FROM what to put in the card to how to stop your child flashing the cash , First Holy Communions can be fraught with financial pitfalls.
It has long been a tradition to bemoan the fact that this big day in the life of a young child has become more about the cards and bouncy castles and less about the spiritual intent.
And in the post-crash era, most parents have stepped well back from the OTT mini-wedding extravaganzas seen in the boom.
But, if a small child of your acquaintance is getting Communion for the first time soon, you are probably still planning on giving them a card. So what goes in it?
The first group of people who should get organised are parents thinking about the other children in their child’s class.
As if you aren’t spending enough, do you feel you should give their classmates money too?
This is a mad system that ends with loaded children and broke adults.
If you are sure enough of everyone complying, a ‘no cards for classmates’ agreement is the way to go.
But if there is a danger of some parents arriving with gifts and making others feel bad, agree that each family will buy one card and contribute €10 to a group pot.
The cards are swapped around for everyone to sign so each child ends with a nice reminder signed by all their classmates and they all get the same amount.
If only it could be so easy for family and friends.
Go on many Irish message boards and chat sites around now and you will find anxious aunts, uncles and godparents inquiring about the going rate to put in a card.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) ran a NAtional Consumer Agency (NCA) online poll asking how much money would respondents give as a Communion gift and the most popular answer was between €10 and €20, with 37% reckoning that was a fair amount.
A further 26% answered between €20 and €30.
The poll was conducted in 2012 but, given most people’s budgets have remained roughly the same, it is probably a fair indicator.
Only 20% would go above €40 and a further 5% gave a gift instead.
Generally people give more to close family and godchildren, and smaller amounts to children of friends and neighbours.
Gift givers should also bear in mind the precedent they are setting.
If young Chloe or Conor is the eldest of a dozen nieces and nephews, remember the others will expect whatever their cousins get.
If you are in a position where you feel more is expected of you than you have, get creative. Either volunteer to help with some part of the celebration — a homemade cake is always welcome — or pop a small amount in the card and promise a day out in the future with the boy or girl in question.
These are young children, they don’t really know what to do with the cash they get and won’t resent you for giving less.
The other half of the equation is teaching the children how to accept their gifts and what to do with them.
It’s no harm to remind them in advance that keeping a running total out loud isn’t the best idea.
They are bound to want to spend their money but suggest they keep some for the long summer holidays ahead.
Agree with them in advance how much they can spend, either setting an amount or choosing one item they want to buy. The rest can be saved for future fun.
If they don’t already have a bank or credit union account, this is the perfect time to open one with them.
Interest rates on children’s savings accounts are too low to provide much of an incentive for an eight-year-old, but they will still be keen to see their balance rise.
Explaining the DIRT tax payable on the interest they do earn will also introduce them to the tax system.
If you are worried your child is getting too focused on the money element of the day, suggest they donate to a charity and let them choose which one.
Reading some information from charities like Action Aid and Trócaire will remind them that they are lucky to be safe and loved and they will enjoy the idea of helping a child from another part of the world.
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