6 Money Traditions to Spread Cheer Now & Through the Year
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While each family’s traditions can be quirky and unique, the desire to spend time together and bring joy to one another is universal. With a focus on money-related traditions, we asked members of the personal finance media and financial professionals to share their families’ customs and practices.
1. Help Those Who Need It Most
Many families’ holiday money traditions involve giving to others. However, the gift and process can take on different forms.
“Each Christmas, each of my four children chooses three toys—in good condition—they no longer play with to donate to our church or other local charities,” says Jeff Rose, a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) who runs Good Financial Cents. “I also carry extra $100 bills in my wallet for when we see someone in need.”
Others similarly carry extra cash to give away, or started a holiday money tradition of pooling their donations to support a worthy cause.
“When we get together around the holidays, every family member contributes $50 and we make a cash donation to a local charity to help those in need,” says David Bakke of Money Crashers. The tradition takes on other forms throughout the year, such as buying school supplies to give away during the back-to-school season.
2. Commit to Quitting Holiday Debt
Finding the money for gifts and parties can be a burden on your budget, and credit card debt often rings in the new year. Some families’ traditions center around the idea of finding meaningful ways to share gifts and time together without piling on expenses.
“When my sister and I were children, our parents would often go into debt to make our Christmas one remember,” says Nia Simone, a personal finance writer for Money Done Right. “Now, we’ve dedicated ourselves to only using cash during the holidays.” They’re dedicated to the tradition and use prepaid debit cards for online shopping to ensure they don’t go over budget.
Simone’s family also opts for DIY Christmas cards, which proves to be a fun family bonding experience in addition to saving them money. And they put some of the savings toward buying big-ticket toys, which they donate to a local nonprofit.
3. Prioritize Experiences Over Things
There’s often an expectation of gifting among family and friends, and making meaningful choices with your money is an important part of personal financial management.
Gifting an experience could be the better option if you’re struggling to find something the recipient will love. People quickly adapt to their physical possessions, and their excitement may fade over time. Looking forward to an experience—or having a fond memory to look back on—can provide longer-lasting joy.
Kelan Kline of The Savvy Couple says the experiential gift has become a staple for her siblings. “These can be anything from going bowling, out to dinner, or even going to a sporting event,” says Kline. “It's been an amazing family tradition we love to participate in every year.”
4. Give the Gift of Education
Conscious spending can take on different forms as well. Robert Farrington, the founder of The College Investor, knows the importance of saving for college and turned the priority into a request for his family.
“Over the last few years, we’ve encouraged our family to stop gifting for our children and, instead, contribute to a 529 plan,” says Farrington. “ Our children still receive a few gifts from us, their siblings, and Santa, but the main focus is gifting towards their future.”
5. Pass Down Money Traditions To The Next Generation
Many parents pass on or create family money traditions to teach their children about the importance of saving and using money. These skills are often taught through a mix of lessons, practice, and examples from parents.
Krista Cavalieri, CFP®, an associate wealth manager at Budros, Ruhlin, and Roe, has a 19-month old, three-year-old, and five-year-old.
“During the holidays, when they put cash from relatives into their piggy banks, we talk to them about things they may use money for, such as saving to buy something they really want, or perhaps helping others,” she says. “We hope that it helps our children grow to be compassionate to others and learn to set savings goals to accumulate wealth over time.”
6. Continue Traditions Throughout The Year
While the holidays often bring a keen focus to traditions, finances, and charity, practicing and teaching responsible money management is a year-long process.
For some, that means looking for teaching opportunities to share with their children.
Frugal Rules founder John Schmoll often travel hacks to help cover expenses for his family of five. However, the entire family also saves their change throughout the year. “Before going on a trip we take the coins into the bank to get cash, and we all get to choose one thing to do with that money while on the given trip,” says Schmoll. “This helps our kids see the value of saving and how it enables us to do something we want.”
Others make saving a regular practice by creating gift or charity categories in their budget and setting aside money each month. Or, they may have a tradition of sitting down to review their finances or discuss the family’s finances with a partner.
No matter how you choose to integrate finances into your traditions, there’s always more to learn and teach. Look for more ideas and insights in the Quicken blog.