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    • MSE Martin
    • By MSE Martin 14th Nov 06, 10:51 AM
    • 8,115Posts
    • 42,285Thanks
    MSE Martin
    MONEY MORAL DILEMMA: What's more important - MoneySaving or Santa?
    • #1
    • 14th Nov 06, 10:51 AM
    MONEY MORAL DILEMMA: What's more important - MoneySaving or Santa? 14th Nov 06 at 10:51 AM
    This week's Money Moral Dilemma

    A family is struggling to make ends meet this Christmas, but their two children aged 6 and 8 are looking forward to Santas presents, especially because 'Santa is giving their friends a playstation/TV/expensive gifts' and as they've been 'good this year' they're expecting them too. So should they explain Santa doesn't exist and they can't afford the toy or go into debt to keep the myth alive?

    Click reply to enter the money moral maze

    Please remember, be polite to other MoneySavers, even if you disagree with them

    Also read last week's MMD: Can kids buy anything they want?

    PS. And just to confirm this is an entirely hypothetical situation. Each week in the email I will be asking those questions. And yes, the lack of detail, the phrasing, all of it is deliberate to envoke debate (nice debate too). Enjoy the money moral maze.

    Last edited by Former MSE Natasha; 14-11-2006 at 6:35 PM.
    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.

    Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at

    Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000
Page 1
    • Logovo69
    • By Logovo69 15th Nov 06, 1:22 AM
    • 425 Posts
    • 2,359 Thanks
    • #2
    • 15th Nov 06, 1:22 AM
    • #2
    • 15th Nov 06, 1:22 AM
    When our son was younger we explained that if Santa bought him a really expensive present, it would mean that a child somewhere in the world would have to have nothing, either because the elves would have to spend too long making his, or Santa wouldn't be able to afford to buy everyone something. Wouldn't he hate it if too many other children were greedy and it meant he got nothing for Christmas that year?

    He knew he was bought gifts from the family, but then he also got left his Santa gift in his room for him to open before coming down to the family's gifts.

    A 'real' gift from Santa was always something small, and inexpensive, because there are so many children in the world who he wants to give to, and he has so many gifts to fit on his sleigh. We'd then pick something small from his 'Dear Santa' letter for him and leave his present with a special letter from Santa thanking him for not being greedy and saying he was a good boy!

    The children who got given the big expensive toys from 'Santa' had actually been given them by their parents, who just liked to pretend they were all from Santa, but only the small special one was really from Santa!

    I know how difficult it can be, but we have to cut our cloth accordingly. If we splash out on gifts for our children that we can't really afford, it's no fun for anyone in the New Year when we are faced with bills we struggle or can't pay.

    Once our mortgage and the bills are paid, I have less than 50 per week to cover all our food, toiletries, petrol, clothing and any other expenses. I know many families living on less.

    it's natural that we want to see our children happy and give them things which we think will do so, but hundreds of pounds spent on credit, on toys or electrical goods, many of which will be broken by the New Year, aren't the real route to happiness for our children.

    Over indulging them so that they don't truely appreciate what they have may be creating problems for them when they are older. When they become adults, if they can't afford luxuries they want, and are offered credit, are they really going to stop themselves from getting into debt if they can have what they want immediately?

    We have explained to our son that we just can't afford to pay out hundreds of pounds on toys. If we borrow the money we still have to pay it back and give extra money as well. Not giving him doesn't mean that we don't love him, we tell him that every day. We ask him to pick some things he would like up to a certain value and then pick which one we can get. We also explain that when we can give him little treats, might only be 30p for a chocolate bar, we will try.

    This has been so very difficult to do, but our son doesn't take anything for granted and always appreciates what he is given, and he is genuinely happy with his Christmas present(s).

    I know this is a difficult time for many families and I truely hope that people find solutions to their problems and have a wonderful Christmas.

    Loads of love,

    The times they are a-changin' - Bob Dylan
    • iwanttosave
    • By iwanttosave 15th Nov 06, 2:01 AM
    • 32,245 Posts
    • 23,299 Thanks
    • #3
    • 15th Nov 06, 2:01 AM
    • #3
    • 15th Nov 06, 2:01 AM
    My little ones have only ever recived a small gift from santa (because the elves are very busy making toys for all the good little boys and girls) and the rest are addressed from us, so we wouldnt really have a problem on that front.

    We are have a few money problems this year, and xmas is going to be very tight, but rather than get into debt, we are selling a few things on amazon/ebay ect and buying prezzies from that. Plus as any good money saver should know, it to utalise what they can get. For example, DS needs a new bike, and I have managed to find a £20 voucher, so that means we are saving money there, and also buying things on sale. Not only money saving, but money streching.

