"My mom picked it out."
Have you heard that before? From your child, or at a birthday party? It is not usually said with pride and excitement. How kids spend their money on other people is a great indicator for 1. how they feel about that person, or 2. how they feel about money.
Gary Chapman wrote an excellent book about love languages, entitled appropriately The Five Love Languages. Not to give away the ending, but one of the love languages mentioned is Gift Giving. Some people have a gift for this sort of thing.
You may find yourself with a child who loves to give gifts, is willing to spend whatever money he has to buy the best gift possible. Or you may have a child who could care less.
But unless you want your kids to join the countless others who go into debt ever Christmas only to waken to a plastic hangover in January, you will have to teach them...
How to buy gifts for Others
It is okay to set a budget At the beginning of the year, or just a general dollar amount per friend, setting a budget gives a sense of control on how much you can spend.
Do not be controlled by guilt Just because they gave you an expensive gift, does not mean you have to return the favor (or mistake). Stay within your budget.
Be Choosy You don't have to give everyone a gift. Make a list of close friends and family members that will receive gifts. Everyone else gets a card, or a freebie.
Stock up on Freebies or Cheapies Create a stock pile of gifts that would be great for anyone or any occasion. Art supplies from back to school clearance sales, new or like new items from yard sales, gifts that just weren't quite right for you, but might be perfect for someone else.
Encourage Hobbies Homemade cards or gifts are a great way to teach kids that their skills have value. Some kids may feel self conscience giving a gift they made themselves, such as a knitted scarf, but many of those feelings are learned.
Giving an Experience Some of the best gifts can't be opened. Going for a pony ride, having a girls night, or a chance to ride in a big rig may beat a $10 Barbie. Look at what resources you have, and find a way to give of your time, and not just your money.
Mass Production When you find a good deal on something, buy several, and do not be ashamed to give two people the same thing. Whether it is a great recipe for granola, or a copy of a great book you will be glad to get it all done at once.
Plan Ahead Good deals are not found at the eleventh hour, only junk. Keep in mind who you are buying for early in the year, so that when you see something on sale, you can buy it. Just don't hide it in your closet and forget about it until after its too late.
It is good for kids to learn how to do these things for themselves. As your kids earn money, one of the things that they should be saving for is gifts for others.
I know that my kids get way too many presents for Birthdays, Christmas, and its been more than a month since I have seen you so here's a present. Many of the things that my kids want, I tell them they should put it on their Christmas list. So a lot of the money that they earn, could go towards buying things for others.
Even if you don't think your kids are old enough to be earning and spending their own money on gifts, they can practice the act of unselfish giving. When it is time for a little brother or sister to have a birthday, your older child can "shop" from their out grown toys, until they find something that would be just right for their sibling.
My daughter got this bike for Christmas right before she turned 3. My little Prince wanted that bike so bad, despite not being able to reach the pedals.
Fast forward 18 months, and now it is his turn to be 3, and Miss Love knew exactly what she wanted to give him for his birthday. She secretly cleaned the tricycle up, and with mommies help put blue streamers on the sides, and a Lightning McQueen sticker on the back.
TaDa! It had been transformed into his very own race car bike. He was so excited, and Big sister was so proud to be able to give him a gift that she knew he would love, and it was 100% from her.
She didn't have to ask me for any money. She gave from what she already had. She learned that it's not the amount of money spent that counts, it's the amount of love.
And not having to do last minute birthday shopping? That works for me.