Q&A: Giving a birthday without the presents

Q: I’m a single mother of two teenagers who’s struggling financially. I am working full-time and part-time jobs and can barely make my monthly expenses. My sons have birthdays coming up, but I just can’t see how I can afford the things on their wish lists. How can I give them a nice birthday experience without all the presents?

A: There’s no doubt about it: times are tough. When it comes to their impending birthdays, we’d recommend sitting your sons down and explaining the situation honestly. Let them know that there just isn’t money in the budget for big-ticket items this year. Offer some budget-friendly alternatives. They’re old enough to not have the same sense of entitlement that a younger child would have. Your love for them and your desire to give them a happy birthday will likely mean more than any present.

In the long term, the president of a ministry to single parents offers some solid advice for those in your situation:

  1. Set goals—write down everything relating to your finances, from income and spending to debts, and create a plan for achieving them. When a child asks about an unplanned purchase, say, “It’s not that we don’t have enough money, it’s that the item doesn’t fit with our goals right now.”
  2. Involve your children in creative ways to save money. Sell unneeded stuff, have a movie night at home, and so on.
  3. Get out of debt. If at all possible, get rid of credit cards.
  4. Find support. Network with other single parents in your workplace.

For more tips on financial management, explore our Resources.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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