    When they are youg, they are not as materialistic as older children and are happy with what they get (well it is with mine anyway.)
    Work like you don't need money,
    Love like you've never been hurt,
    And dance like no one's watching

    Save the cheerleader, save the world!
  • meher
    • #4
    • 15th Nov 06, 3:54 AM
    • #4
    • 15th Nov 06, 3:54 AM
    A 6 and 8 year old should be age enough to realize that Santa is only a myth. Equally there's no such poverty in this country where a parent cannot afford a humble gift for their little children - if there's a will, then there surely has to be a way.

    It's beyond me to understand why people tell lies to little children anyway - if they can understand about Santa, then they should also be able to understand that he's not real but an imaginary figure who wears red costume and appears from the chimeny to give gifts on Christmas eve.

    But every child should know of Santa for it's the true Christmas spirit of giving and for absolutely nothing in return.
  • jellycat40
    • #5
    • 15th Nov 06, 4:57 AM
    • #5
    • 15th Nov 06, 4:57 AM
    Interesting Meher, I decided I would tell my children the truth and never lie to them. This involved tell my DD1 that Dad and I got the pressies and hid them in the cupboard under the stairs. I was pilloried for this by the other Mums but stuck to my guns.

    DD1 went to school and near Xmas when she was 5 came home and said that I was mistaken there was a person called Father Christmas and he delivered the presents in a sleigh etc. I asked her why she thought this and she told me Miss Writer her teacher had told her and I was not a teacher so I probably didn't know. She went on to believe in Santa for the next 5 years in spite of my protestations. Of course DS and DD2 joined ranks with her. With DD3 I did the whole Santa thing and I think this year at 9 she finally knows the truth!

    I have spent fortunes on my kids in every year up to this one, This year I have allocated 50 each. I am not going over this.

    If I was faced with the dilema I would tell the children that Santa was only bringing small gifts as money is tight and that they are loved and cherished and that they are good not to be greedy. Then I would make a big fuss of them on Christmas day by spending time with them. That way I do not think that at 6 and 8 they would realise they had got less. However the return to school could be tricky when notes on pressies are compared.

    Nobody is perfect - not even me.
    • deborah007
    • By deborah007 15th Nov 06, 5:59 AM
    • 64 Posts
    • 493 Thanks
    • #6
    • 15th Nov 06, 5:59 AM
    • #6
    • 15th Nov 06, 5:59 AM

    Why don't they explain to the children that the elves make the toys and Santa delivers but Mum and Dad still have to pay Santa for the presents - and this year the Santa fund is a bit low.

    Surely, in the long run, what matters is the time you spend with your kids - they will remember that when they grow up, not who got the highest score on Sonic the plumber or whatever they are playing nowadays!

    Think of that advert for Werthers sweets on tv - with the lad telling his dad that his mate has all the latest gadgets etc, but the dad won't be at the school sports day because he is a virtual dad.

    • whosforachat
    • By whosforachat 15th Nov 06, 6:24 AM
    • 68 Posts
    • 40 Thanks
    • #7
    • 15th Nov 06, 6:24 AM
    • #7
    • 15th Nov 06, 6:24 AM
    Can someone explain to me the benefits of telling your kids that Santa exists?
  • DemonicaB
    • #8
    • 15th Nov 06, 6:34 AM
    • #8
    • 15th Nov 06, 6:34 AM

    I don't post much but thought I'd throw my tuppence in.

    When I was growing up christmas was incredibly magical and that has stuck in my head. I have wonderful memories of checking to see if Father Christmas had eaten the mince pie I left out or if I could find any hoof prints outside.

    I would never ever deny my daughters (3 months and almost 5) those memories.

    Things are tight this year but we're happy to live on pasta for a few weeks in order to buy them a few gifts. My oldest knows that Father Christmas doesnt bring much for babies as they only really like milk lol I hunt for bargains and use those discount book shops and will wrap 30p colouring books.

    I've also instilled in her that some children are not so lucky and she's happy to go through her older toys to pick out some for the childrens charity shop in the village. Last year she almost made me cry as she picked her favourite Eeyore toy and insisted he go to a sick child!

