiday laughter and loads of cookies. The organization is holding its annual Christmas cookie baking party on Dec. 17 at its facility at 1801 White. The event will run from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

The league is looking for donations of flour, sugar, mixes and other ingredients to make cookies. Or come by that afternoon to help kids bake cookies and make Christmas decorations.

For more information on the Christmas party, call Paula Willett of Bank Midwest at (816) 412-1704, or send her e-mail at pwillett@dfckc.com.

Do you have questions, comments or column ideas? Call Steve Rosen at (816) 234-4879, send e-mail to srosen@kcstar.com, or write to him c/o The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

For more information contact:

Paul S. Richard
Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education
PO Box 34070
San Diego, CA 92163



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