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Setting limits for the holidays

Growing up, I remember getting an over-abundance of gifts at Christmas. Christmas morning was amazing with presents overflowing from the tree (a real one I might add).

I'm the youngest of 5 children. My father was a rural mail carrier and my mother was a stay at home mom. Dad, I now realize, had the easier job of the two. So you can imagine that with 5 children and only one income, our family was on a tight budget. Mom would save coupons and buy groceries at multiple stores to get the best deals. It was impressive how she could stretch a dollar and feed us all very well. Dad was always doing extra jobs - cutting wood, delivering the Claremore Progress, and various other ventures. So as I look back now as a parent of "only" three kids and also dealing with a tight family budget, I'm amazed that Christmas was so incredible. I know that my parents made major sacrifices to ensure each of their five children had a great Christmas.

As parents, we want our kids to share in the same awesome experiences we had growing up, right? I remember being so excited when I found the board game Wa-Hoo at the general store in Branson, Missouri. It was a family favorite when I was a kid. I just knew my kids would love it too. But moving marbles around a wooden board isn't nearly as exciting to kids who have been introduced to electronic games. There was disappointment all around.

Christmas is the biggest struggle for me. I am, by nature, a gift giver. I would like nothing more than to spend several thousands of dollars per family member and see the expressions on their faces Christmas morning. After all, that is the experience I had growing up. Fortunately, people tend to marry someone that is pretty opposite of themselves. My wonderful wife has helped me to find balance at Christmas so that we don't have to mortgage our house to pay of the December credit card bills. I admit this has been a major struggle for me, but I have to remind myself that Christmas is so much more than the gifts we give and receive.

We put limits on how much we spend at Christmas, and it's a lot less than I would like. Isn't that true for life? In everything, we must set limits for ourselves: how fast we drive, how much we eat and drink, and definitely how much we spend. And if we aren't willing to do this at Christmas with our kids, what lesson are we teaching them?

What I've seen over the years is that my kids Christmas wish list has gotten much shorter. They realize that they won't be getting everything on their list. It has forced them to think about what they really want or need. With so much advertising being thrown at them, it can be easy to "want" everything, only to have most of the stuff they really thought they had to have being donated in a few months because they are already bored with it. Now the things on their list we know they will truly value. The "wow" factor might not be as great Christmas morning as what I had growing up. But, seeing my kids making wise choices is a good trade-off. And paying off the credit card bills on time is a very, very nice bonus.

I wish you all the best this holiday season.