Grandparents and Holiday Gifts

The holiday season is a time of year when there’s a lot of pressure to dig deep into your wallet to buy gifts.  Many families have a tradition of surrounding their Christmas tree with presents.

For older adults who live on a fixed income, the holidays can take a big bite out of their budget, especially when it comes to buying gifts for all the grandchildren.

There’s an expectation that the holidays means lots of gifts.  While it’s easy to tell adults you need to cut back, many are not willing to do that with children.

A recent study by U.S. fintech firm Opploans surveyed over 1700 grandparents and found they spend an average of $218 per grandchild.

There’s often competition between maternal and paternal grandparents – the nicest, most expensive, most meaningful, or just the most gifts.

When my children were small they opened presents on Christmas Eve with one set of grandparents, at our house on Christmas morning, and at the other grandparents Christmas afternoon.  I don’t think there was a toy they didn’t have.  It’s a good thing we owned a station wagon so we could load up all the loot in the back.

It’s a good idea to talk with parents about gift-giving rules – what they want, number of gifts, amount to spend.

Start new traditions

This year why not consider other ways you can celebrate with your grandchildren.  It’s a chance to have fun, create memories and be that special someone in your grandchildren’s lives.

You can invite each grandchild to pick a favourite activity:

  • Bake cookies, make a gingerbread village
  • Spend time crafting – holiday cards, ornaments, bird seed balls
  • Try a building project using basic tools
  • Make a video of the kids singing their favourite songs
  • Tell them stories about how you spent Christmas growing up while looking at old photos
  • Check out the neighbourhood light displays

You can even volunteer together to do things like helping to fill gift baskets for the needy.

I recently spent several hours with my grandsons and my mother playing a version of the chutes and ladders board game.  It turns out we’re all really competitive – and we had a blast.

Doing activities before the holidays gives you more time to spend together.  They’ll look forward to these times year after year and remember them long after the holidays are over, but they won’t always remember what you bought them.

Buy experiences, not things

It’s easy to go overboard with too many presents.  One idea is to give gift certificates for different family or child-friendly activities – science centre, aquarium, activity parks and day camps.

There is a company here in the Okanagan called Gift Gator that offers all kinds of services and adventure trips.  See if there is something similar where you live.

If the kids enjoy winter events get the Parks Canada Discovery Pass – $136.40 for a family pass, and if you buy before December 31 you get 20% off.

If you live far from your grandkids you can give them a West Jet gift card so they can visit you.

My parents started buying Canada Savings Bonds instead of gifts.  CSBs are no longer available, but you can contribute to RESPs or other savings.

These can be more rewarding than physical objects.





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2 Responses

  1. Wendy Thiel says:

    Needed to read this….totally agree!

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