How to Set Gift Expecations With Kids

When I was a kid, my parents were rebuilding their finances after bankruptcy. For a few Christmases, they struggled to buy a whole lot for me and my siblings. The presents under the tree were sparse sometimes.

But my parents did a great job of making sure none of that was a surprise. They set expectations months before December rolled around. So we knew when we woke up on Christmas morning that a fancy doll or a huge dollhouse wouldn’t be waiting on us at the bottom of the stairs.

If you’re on a tight budget, I believe the best thing you can do for your kids is to keep them in the loop. In other words, they need to know when the gifts this Christmas will be light. That might involve you just coming out and saying, “I know you really want a new iPhone this year, but it’s just not in our budget.”

This will be especially true if you’ve given a lot of gifts in the past. If you’ve set a high bar, then your kids will automatically assume this year will be just like last year. And if all their friends are asking for—and planning on receiving—a new phone, then they will expect the same thing.

As your kids get older, it’s important for you to help them develop a spirit of contentment and gratitude. Entitled kids will more than likely turn into entitled adults.

Help them understand how fortunate they are to have what they already have. And take some time to get them involved with any volunteer work you’re doing during the holiday season. That way, you’ll help them see how Christmas is about so much more than just getting gifts—it’s about loving and serving.

But when it comes to giving gifts, be clear with your kids ahead of time, and you’ll help avoid those Christmas mornings filled with teary eyes and ungratefulness—those mornings that make memories for all the wrong reasons.

Have you had this conversation with your kids before? How did you do it? Share your tips for everyone in the comments!