As the endless commercials and relentless flood of catalogs in the mail signals, the holiday shopping season has arrived. I have no doubt that Lori will be careful and not spend money she doesn’t have. My concern is the opposite, how to help her find ways -- and a little cash -- to have presents to give her kids, her mom, and herself this holiday season.
Creative gift giving is neither a financial planning subject nor a strong suit of mine, but I do feel strongly that it is important in my overall work with Lori. It's important for Lori and the kids to participate in a familiar and probably significant event in a meaningful way: providing a token of appreciation or affection to family and friends. It is also important to help Lori learn new ways of approaching a potentially disastrous time of year for many people’s budgets, providing her another tool in her personal finance toolkit she can model for her children, and another opportunity for her children to learn by their mom’s good example.
The single most important step Lori can take is to create a holiday shopping list with specific dollar limits and then stick to it. There can be no shopping without a list. I also have a few low cost/no cost ideas I will discuss with Lori, and see what sticks:
Start a new tradition of volunteering. Given this is their first holiday since the divorce; it is a particularly good time to begin a new tradition. Volunteering as a family at a shelter to help prepare and serve a meal, delivering meals at a senior center; or providing assistance at a humane society shelter are examples of activities that would not be too time consuming and could be done together. They could discuss as a group each year what to do or rotate the decision.
Give time. This one may not work as well with the kids, but it could be a great gift for her mom. Lori could think of what would help simplify her mom’s life and then create a gift certificate for whatever she decides, from repainting a room to helping reorganize the basement to creating a scrapbook of her grandchildren.
Arts and crafts. This could work both as a gift from Lori to each child individually, together or as a suggestion for the kids to make something for their grandmother.