Are you a grinch or a giver?
Christmas shopping sucks, right? Not for me. Years ago, I cracked the Christmas shopping code: I buy people books.
CASH is a cop-out of a Christmas gift for children, and just as many parents splurge on their kids as spend sensibly on presents under the tree.
So says a Sunday Telegraph survey of Australian parents and their Christmas shopping habits and sensibilities.
The survey of 2600 parents found about three in four parents believe kids of today have much higher expectations than they did when they were growing up.
As for taking the easy route and just handing kids cash as a gift, 76 per cent of parents believe it’s a bad idea.
As for how much cash to shell out, results found there was a mixed bag on what parents would spend.
About 12 per cent of parents said they would go overboard and spend more than $500 on each child at Christmas.
On the flip side, about 13 per cent said they would keep spending to a minimum and would splash out less than $50 per child.
Seventy three per cent spend the same amount on each child.
The survey found while some parents shell out hundreds of dollars to win their children’s affections, more than half of parents — 52 per cent — say their kids quickly won’t remember what they got.
Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said parents often spent too much money on their kids to “overcompensate” and encouraged them instead to give experiences, not possessions.
“There’s a tendency for parents to feel very guilty about their parenting and they overcompensate by giving their kids way too much stuff,” he said.
“My preference is to give them an experience or buy them one thing they want, one thing they need and one thing to read.”
He said kids wanted to form an identity, and experiences helped do this whether they were “good, bad or indifferent”.
Barefoot Investor Scott Pape is also an advocate of giving kids experiences rather than stuff at Christmas and said handing over cash is a no-no for youngsters, declaring it a cop-out.
Pape said parents should put thought into which presents they handed over and not focus on the amount spent.
The best gifts, he said, where those which gave the child an experience they would talk about for years.
Pape said focusing on giving time and memories always won out over expensive presents or cash.
“It should be about experiences and not stuff and money,’’ he said.
“Giving money feels like an economic transaction if it’s just cold-hard cash.
“It is kind of like a gift card and when you can’t be bothered going into a store and picking something out.”
Pape said it was too easy to be sucked in by marketing and throw money down the drain during the silly season.
“Kids are the most marketed-to generation in history,” he said.
“They are not only comparing themselves to kids down the street and kids at school, they are comparing themselves to kids on Instagram and what they get.
“There are heightened expectations.”
Pape urged parents to take the time this festive season to talk to their kids about what Christmas means and not just focus on what presents they rush to unwrap.
“Talk to your kids and tell them that not everyone is as lucky as they may be,” he said.
“It is a time for giving but the idea for kids is it’s about what they are getting, not giving.”
The survey found 59 per cent of parents thought children get good use of their Christmas presents but Pape said spending big on very young children was unwise, as they often had more fun with the wrapping paper.
Frankie Berry, 9, of Sydney, said: “I just feel happy as long as a I get a present. If it costs too much, I feel bad.”
Although I must confess, last year it didn’t work out so well.
I bought my mother-in-law Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic Of Cleaning Up. She opened the present, scanned the title, and the look on her face said it all.
“Oh, I’m not saying you’re a hoarder … it’s just … a really good book. Merry … Christmas,” I added. Silence. Anyway, you’re not going to be that stupid, so here are the books I’ve got in my Santa sack this year:
1. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Bill Gates says this is one of the most important books he’s ever read. Author Hans Rosling systematically unpacks fake news, sensationalist clickbait, and doom and gloom headlines with cold hard facts: actually, in almost every way, the world is getting much better.
While the media reports obsessively on the latest drama of the moment, the upward movement of human progress marches on with little fanfare.
This book shows you how to look at the world in a rational, fact-based way. A perfect gift for your manic depressive, we’re going to hell in a handbasket, MAGA hat-wearing brother-in-law.
2. Where Are The Customers’ Yachts?
This year we’ve watched — gobs agape — at the sheer rat cunning of financial institutions: charging dead people for advice, ripping off the mentally disabled, and billing for advice they never gave. Has it always been this bad? Hell, yes! Almost eighty years ago Fred Schwed wrote the book Where Are The Customers’ Yachts? The title of the book comes from a legendary story about a visitor to New York who stands admiring the expensive yachts of the Wall Street brokers. He naively asks, ‘where are all the customers’ yachts?’.
