Dear Mary,

Every year, my husband and I spend most of the holiday season arguing over how much to spend on the kids for Christmas. My husband makes good money, so I see no problem with splurging on our three girls. However, he thinks they should be given one nice gift so they’ll appreciate it more.

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In the past, I’ve smiled while watching their faces light up on Christmas morning, while my husband sits there shaking his head in disgust. I don’t want to spend another holiday arguing. What can we do to compromise? Julie, Texas

Dear Julie,

When our boys were young I was driven, like you, to turn Christmas into an extravaganza with mountains of gifts to fulfill their dreams. And my husband, like yours, was less than enthusiastic. I wanted more than anything to create magical childhood memories that last a lifetime. Sadly, my efforts backfired. More was never enough and none of us were truly satisfied.

Thankfully, before I completely ruined them I learned that while kids may ask for designer clothes and the latest in electronic gadgets and toys, this is what they really want for Christmas:

1. A relaxed and loving time with the family

2. Realistic expectations about gifts

3. An evenly paced holiday season

4. Reliable family traditions

This year try something new. Limit your kids’ Wish Lists to two or three items. Then spend time with them doing things that will become family traditions. Teach them the joy of giving to others and seeing beyond their material desires.

Our boys are now grown and when asked about their best Christmas memories, they’ll tell you about the fun times and family get togethers long before they remember the gifts!

Dear Mary,

My husband and I are selling our house and recently met with a real estate agent. After gathering some information, she reported back that we may have a tough time finding a buyer because our home is difficult to insure. Her explanation: The previous owner had taken out a claim for water-related damage. We were able to get insurance, so why is this a problem now? And what can we do to help sell our home? Debbie, Oklahoma

Dear Debbie,

Your agent is referring to central databases such as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) where insurers report their claims. These days insurers are particularly wary of anything related to water damage or “mold” so I’m sure that’s what your agent is concerned about. Originally, these big databases were formed to detect and discourage fraud. Unfortunately, now the information is often used to deny coverage on a property or person.

Since you’ve had coverage since the event, this doesn’t sound like a long-term problem but you need to check for yourself. You can get a copy of your home’s CLUE report at, or call 888 497-0011. There may be a charge depending on the state where you live. Incidents remain on these reports for up to five years and you have the right to dispute any errors you discover.

QUESTION: How does your family handle gift giving with children? Do you have a limit on the number of gifts, a money limit, do you pull names? Share your experience here.  

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