    I think it's all about getting the balance right. If the children are 8 and 6 then this is probably the last year they'll believe in the magic. I would find a way to buy some inexpensive items and tell them one of the above reasons why.
  • neil1973
    • #9
    • 15th Nov 06, 6:53 AM
    • #9
    • 15th Nov 06, 6:53 AM
    The benefit of my 2 children believeing about santa is the surprise on there face christmas morning when they see what santa has left them is something money cant buy. we dont go overboard with our children but we buy them what we can so for a child to believe in santa might not have benefits for everyones family but for ours it does and it makes christmas that extra bit special for our kids and it was something i believed in when i was a child so why not make christmas a magical time for kids? you dont have to spend a fortune on presents at xmas its just the thought of santa having been in the house makes there day
  • meher
    Can someone explain to me the benefits of telling your kids that Santa exists?
    by whosforachat
    I suppose it's for the completion of spirit of Christmas, little children really get into their creative and imaginative mood thinking of Father Chistmas on his way with whatever they've wished for.

    There're little children across the world who've grown upto be far more sucessful people in life without having the goodfortune to wish for gimme gimme gimme let alone the luxury of dreaming of Father Christmas bringing them gifts. It's noble to explain these to chidren at an early age specially considering the Life of Jesus Christ and what Christmas is all about.
  • Golaup
    Why give them a double whammy by saying 'You won't get the presents you want and, oh yes, Santa, who matters to you much more than to me, doesn't exist'?

    Other replies had excellent ideas about Santa having to spread the costs or parents having to pay Santa. Let them down gently one of those ways, which still teaches them a little about economy. A few months from now, when Santa's not dominating every young child's thoughts, is when to break the bad news that this person they and their friends hero-worship doesn't exist.

    • Zeldazog
    • By Zeldazog 15th Nov 06, 8:41 AM
    • 270 Posts
    • 66 Thanks
    My son is 9 in January, and still firmly believes in Santa just yet, but I know this is probably the last year.

    A few years ago, when he was probably four or five, I told him that Santa only gets one or two presents for him - I told him this for several reasons - so that he could accept that Santa's present supply is not limitless (he understands that if he had a lot of stuff from Santa, that another child somewhere would be deprived, and he certainly wouldn't want that).

    - but I also wanted him to understand that other people, including myself buy him gifts.

    This way, he knows that he won't get everything he'd like for Christmas, as he already understands that I can't afford a lot. He is also very appreciative of the gifts that he gets from me and other people, as well as Santa.

    He is quite happy with not getting everything he would like for Christmas because of money, and isn't at all greedy.

    By doing it this way, he still gets to enjoy the magical side of Christmas, whilst still understanding that money, therefore his present pile, is not limitless. He gets a lot less than many of his schoolfriends for both Xmas and birthdays, or pocket money but probably gets more excited because it means so much more.

    He is turning out to be a boy with a very generoous spirit and heart, he isn't greedy and genuinely, appreciates even the smallest of presents he receives, both birthdays and christmas, because he knows that someone has bought that specially for him.

    So, I am fortunate that I don't have to make that decision. For now, Christmas remains a magical time, for him and me!
  • Monteil
    I truly believe that children should be told the truth, I know that I am an extreme case BUT I did believe in Santa because my mother has said it existed so, when I was told at school that I was silly and that it did NOt exist I swore that this was not possible because I trusted my mother completely. I then asked her and she admitted that it did not exist. Do you know the hurt was awful and I never completely trusted her ever again? I was about six then and I am seventy three.... but I still remember it as if it was yesterday.:rolleyes:
  • MarmadukeCat
    We are telling our older daughter (3 tomorrow) that we buy the presents and send them to Santa for him to deliver on christmas day.

    We have already taken her shopping to get her sisters presents.

    I remember as a child selecting the mince pie or jam tart, the glass of sherry and carrot that we would leave out for Santa and Rudolph. The carrot was always left with a bite mark in it, the others I assume were eaten/drunk or went back into the tin or bottle. I do like the idea that Santa leaves a very small, nominal gift for the child himself and this idea will be taken forward.

    I have spent a long time shopping this year in the sales/1 shops as I know that the rest of the family like to buy large items so I will let them.
  • cpu
    I think there are two separate questions here. (1) Believing in Santa or being told the truth, .....and (2) how much 'Santa' should be expected to supply.

    Personally I feel childhood is pretty much the only time in life where you can freely experience such intense feelings of wonder, excitement and awe without questioning or rationalising as perhaps you would in adulthood. I think it's a shame some children are denied this experience although I fully accept the parents right to do as they see fit for their children. We are all thrown quick enough into a world where we soon realise there is a a lot of negativity and badness and cruel reality and I think it does no harm for children to be allowed to live in a bubble of magical and excited feelings for a short while.

