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Holiday Gift Budget: Why I'm Spending Less on the Kids

This holiday season I'm carving up my shopping budget a bit differently than I usually do. I'm skimping on the kids and splurging on my husband. (I'm hoping he spends a bit more on me too.) It's not that my girls are undeserving; it's just that some toys are so cheap this year that I'm embracing the opportunity to fritter away a bit less on them.

I started rethinking my budget after a series of retailers, including Target, Walmart and Toys"R"Us announced their Black Friday sales events for holiday gift items. After doing some research, I discovered that some of the toys I'm hoping to buy for my kids -- including a Barbie Doll -- will be discounted this year. As for the things that aren't on sale, I'll probably just avoid them.

In the past, I might have been tempted to buy my kids more toys since my money will go so much further this holiday season. But I learned a harsh lesson last year that I don't plan to repeat; more gifts don't always make children happier.

Although I managed to stay within a fairly strict budget last Christmas, I bought my oldest daughter quite a few relatively cheap toys. I thought she'd enjoy the thrill of opening up a lot of boxes. Instead, she was just incredibly disappointed -- I can still hear the whining -- when there was no more wrapping paper to tear open after the holiday was officially over. (Ever feel like you can never win?)

So this year, both of my girls will receive a couple of coveted gifts and I'll put the savings towards my husband's present. I'm thinking he may enjoy something from the electronic home theater category. (I don't want to divulge any other details in case he's reading this.)

Although our home could use an upgrade on the electronics front, this isn't the real reason I'm thinking of splurging on my husband. My real inspiration comes from a conversation I had a while back with Richard Bromfield, PhD, a Harvard Medical School faculty member and author of How to Unspoil Your Child Fast. He mentioned to me that too many parents today spend freely on their children -- buying them toys and designer clothing -- even when it means there's little money left over in the budget for Mom and Dad. This type of overindulgent behavior only teaches children that they and their desires trump everyone else's needs and wishes.

Do I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge? Not at all. I'm fairly certain my kids will still have a great holiday this year. While I may skimp on the gift front, I plan to more than make up for it with enthusiasm and seasonal activities. I bet my children will be so busy making crafts and baking cookies that they won't even care that their friends got more plastic toys than them.

How do you plan to divvy up your holiday budget this year?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Colette-Barbie-and-Ken image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
More on CBS MoneyWatch:
Holiday Non-Shopping: 7 Items Worth Waiting For
Charity: How To Teach Your Children To Give
Why You Shouldn't Buy Your Kids More Toys
Money and Manners: Are You Offensive?

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