Don't miss these teachable holiday moments

When you’re a kid, the holidays are a magical time. The lights! The food! The presents!

Underneath all that tinsel and wrapping paper, however, there are real lessons to be learned about money – earning it, spending it, and saving it.

The best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice any of the magic of the season in order to bring those lessons to life. There are plenty of fun ways to incorporate a little financial education into the holidays without spoiling any of the joy and wonder. Here are just a few examples.

Making a gift budget

One of the key financial lessons we all had to learn at some point was that our money isn’t infinite. We have to make choices about how we spend that money.

If you’ve got a child who’d like to do some of their own holiday gift giving, consider giving them a little money to make purchases on their own. The only caveat is that they have to sit down with you and write out a simple budget to decide how they’re going to spend that money.

For many, gift giving is their first introduction into the world of budgeted spending. It’s a great way to show how important it is to have a spending plan, especially if you’re got limited funds and a lot of ideas on how to spend it.

Prioritizing their wish list

Kids love making ordered lists anyway, so it’s definitely no chore to have them make a wish list and then put it in order of priority. The next step is to simply talk to them about their list. Why did they choose the order they chose? Do they understand that every time they get something from the top of the list, it’s less likely they’ll get something from the bottom of the list?

You can then use their list as a springboard into talking about how you prioritize household spending. What are your top priorities and why? You don’t need to go into any great detail, but you want to make it clear that your money is not limitless, and that every month you’re forced to make decisions how to spend that money. That’s why understanding your priorities is so important.

Making an investment

One of the highlights of the holiday season is all the delicious treats. Instead of giving your kids free access to those treats, however, why not use those tasty cookies and snacks to teach your kids a lesson about earning and investing?

For starters, treat the cookie jar like a bank. You can’t make a withdrawal without making a deposit first. That can come in the form of chores or by helping make those cookies in the first place.

Now, when it comes time for a withdrawal, kids are faced with a choice: you can get half a cookie now and nothing again until tomorrow, or you can wait until after dinner (letting that cookie earn a little interest along the way), when you’ll be able to withdraw the full cookie.

Of course, those are just a few ways to make financial education a part of the holiday fun. The key is simply bringing attention to those little lessons already hidden away in your yearly rituals and traditions. You don’t need to make anything new or stop what you’re already doing. Just keep your eye out for those fun, teachable moments and make them part of the joy of the season.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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