    Children are a different species to us jaded adults. Give them as many happy memories to look back on as you can. A family picnic or trip to the zoo might well be fun but there's nothing very magical about it.

    As for the cost, I agree with those who tell their kids Santa brings a small gift or small amount of gifts because he has so many children to go round, and all other presents are from friends and family. That way children are not under the impression Santa has a never ending supply of PS3's.

    Btw, Santa stops visiting to those who stop believing. So that's why he stops visiting when children get older. Shame on all you disbelievers.
  • pippamannequin
    I dont know how or why I decided to post this but I have had more than one Christmas in my 20 years of being a Mum that Ive had sometimes only 50 to split between 3 children....and this is what I did.. I explained that Although Santa brought the presents for them Santa didnt buy them, it was I who had to send Santa the money.
    Harsh maybe but I always believed the fantasy of Santa for a child was the fact that Santa brought them their presents NOT bought them!!

    My youngest stopped beleiving in Santa the Christmas he was 9, with an older brother of 11 and older sister of 17 at the time, no one spoilt that fantasy and my kids never really asked for anything or more than they knew I could afford.

    Today I get to spend a little more on my children and it usually consists of one expensive present (which i consider to be about 70-80) each and about 20 on small presents. None of them have ever given me a hard time they all are always gratefull. They also dont have the benefit of other family, they dont get any other presents other than from me.

    The nicest thing though is that they look after what they have been given, and recently as they are now older sold a lot of there things they got when they were small and made back almost what I paid for it, so they get double the value of almost everything they get!
    • silkcutblue
    • By silkcutblue 15th Nov 06, 9:11 AM
    • 620 Posts
    • 365 Thanks
    I thought I'd stir the pot.

    Basically, parents know Xmas exists and that children will expect presents. Even if Santa exists or not, that's the lay of the land. Most people know what consoles will be out about 6 months previous (I sure do, and I'm not a kid) or what generic gifts can be purchased (ie, trainers, bikes, PC enhancements, phones, etc)

    Parents - save up for the whole year. That's what banks are for. if you can't afford your mortgage payment, bills, food and the odd present for your kids - then you really need to consider downsizing your life because when college/Uni comes, it'd be good if mummy and daddy could help Little Suzie if she wanted to proceed in higher education (or other such expenditure)

    Kids cost. Don't make them resent you buy giving them the old crud, "When I was little, we had a tangerine for Xmas and we liked it!" No you didn't. You wanted a pony and you got a very small orange that looked yummy but when you peeled it was like cardboard.

    Therefore: So should they explain Santa doesn't exist and they can't afford the toy or go into debt to keep the myth alive?

    Don't burst their bubble. Manage your money better and plan ahead. It's not like Christmas comes on a different date every year and you can pretend you forgot.

    *Dusts hands off*

    I'm done.
  • rockhopper
    I think there are some wonderful ideas on here, but just wanted to add my cautionary tale for parents to Monteil's...
    My parents always told me that Santa was real, and I believed them fully until I found out the truth at school when I was about 7. When I asked about this, my parents were so upset by the whole "end of childhood" thing that I felt obliged to continue pretending I thought Santa was real, which I found excrutiating. Even now (I'm 29), I still get presents from "Santa".
    I think it's nice for litle kids to believe, but as parents I think we should be careful not to make Xmas about what we want and need, rather than what our kids want and need...
    He who binds himself to a joy
    Does the winged life destroy.
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in eternity's sunrise
    • silkcutblue
    • By silkcutblue 15th Nov 06, 9:17 AM
    • 620 Posts
    • 365 Thanks
    I truly believe that children should be told the truth
    by Monteil

    Yup. And while you sit them down and tell them that some cool myth that has lasted years is false, maybe you can tell them that the ozone layer is depleting at a rapid rate, there will be no fish in 40 years, all the oil on the planet is drying up and get them down to a zoo quick, because once those tigers die, there won't be any more to replace them.

    Conclusion: Don't let your kids grow up too fast. Let them have fun.
  • silverbirch
    My kids (4) have always understood that that all gifts are purchased by us and delivered by santa, gifts have always been labeled from the recipients, never from Santa so they understand the amount of money we have decides the value of there gifts. As for telling the kids whether santa is real, it's never come up although i have caught the older 2 rolling there eyes when I mention him but they are 13 and 14 lol. Think there scared to say out loud that he doesn't exist in case that means they don't get anything. Its like they have automatically entered into the conspiracy for the sake of the younger 2 without been told. Even moody teenagers get caught up in the magic of christmas.
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