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Holidays stretch Grandma’s monthly budget


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Dear Senior Living Adviser,
As we approach the holidays, I’m concerned about holiday spending and going into debt to buy gifts for my children and grandchildren. Living on a fixed income, the monthly budget is already stretched pretty thin, and paying credit card interest rates to carry a balance will make things worse. What’s a grandparent to do?
— Teresa Triage

Dear Teresa,
It’s time to have a talk with your children about how the holiday gift-giving needs to change. I know in my family we’ve made changes several times. The first change was to exchange names of the adults, while still buying presents for the grandchildren, nieces and nephews. When a child graduated from college or turned 21, whichever came last, they would graduate to the gift exchange. This passage to adulthood was considered a milestone and accepted by the adult children.

The second change was to go beyond the adult gift exchange and take turns picking a charity to which all of the adults make a donation at year-end. That has mostly worked out, but the unintended consequence was that the charities don’t quite understand that it’s a one-time contribution. If you can reach consensus, deciding on one charity and making that an event every year may work better. If you don’t have the money, you may be able to donate your time instead.

What’s right for my family may not be right for yours. The point is to have this discussion, and arrive at a solution that doesn’t have you going into debt because of holiday spending or pinching pennies to make ends meet just to meet the family’s expectations for gift-giving at the holidays. Manage the expectations and you manage the outcome, and then can enjoy the season with your family.

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