It’s Okay to Tell Your Kid You Don’t Have it This Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the most stressful. Although I love the holidays for the family time and the food, ESPECIALLY the food, I also want to make sure my daughter has great memories to look back on around the holidays.

I have a whirlwind of emotions and feelings when it comes to the holidays. I have a lot of great memories; some of which I will cherish forever. However, there are almost just many bad memories that I know for sure has shaped the way I view the holidays and how I have chosen to raise my child.


Just to give you an idea of one of the bad memories: One year we got robbed! This was probably going to the biggest Christmas we ever had. My mom went all out and not just for her kids but her entire family, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. But one weekend when we were at my dad’s for the weekend and my mom was in a drunken slumber, someone (well not ‘someone’, because we know who did it) broke in through the back door and took everything!

Man, that memory still breaks my heart until this day. We still ended up getting gifts thanks to my mom’s boyfriend at the time helping out.

Because of that one incident, I’m never too excited for Christmas, about receiving gifts, and the expectations I set for my kid around the holidays.

Being a parent

For our family it truly is the Holiday season, because her birthday is in December as well.

Before having my daughter, I didn’t care too much for the holidays after my family was separated due to addiction. I still have some good memories, but it was never the same afterwards.

My daughter gave me a reason to be excited again and to care. I try to make sure that she has great memories in general. I know I can’t always protect her from experiencing bad feelings, but I will do the best I can to make a positive contribution. After all, some of our best and worst memories are around the holidays.

I know you have stories just like mine.

My husband and I have one child and she was also the first grandchild. For birthdays and Christmas during the first 5 years she was blessed in many ways. From being able to spend time with her family and creating memories with her cousins, like I did with mine when I was young. She also received gifts during this time.

One year you’ve got it and the next year you don’t

Now we’ve never had a whole lot of money and have really tried stay within our means when it comes to budgeting for birthday parties and Christmas. We also had a certain amount we would not go over and made sure we stuck to it.

I never wanted to make the holidays about gifts. I also didn’t want to make poor financial decisions. But looking back, we could have made some better financial choices, considering all things.

My daughter is 7 now and probably owns only a few things that were bought two Christmases ago.

Talk to your kids

I remember the first time we got ‘the talk’ from our parents. I was in the 8th grade and they told us they didn’t have much money for Christmas, so we had to tell them one thing we really wanted and they would do their best.

We both wanted a cell phone each and we got them! At first it did kind of suck that we didn’t have multiple gifts to open up, but we were still thankful for what we did get.

We also had to have a similar conversation with our daughter. As difficult as it was, we had to be open and transparent with her.

How do you have the talk? Here’s some easy steps:

  • Ask your child or children to sit down with you (no distractions).
  • Explain what’s going on with your finances (in an age appropriate way). Take responsibility for your actions (if needed). Sometimes as parents we make poor decisions when it comes to money management. It’s important that we remain open and honest with our children and lead by example.
  • Tell them your plan. Set the expectations. Let them know if you’re able to purchase any gifts, or only a few, or if you will all be doing something completely different.


It’s time we get our shit together and make better choices. I’m not saying that there aren’t circumstances beyond our control that can put us in difficult financial situations, but I do know that I can look back on some of the choices I’ve made and can admit that they weren’t all good ones.

I don’t beat myself up (anymore), but I do acknowledge what I can do differently next time.

We are coming to the 2nd year of needing to have this conversation and it is not a great feeling, so I’m going to do something to change that. Are you?

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Listen to this episode on the Ny’s Growing Space Podcast

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