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!


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!


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.

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