Don't go overboard this Christmas

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It's easy for parents to get carried away at Christmas and during the holiday season.

I remember when my daughter was four - she told me there were too many presents. She was right. We'd gone overboard when a couple of gifts would have been fine.

These days I like to give my children one big gift and some smaller presents for the Christmas stocking. It also saves me time and energy - not to mention money.

spend save give spend, save, give

I'm a big fan of cash for kids so that they can buy what they want at the post-Christmas sales, or they can deposit it in their savings account and save up for something big.

I know organised parents who do their Christmas shopping throughout the year, making good use of sales. This planning helps alleviate any new year credit card shocks. It's always a good idea to compare the prices of gifts by shopping around.

My daughter remembers the year when I gave her money to buy her Christmas gifts. She enjoyed spending the holidays comparing gifts, the costs, budgeting and allocating the money between our family and grandparents.

She even had some money left over.

With a tougher financial climate this year, it could be time to have a realistic talk with your kids about how this is not the year to spend lots of money at Christmas.

Kids adapt and respond well when you are honest. It is easier to explain this to an older child than a young one.

It is always important to manage your child's expectations. I find that many kids have a sense of entitlement that needs to be realistically handled before it gets out of control. Kids' demands grow as they get older. What they want becomes more expensive too.

You want them to be happy but they have to learn that happiness doesn't come from more consumer goods.

This year I'm aiming to be more creative with my presents. Instead of spending money a creative friend makes little books for her kids with photos of special times and writes short stories.

I also like to give kids gifts that are an experience that we can do together, such as a music event or a special dinner.

One year I gave my daughter a one-day cooking course in the school holidays that we did together. I guess I was secretly hoping she would cook a bit more. When you experience something together it provides a tighter bond.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.

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