With Christmas just around the corner, many people in Texas and across the nation are preparing for the shopping season with lists in hand and generosity in their hearts. Despite the troubling economy and even worse-off wallets, the general consensus this year is to try to spread a little more holiday cheer than last year. For many grandparents, this could even mean spending more than they may be able to afford.

But it’s within our nature to want to spoil our family members; they give so much to us, we want to return the favor. But many financial planners say this could be a huge mistake for grandparents whose desire to give gifts now could greatly reduce the amount of money they leave in their wills in the future.

“It’s a delicate balance between wanting to help your family and making sure that down the road you’re not a burden,” says one gerontologist who directs the MetLife Mature Market Institute. She suggests instead that elderly people use gifts as teaching tools that teach their grandchildren about the importance of financial planning at an early age. She also suggests leaving tax-free gifts after they die to make sure that they don’t run out of money now.

So how do you help your grandchildren without wrecking your own financial future? Many experts agree that scaling back on the amount of money you want to spend can make all the world of difference in the future. Though you might want to put away $10,000 a year towards your grandchild’s trust fund, you may only be able to afford $5,000 a year. As mentioned above, using gifts as teaching moments are also a good way to feel like you’re being generous, even if you may only be giving a small amount. A financial planner in Connecticut suggested that one of his clients give his grandchildren appreciated stocks as a gift. That way, he gets the stocks out of his estate meaning it may be subject to less tax when he dies.

It’s never too late to start planning for your future. With estate planning you can make sure that you’re helping yourself now, while also helping your family in the future.

Source: The Wallstreet Journal Market Watch, “The smart way to give to your grandkids,” Kelly Greene, Nov. 13, 2012