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Home>Daily Capital>Family Life>Holiday Tips: How to Buy Your Kids Gifts That Keep on Giving

Holiday Tips: How to Buy Your Kids Gifts That Keep on Giving

Key Takeaways
  • How the Four Gift Rule can help you through the holidays.
  • The benefits of taking your kids camping, visiting a new city, or getting them out of the house.
  • How to give your kids gifts that teach responsibility, investing, and healthy habits.

Americans plan to spend an average of $936 per person shopping for their friends and families this holiday, making holiday retail sales a huge piece of most companies’ total annual profits. In an effort to focus on raising children who aren’t spoiled or entitled, I’ve taken to being quite a minimalist when it comes to buying them holiday gifts. They already receive so much from their grandparents throughout the year that my husband and I wanted to make sure we were careful and smart about our Christmas spending.

We started with their first Christmas by only purchasing them four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. This four gift rule is a trend that’s been spreading, and it’s best if you adopt it while your kids are young so they never have the expectation that their holidays will be huge and overflowing with presents each and every year.

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The overarching goal is to help children appreciate what they do have and not go into debt buying excessive amounts of gifts that will just be forgotten weeks later. My husband and I want to give gifts that keep on giving, gifts that they will remember for years to come, and gifts that will benefit them for the long haul.

If you’re looking for a new way to gift your children, and one that will teach them valuable lessons down the line, try these 4 unique presents this holiday:

1. The Gift Of Experience

One of the best investments you can make for your children is giving them the gift of experience. When my twins turned one, we took them on a small vacation to Boston instead of throwing them a big birthday party. We loved seeing a new city together, taking them to the children’s museum, and strolling around historic Boston. All in all, we actually spent less money than it would have cost us to host a first birthday party complete with invitations, food, and gifts.

Each year, we plan on doing the same thing. If you want to give your children something unique for Christmas, try a trip or experience. Sure you want them to have toys on Christmas morning, but maybe their big gift will be going to New York City to see the Rockettes or traveling to New Orleans, where it’s actually warm around the holidays. Keep your kids’ ages and interests in mind for this gift idea. My aunt once gifted her son a two-week trip to Europe to see all of the World War II sites because he absolutely loved history and was constantly reading about it. I know that he remembers that trip as one of the most significant experiences of his life, but I doubt he remembers what toys he got under the tree that year or any other one.

Recent studies support the idea of experience gifts. Assistant Professor Ryan Howell completed a study at San Francisco State University that analyzed information from 154 students at the university who recently purchased items and experiences. What he found was that the happiness from purchasing an item faded over time, but the happiness and memories from an experience lasted longer and contributed to more happiness.

2. The Gift Of Health

It can be a bike, a skateboard, a kayak, a snowboard, new running shoes, a gym membership, or anything else you can think of that will get your kids active. Maybe they’ve been begging to join the traveling soccer team or they want to learn how to surf. Maybe they saw a video of white water rafting or they’ve been asking their dad to take them camping.

As parents, it’s easy to get so busy that we fail to plan these types of activities and end up just telling our kids to go outside and play. However, kids will be more active if they see their parents being active as an example. According to the CDC, there are over 12 million children who are obese in America. So this year, instead of gifting your children a tablet or new gaming system, why not try to encourage them to go rock climbing or buy a membership to a fun trampoline gym? You get bonus points if you spend quality time going with them.

After all, giving the gift of health to ensure a long life together is a far better gift to your family than anything else they have on their wish list.

3. The Gift Of Responsibility

We all want our kids to be more responsible. The trick is teaching them how to be more responsible without them knowing you’re teaching this lesson though, right? In some ways responsibility can be taught through gifts. Raise your hand if your kids have been asking for a pet for years. Well, if they’re old enough, maybe now is a good time to think about it.

To give another example, after speaking with parents who cook a lot in their home, I realize that kids as young as 5 or 6 can learn how to scramble an egg. So, why not gift them some adorable kid sized aprons and kitchen gadgets for Christmas? Make a big deal out if it, telling them that because they are big kids now and ready to be responsible, you need their help cooking dinner one night each week.

The gift of responsibility really is the gift that keeps on giving. If you raise responsible children, they’re less likely to need your help financially in the future. Each task that they learn to do on their own prepares them to be independent someday. Remember, we only get them for a few years and in those few years, we have to teach them how to be self sufficient, contributing members of society. Giving the gift of responsibility, however you achieve that, is one way to get the ball rolling while they’re young.

4. The Gift Of Compound Interest

When I went to college, I was able to cash out all the savings bonds that my grandmother gave me growing up. I don’t remember what I used them for (but I can certainly guarantee that I should have spent the money wiser.) Now that I have kids of my own, I want them to get a better return on their money than savings bonds allow. So, I’ve started investing on their behalf in custodial accounts under their names. They’ll have access to the accounts when they turn 18, but I plan on letting them know about the accounts and getting them actively involved.

One way to get kids excited about investing is to teach them through the companies they know and love. A great option is to buy them stocks in companies whose products they like, and teach them how to track their investments. With Personal Capital’s easy-to-use app, you can show your child how their stocks are performing, and even teach them about spending and budgeting their money. If, for example, you buy them stock in Disney, then you can explain to them that they own a little slice of that business when you take them there on vacation. This idea gets kids excited about the toys they use, the shoes they wear, and the food they eat. You’ll get them excited about money, entrepreneurship, and the ability to grow wealth for a lifetime. And if you can manage that, then you’ve definitely done something right.

This Holiday Season

So, as you head into the holiday season where you’ll be bombarded by commercials, holiday music, and sales every place you look, take some time to step back and evaluate the message you really want to send your kids this holiday season. For me, I want to give my kids the gifts that keep on giving not only for them, but for me too. If I can get them excited about investing, teach them about responsibility, ensure they’re healthy, and pay for amazing experiences, then I know those gifts are far, far greater than anything I could buy out of a Toys R Us catalog.

Do you plan on giving your kids particular gifts that will influence them long term?

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Catherine Alford is an award winning personal finance writer who contributes to several online publications. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech.
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