How to be a debt-free Santa

    A long-standing and treasured hilarious tradition in Mackey's family has been passing along the same Rubber Chicken, with special additions created by family members, that reflect the gift recipient's year.

    Mackey believes every family with kids should have an inexpensive and preferably funny holiday tradition that the kids and adults look forward to experiencing annually. And even if you have a normal tradition such as exchanging ornaments, get creative in searching out that one-of-a-kind piece.

    Mackey says one great way to decide on your annual holiday tradition is to ask your kids what they most remember about Christmas last year. If it was going out and getting the Christmas tree, then perhaps your tradition is a tree-trimming party. If what was most memorable was going out to breakfast in new flannel pajamas on Christmas morning, perhaps there is now the annual Christmas Eve gift of new pajamas for everyone.

    Mackey believes that family members should give a group gift instead of individual gifts. For example, save money by getting one gift for Dad that's from mom and the two kids-or a gift for each of your two children that is from mom, dad, and grandma, and grandpa.

    Mackey says holiday fun can quickly turn into holiday remorse if family members try to one-up each other on the gift-giving. "If individual gift-giving is practiced, make it an even playing field when buying gifts for kids, setting a dollar limit that cousins, grandpa, aunts, siblings, etc…can spend on the children."

    "Tell children that the most important thing is that you are together as a family; model gratitude for your children by placing a priority on connection and spending time with each other rather than a frenzied focus on what we're getting each other for Christmas."

    How many times has the reasoning behind your child's Christmas list been "Dear Santa: I don't know why I want this but I just do!"??? Mackey says you must investigate why your children are asking for certain items in order to determine what's really important to them and what will work with your budget.

    "If you plan a family meeting where you are going to be open and honest and talk to your kids about having to scale back on holiday purchases, you're teaching them self-discipline and and you can discuss the bigger picture of what you want as a family," suggests Mackey. "Wouldn't it be nice if mom or dad got to spend more time with you instead of working harder to pay off our Christmas purchases??"

    "Kids have plenty of creative ideas and it can empower them and make them want to get on board when you ask, "What do you think we can do to get out of debt, or not go into debt, as a family this year at Christmastime?"

    Mackey suggests making a Christmas list right after Thanksgiving, during that biggest shopping weekend of the year, and then put it away for a couple of weeks. When you as a family revisit the list, and narrow it down to the 3 things your kids really want. Then, says Mackey, you talk to them about why they want this…what's so special about this…it doesn't hurt to quiz them a little to understand if it's truly something they can't live without."

    The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to teach children about the power of giving of themselves to help others. Mackey suggests inspiring children with the story of Kris Kringle, a child who liked to give more than he liked to receive. Explain to your children advises Mackey why it's important to give to others as a family and select a charity that you want to give to support, either with your time or money or both. Mackey says make it a family weekend project in November to start collecting hand-me-downs from everyone's closets that you plan to give away to charities at Christmas.

    "When you buy a financial investment for your children, it is a gift that can educate your children as well as entertain them," says Mackey. Children have the gift of time, and there is no better time then now to invest in your child's financial future. Children very rarely remember the gifts, but for years to come they will be thanking you for investing in their financial future. Family members can open a high interest savings account, like ING DIRECT'S Orange savings.

    Sharebuilder for stocks is a great way to get kids started in buying individual stocks through dollar cost averaging. Start teaching children the value in saving and investing money early, because as we have learned over the last year, when you have the security of money in the bank…that is your number one asset.

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