Letters to Santa can cultivate good money habits

With Halloween over, the last big event of the year is Christmas Day. Children are starting to write their letters to Santa and asking for things that they want. In the midst of all the busyness, we tend to go crazy on the present front. How do we keep our budget under control, keep the kids happy on Christmas day and also teach them about money at this time of the year?

It’s all in their letter to Santa

Letter to Santa
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Before we hand over the pen and paper and ask our children to write their list for Santa, perhaps we should give them a few guidelines. Instead of asking them to write down what they want, ask them to write down one item in each of the categories below.

By doing this, the children are learning good money habits by differentiating between wants and needs and also cultivating gratitude along the way. This will also help to keep your budget under control during the craziest holiday of the year and on Christmas Day the children may even get the surprise they never expected.

  1. Something they need

Getting them to think about what they need can be very tricky, especially for young children. Instead of writing down a general description of things such as ‘food’ and ‘clothes’ get the children to specify exactly what they need. Some suggestions might be socks, underwear, new shoes for school next year, etc. If you are keen, ask your children to also give a reason why they need that item. There is no need to debate with the children whether the item they have specified is actually a ‘need’ or a ‘want’. The purpose of this exercise is to get children thinking in terms of needs and wants.

  1. Something they want

This is one category the children won’t have any problems with listing as many items as they can. The difficulty they will have is deciding which item on their list of wants makes the cut to be the only one that Santa brings. This exercise teaches the children to prioritise their long list of items that they want.

If they are struggling, help them along by encouraging them to make a list of 3 items they want. Then ask them to cross out one item that doesn’t evoke as strong a feeling of joy as the other two. This will leave them with only two items to choose from. Ask them to take a break and go to the next category (something to share). When they have listed the item in the next category, ask them to close their eyes. Tell them you will give them a series of options to choose from and they have 3 seconds to answer.

Ask them 3 random questions with choices (eg. Do you prefer to drink milk or water? Do you prefer to eat chocolates or chips? Apples or bananas?). Make sure you give them only 3 seconds to answer. The fourth question you ask is: Do you want Toy A or Toy B for Christmas? Remember they only have 3 seconds to decide. Their answer is the item that remains in the letter to Santa.

  1. Something to share

This category encourages children to think of others during Christmas time. They can choose something to share with one other person or the rest of the family or their friends. Some examples of items in this category might include their favourite breakfast cereal (ones they don’t get often), their favourite breakfast spread, their favourite packet of chips, chocolate, etc. Be clear that the item on this list is for them to share with others.

On Christmas Day

So, on the big day, what will the children find under the tree or in their stockings? They will find four presents. Say what?! Yep, FOUR:

  • an item they needed
  • something they wanted
  • something to share
  • A surprise – remember the exercise you did with the two presents they had to choose from? Well, the one that was not chosen will be their surprise on that day.

Who would have guessed that children can develop their financial literacy simply by writing a letter to Santa! Are you itching to get started with the letter to Santa?