I don’t usually get out on Black Friday shopping.  I once stood in line outside a ToysRUs at 4:00 in the freezing morning to get a free Pokeman game they were offering the first five hundred customers.  My son was a big fan, and I was going to really surprise him!  When it turned out to be a black-and-white photocopy of a little gameboard you might find in a coloring book, I decided then and there that NO bargain was big enough for me to stand two hours in the cold for.  Nevertheless, on Thanksgiving evening this year, I found myself in a line at Kohl’s with my daughter.  She got some great deals, we were inside and warm, and I wasn’t missing any sleep, so…  I found myself wondering about the massive purchases I was seeing around me.  Were these people just that more organized than me?  I never have any money left by the end of the month.  Did they save all year just so they could buy arm loads of towels, sheets, and pillows?  Good on them.  I could probably save a lot of money if I were more organized like that.  The following day, I overheard a shopper say, “We can always return what we don’t need,” and I wondered if itwas less “organization” and more “hoarding.” 

    We are in the season of excess.  Excessive parties, excessive big meals, excessive purchases and gifting, excessive sweets, excessive time off.  I cannot decide if the excess if our reward to ourselves for a long, hard year or just an indulgence we allow and pay for over the next several months.  I’m okay with either explanation!

    I think it’s okay to have a month of on-again/off-again excessive-ness.  It causes us to gather up loved ones and friends to share the excess with them.  It makes us spend extra time thinking of just the perfect way to show we love and appreciate those we gift.  It gives us an opportunity to have our childhood sweet tooth again and motivation to make our New Year’s resolutions.  Mostly, it just feels good!

   In this time of excess, I would like to encourage parents to do one thing with their children regarding excess:  teach them to pay it forward.  Because we were a military family and everything owned had to be packed frequently, I encouraged the giving of unused items to Goodwill.  At Christmas and birthdays, my kids had to give a toy to Goodwill for every new toy they were getting.  The idea was that someone less fortunate could have a better birthday or Christmas if there were some good toys for his/her mother to buy at Goodwill for him/her.  My kids have remained charitable into their adulthood, and I am sure it began with this simple act. 

   Last Friday morning, I saw a mother/daughter team on Good Morning America.  They had started an online program called iSOW.  Gabrielle, the daughter, had asked for a bike and enough money to start an investment account for her ninth birthday.  Instead, she got a Make Your Own Gum kit, two weaving looms, a butterfly conservatory, and a rainbow loom to sit alongside the one she already had.  Her mom, Tanya, began the site to allow kids to receive gifts that really matter.  On the site, kids can set up a fund for something for which they really want to save, and they can designate a charity to which donations can be made in their name.  I love this!  This is similar to a plan a lot of us parents used when my kids were young.  Money earned or given went into four places:  wallet (for immediate spending), tithe, short-term savings (for a trip or a bigger purchase), and long-term savings (for a car or college).  To encourage long-term saving, we matched every $50 put there.  The cool thing about doing it online is the ability to make other family members aware and let them help contribute.  Great idea!

   In this season of excess, I encourage you to make your children aware of opportunities to share the wealth.  It is too easy for kids to think the season is all about them.  If you help them see opportunities to serve now, you will be proud of the adults they become later.  I know I am!

                                                                   - Michelle