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Everyday Economy

Teaching while giving

How do you talk to your kids about money, the holidays and tight times?

A lot of people struggle with the balance between indulging their kids and showing some restraint around the holidays. The added stress of a tough economy brings in another element. Karen Blumenthal, writing the Family Money column in the Wall Street Journal, says it's a good idea for parents to get comfortable talking to their kids about money all the time -- and that makes it easier to convey values when important decisions come up.

"(R)ather than spell out the nitty gritty of paychecks, mortgages and bills, which might overwhelm children, focus on defining and reinforcing your money values. In our house, for example, we had limits on toys and electronics, but not on books. Also, consider which values you would most like your children to have as adults. For instance, do you believe in paying for all your kids' education or do you believe they should pay for all or part of it?

Be honest about the current financial situation, but also try to put it in context: Will you drop less in the Salvation Army bucket this year because staying on budget is a priority, or will you drop in more because so many people are in need?

As much as possible, match your actions to your words. "We are teaching our kids about money every minute of every day," says Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College who has researched how people can get overwhelmed by too many choices. As a result, he says, "we have to live our values."

Read the whole thing here.

I recall a Christmas from my teen years when my mom -- under a pile of financial stress -- really went over the top to give us kids gifts that were extravagant for what she could afford. The gifts were great -- but the stress was also palpable. Now that we're raising our own young child, the push-and-pull Mom must have felt comes into focus. Sometimes, a fruga impulse can feel like hardheartedness toward the kiddo.

How do you strike a balance between making the holidays special and conveying your values about money and giving?


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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.

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