A decked-out living room on Christmas Eve
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Steve Chiotakis: Oh the joy of the holidays. Families gather together. There's gift-giving and good cheer. But these days, not everyone's smiling -- especially some children who'll have fewer presents under the tree. It is a tough subject to bring up with the kids, as Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.
Ashley Milne-Tyte: Joshua Palshikar lives in Oregon City. He knows what he wants for Christmas -- and what he doesn't.
Joshua Palshikar: I'm really flexible with the different types of Monopoly. But other than that, I might be a bit picky about my presents.
In a normal year, his mother Julia and stepfather Michael might be able to indulge that pickiness. Not this year. They've lost a ton of money on the sale of a house. Michael's company is being sold, and his job is on the line. They're also struggling with a pile of medical expenses. Julia says Christmas presents aren't a priority.
Julia Palshikar: We're trying to spend, you know, next to no money on Christmas, and we're doing that through bartering, through just cutting back on doing things. We're not traveling this year.
She successfully bartered for several kids' gifts through an ad she posted on Craigslist.
Janet Bodnar is the author of Raising Money Smart Kids. She says many parents fret too much over how their children will cope with a leaner holiday season.
Janet Bodnar: You have power as a parent, and you can make stick rules that you make for the household, traditions that you want to have in the household. And if you want to say to your kids you know, this year we just don't have the money to do this, then say it. Don't worry about it.
Julia decided to talk to her kids. She started by reminding them of cutbacks the family had already made.
Julia Palshikar: They're very aware of the fact that we don't have as many cable channels and that we don't have as much money for buying food.
She told them that meant there'd be less money for presents, too. So 8-year-old Joshua is giving his twin sisters some cards Julia found at the back of a closet.
Joshua Palshikar: I'm giving them five packs each of Bella Sara cards -- and then we're gonna make the boxes for them.
He's looking forward to the holidays, as usual. Christmases past have been quite memorable.
Joshua Palshikar: Sometimes, Santa would even leave things on the couch. It's very interesting.
His mother says Santa won't forget them. But presents probably won't overflow onto the couch this year.
I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.