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How to make holiday wish lists a teaching tool for family finances

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TORONTO –
Apple's AirPods are at the top of Bitta Chowdhury's wish list this holiday season, and the 18-year-old has already decided that he will soon be in his possession whether anyone buys them for him or not.

"My plan is to wait until Christmas. If I can't, I'll buy it myself," Chowdhury promises about wireless devices, which cost up to $ 329 for the latest and most complicated version.

"The problem with AirPods is that everyone has them now … It's kind of expected if you're a teenager."

Chowdhury estimates that 75 percent of his school's children own the gadgets, which he admits are widely considered status symbols.

It's hard not to get carried away by enthusiasm, says Chowdhury as he and his friends strolled Toronto's bustling Eaton Center on a recent afternoon. And he expects to see even more people wearing expensive gadgets in the New Year when the gift frenzy disappears.

Of course, the reality is that many families can't afford big gifts, especially adult-priced tech items that are increasingly targeting teenage consumers.

Add to the fact that your child can barely keep up with the wired headphones, and it is understandable that parents hesitate to use other devices.

Parenting expert Ann Douglas says each parent should decide if their teen is mature enough to handle such easily misplaced items, and if not, she suggests increasing these deficiencies gently and with specific examples.

The challenge for many parents this season is how to manage extravagant gift expectations if they're not on budget, says Douglas.

Douglas is the mother of four, now aged 22-31, and says she knows the holidays can be filled with gift-related "trauma and dramas" – especially among brand-conscious teens.

"With our kids, we used to say, 'We have a budget for your gift (and) you can look within that range,'" says Douglas.

"It was like & # 39; we can give you money for this, but then you will have to have vacation money or birthday money or part-time jobs to complete this & # 39;"

Consider this a time of learning for your teen, says Douglas, especially if they have their hearts set on something that stretches family finances.

"First of all, you need to recognize this (limit) in yourself so you can figure out what your way is. If you don't want to spend more this Christmas, what's reasonable for you?"

Know Your Financial Means And The Imperatives That Drive These Spending Decisions – Want to prioritize experiences over things? If it involves technology, what usage restrictions – if any – will the gadget provide? What message do you want to send about consumerism in general?

Above all, be realistic about what you can afford, she says, and don't be afraid to involve children.

"Children need to know what you are thinking and what they can reasonably expect," says Douglas, whose book "Happy Parents, Happy Children" was released in February.

"When kids are teenagers, they have a sense of what's going on in the family with money, but I think you can walk that fine line. You don't want your child to be scared, like we're on the verge of a financial meltdown (but) you don't want to pretend there is a money tree either. "

Chowdhury expects her parents to refuse to fulfill everything on her wish list, which includes a new iPhone.

So he is prepared to lower their expectations, negotiate the reasonable, help them look for the best deals and spend their own money.

"Morally, I think if my parents are already getting me a phone, it's such a big thing that I shouldn't ask for anything more. But if I asked, for example, a phone and a new winter jacket, I'm sure we could have worked. into something, "says Chowdhury, whose Hindu family does not celebrate Christmas but exchange gifts.

And with college or university on the horizon, Chowdhury says he is looking forward to beginning to assert more independence.

"I'm 18 now, so it's more my responsibility to be able to pay my own phone bill and pay my own things."

Financial advisor Linda Stern asks families to work on financial matters during the conversation throughout the year – be honest about saving for a family trip in the months before summer break or cutting after the break to pay the bills.

Teenagers should know that spending in one area can mean cuts in other areas, such as birthdays or Christmas presents, she says. And even young children can understand basic money concepts.

"Definitely start when they are little and you take them to (the toy store) and they are five and you say, 'You can pick a gift.' They come with three and cry, and you says, “No, you need to choose one.

When it comes to holiday gifts, Stern suggests that teens split their wishlist into a handful of options ranked in the order of their mandatory imperative.

This would allow other family members to contribute and share the costs, but it also requires the teenager to evaluate the pros and cons of each item, to examine how they plan to use the gift, and to honestly assess whether they want it now or are willing to wait and help. to save.

At the end of the day, it's up to parents to stick to the line, Stern adds. She notes that she has worked with many parents who have difficulty saying no.

"There is a feeling that 'I have to do it for my children.' They want to give in to them, they don't want to disappoint them, even at the expense of their own credit," says Stern, an insolvency administrator. Crowe Soberman Inc. of Toronto.

"There is a lot of guilt in terms of obligation and children, and I think it puts parents at risk and the child is not learning. They are not learning good habits."

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 15, 2019.

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