Holiday spending was up 16 percent this Thanksgiving weekend, with Americans spending $9.36 billion, Voice of America reported. This included $4.1 billion in online spending, a 15 percent increase from last year, according to Adobe Digital Insights. The average shopper spent $289, National Retail Federation data showed. By the time the holidays are over, each American shopper will have spent an average of $929, up from $882 last year. Amidst this frenzy of spending, it’s easy for teens to get the impression that Christmas is all about getting presents and to forget the original reason for the season. Here are some ways you can help offset the commercialization of Christmas and teach your teen the spirit of goodwill.
Leading by Example
The most powerful lesson you can give your teen is teaching by example. Embodying and exhibiting a spirit of generosity can give your teen a role model to counter the materialistic messages of the mass media. Minimalist author Joshua Becker suggests some simple ways to be more generous. Start by cultivating a spirit of gratitude within yourself, making a list of things you are grateful for and reminding yourself of your list on a daily basis. Make a habit of giving a portion of your income each month to your church or a charitable cause. Give up one luxury item for a month in order to increase your ability to give. Give away items you don’t need. Spend some time helping people in need on a regular basis.
Shift Focus from Gifts to Faith and Family
Christmas was originally a religious holiday celebrated in a family setting, but in the late 19th century, woodcutters and department stores began seeing its commercial potential, setting the stage for the increasing commercialization of the holiday over the course of the 20th century. Today, Christmas stands at the center of the retail economy. You can help reverse this trend for your teen by bringing your holiday season back to its original focus and emphasizing faith and family.
There are a number of simple steps you can take to emphasize faith and family over the holidays. Adorn your home with religious-themed decorations to give your family a daily visual reminder of the reason for the season. Participate in holiday rituals such as lighting Advent candles. Or you can organize family activities that emphasize faith and fellowship rather than just giving gifts. Adriel Booker lists 150 Advent activitiesfamilies can do together, ranging from preparing decorations and treats to watching Christmas movies and attending holiday parades and religious celebrations.
Volunteer to Help the Less Fortunate
One great way to model a spirit of generosity for your teen is volunteering as a family to help the less fortunate. There are numerous ways you can get your teen involved in this type of charitable activity. One of the simplest ways is to see what your local church may already be doing. Many churches organize Christmas activities such as collecting gifts for needy children, serving meals or visiting nursing homes. You can also find charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army that organize holiday activities you can participate in. Or you can find people in need among your own family, friends and neighbors to help over the holidays. One activity for the family could be delivering homemade cookies in a family “Cookie Car”decorated for the holidays.
Set a Budget Ceiling
Despite the fact that the average American spends over $900 a year on holiday shopping, two-thirds of Americans don’t plan a holiday budget, a Bankrate survey revealed. Moreover, two-thirds of those who do have budgets don’t stick to them, going an average of $116 over budget, a Coinstar survey found. Setting a budget ceiling for your family’s gift spending can help your teen focus less on gifts during the holiday season.
There are several ways you can limit gift spending. One is to set a numerical limit for each family member. Another is to assign family members to buy gifts for each other through a random drawing, with a set limit on how much may be spent per gift.
Make Gifts by Hand
Another way to limit gift spending while personalizing your gifts at the same time is to have your teen make gifts by hand. For instance, if your teen knows how to knit, they might make a hat, scarf or mittens. If they like to bake, they can make some homemade cookies or brownies to share. Or if they’re handy with tools, they might build a small furniture or decorative item to give away.