Of course, there were none. As every bank CEO knows intuitively, the really big money is made in providing financial advice, rather than receiving it. This book will make you laugh and cry. A great book for anyone who is reviewing their super fund fees over the holidays.
3. How To Break Up With Your Phone
Our phones (and the apps on them) are designed to be highly addictive. They manipulate our brain, suck up ever increasing amounts of our attention, and capture the one true resource we can never replace: our precious time.
Author Catherine Price explains how phones are changing our brains, and provides a four-week program that shows you how to break up with your phone, and form a healthier relationship with your screen.
A great gift for … me.
And yes, you guessed it, I’ll also be gifting my book, The Barefoot Investor For Families.
I’ll confess: while I originally wrote the book for parents and grandparents, a huge surprise for me has been how successful the book has been with kids.
I’m pitching it as a perfect stocking filler. After all, the skills the book teaches will set their kids up for life. And that’s a pretty cool Christmas present to give, right?
Tread Your Own Path!
THE DOLLARMITE REBEL
Hi Scott, I purchased your latest book, The Barefoot Investor For Families, and gave it to my nine-year-old son, who has taken to it like a duck to water. He is enthusiastically helping with cooking and has set up his three jam jars. He has a presentation at school coming up and, due to inspiration from your book, he wants to do his talk on why his school should give Commbank the flick.
I don’t want to discourage him, as I too believe in the cause — but is it something best left for parents to bring up with the school? Barry Hi Barry, What do I reckon? I reckon this sounds like a life lesson he’ll remember for years to come. There are a few things I’d talk through with your son. Explain that a credit card is a very expensive loan from a bank. Young people often get themselves in a lot of trouble with credit cards by borrowing too much.
Credit cards tend to make everything you buy much more expensive. For most people — especially young people — the best credit card is no credit card.
So perhaps he could ask, why does Commbank’s Start Smart Program teach kids — in grade three — about the benefits of credit cards?
Then he could ask his teachers if they have ever got in trouble with a credit card? When we get older, should we get one?
A big part of financial education is to be sceptical about what banks (and advertisers in general) offer up. You’re teaching your son to be an independent thinker and to intelligently and respectfully question authority.
In this case, he’s got truth on his side. There is no justification for allowing a bank to spend millions of dollars for the exclusive right to teach our kids this core life skill, much less for rolling out a marketing program that is worth, according to one analyst, as much as $10 billion!
Let me know how he goes!
THE GIVING GAME
Hi Scott, My daughter would like to donate the contents of her money box to a charity. I really want to take her to one in person, rather than doing it online, so she can be a part of the process. But I am finding it increasingly challenging to find information on where we can do this — none of them seem to want to interact in person. Any ideas? Jill Hi Jill, I think there are more meaningful ways to teach giving than handing over cash. Instead, my experience is that food is the perfect way to teach your kids about giving.
Reason being, every kid knows what it’s like to be hungry: you can’t concentrate, and you’re irritable until you eat. So, you can explain that on a typical day roughly three kids in her class will arrive at school hungry or without having eaten breakfast, according to Foodbank. (This explains why approximately 1750 schools across the country have Breakfast Clubs, to ensure kids are getting their most important meal of the day. They’re in poor areas. They’re in wealthy areas. They’re in my home town.)
You can also explain that just because you can’t see their tummies rumbling doesn’t mean they’re not hungry. Not only is food a powerful metaphor for kids, even better, your kid has the chance to do something about it.
Last year charities across Australia had to turn away 65,000 hungry people each month because there wasn’t enough food to go around.
However, there’s no need to start feeding the masses bread and fish like a motivated messiah.
Instead, when you’re next walking around the supermarket, ask your kids, “What can we buy for hungry people?” You can donate things like canned foods, spreads, coffee, flour, sugar and baby food.
Have your kids bring along some money from their Give Jar so they can buy food with their own money, and then on the way home you can drop it off at the local Foodbank warehouse, or your local community charity that distributes food in your area (you can find their contact details from your local council).
Be careful what you buy your in-laws for Christmas ... it can allend badly.