Many people make charitable contributions at the end of the year for tax purposes.   Many simply want to do good. Which of these people are you encouraging your children to become?

The incentive-based, quid pro quo motivations for charity are ideally suited for younger children. When all they can think about is Sesame Street, it’s safe to say they are not ready for estate planning. But you can still introduce the idea of charitable giving at a very young age. Encourage them to give old toys away to make room for new toys. Take them shopping for a new, unused toy to donate, and explain that there are some kids that don’t have as many toys as they do.

As they grow older and wiser, you can move up to the next level, and teach them to use some of their allowance to purchase a new toy for a toy drive. One of my clients has a family foundation, and when their children reached their teen years, and had a better understanding of what it means to give, my client let them explore their own causes and donate to them. For instance, maybe someone close to them has a life-altering disability or maybe they have an interest in promoting things like animal rights or caring for the environment.

When it comes to holiday shopping, it is important not to get so carried away that you have a new batch of credit card debt to ring in your new year. One method both eliminates over-spending and buying with credit.

  • Devise a financial plan detailing what you are going to spend and stick to it.
  • Make up envelopes labeled with each person you are shopping for as well as expenses for holiday meals and events.
  • Go to the bank and take out the (gasp!) actual cash and divvy it up into your envelopes as you see fit.
  • When an envelope is empty, stop spending for that person or in that category.

Come January, you won’t end up with a financial hangover because you have holiday credit card bills revving up at 18% interest – for things you couldn’t afford to buy that are ending up costing you twice as much.

Throughout the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the mall off-ramp, or the kiosks inside the mall where extroverted people try to sell you remote-control helicopters, it’s important to remember that being grateful for what you have is not just an end-of-year thing. Even during cool summer nights at the lake, it’s important to teach an attitude of gratitude to children. Think of the holidays as their time to put it on display for other children, and adults, to see.


Judith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with 
offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at or by phone 203-978-1858.