Holiday Debt: The Real Problem With Fulfilling Kids' Wishlists

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Kids opening Christmas gifts
Are we sending our kids the wrong message?

"Tis the season to be broke," my friend Lily jokes. We're sitting at a overcrowded Starbucks in the mall with paper bags from our holiday shopping clustered around our legs. She's bouncing her 11-month-old on her knee and her second, a little 4-year-old boy rummages through the packages.

She's a great mom and I know she means well. For other parents like her, the holidays mean presents — lots and lots of them. And oftentimes, the only means they have of scoring those deep discounts is by elbowing through crowds of equally desperate parents at the mall from the kick-off of the shopping season, Black Friday, right up until Christmas Eve. But a shocking new study really quantifies the lengths moms and dads will go to make their kids happy: 57 percent of parents are willingly take on credit card debt to make their children happy for the holidays.

What's even crazier is that the survey indicates that parents who made less money were willing to spend more on the holidays. Parents with a household income of $35,000 or less were willing to accrue $700 in holiday debt for their kids. Meanwhile, parents with a household income of $75,000 or more were only willing to take on $300 of debt. We have to wonder, is that really teaching kids the right morals?

YourTango Expert and mom Tara Kennedy Klein herself admits to being guilty of overspending on the holidays when her kids were younger. She says that she kicked the habit when she realized how parents don't spend as nearly as much money as they do time with their kids and that's what counts.

"If parents would take more than the average seven minutes a day to have reciprocal, face-to-face conversations with their children, they may find that what kids today really want is more quality time with their parents!" she says. "Making our child truly happy at the holidays could be as simple as spending the entire day doing something they love, going to a movie, having lunch together, hiking or going to a zoo."

After all, "time is money" It's easier to ask your child what new video game or pair of shoes they want than spend hours getting to know their interests.

Obviously, families aren't likely to let their kids know the financial burden the holidays have on them. But Kennedy Klein says that by fulfilling each and every hope on our kids' wishlists, "we are sending our kids the message that love can be bought and material objects are more valuable than real connection."

She has one question to leave with parents this time of year: "So I would ask that 57 percent: if you're truly willing to go into debt for your child's happiness, wouldn't it be fiscally more responsible to spend the time finding out if your investment is paying off for your kid or just paying off your conscience?"

What do you think? Do you normally go into debt during the holidays to complete your childrens' wishlists? Tell us in the comments below.

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