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Ask The Readers: What is a realistic Christmas budget?

Today’s question is from Tara:

I am trying to scale back my Christmas budget this year as money is a little tight. I’m wondering, what would you consider a “realistic budget” for 10 immediate family members, including my two boys, ages 5 and 2? -Tara

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166 Comments

  • jerilyn says:

    This is a very personal question. Every family will have a different amount. How much cash do you have to spend? For us, every year is a bit different. This year I cashed in my pampers points for shutterfly credits. I also had a shutterfly gift card from something. I will use this to get a picture gift for our parents, as well as pictures to send out for cards. I may have to pay shipping, not sure. We don’t do gifts for siblings- we stopped years ago and are all still poor. 🙂 For our 5 year old I got hm a small lego kit and homemade lego bag to store them all. For my 3 year old I got him a new cars car and will make a felt car mat. Didn’t buy the baby anything… Spent $16 out of pocket (had a gift card from my baby shower that I used.) For me and hubby I have $20 in amazon gift credits from swagbucks and $25 in amazon gift cards from our bank’s rewards system. We’ll either get something together or split it up 😛 Or trade/barter for whatever cash we get for Christmas. Normally we spend a bit more but the last part of the year was a financial disaster. We also like to take the same amount we spent on gifts and give a special offering to the church.

  • Sarah T. says:

    In most climates it’s too cold to yard sale now, but that is my answer to the budgeting problem. I try to budget about $20/week during the yard sale season to pick up stuff for birthdays and Christmas. Most items don’t get worn out or broken before being discarded. I am able to pick up clothing for .25-$1/item at most any sale. Toys vary. If you are needing ideas for this year still that fit within a very tight budget, you can always hit craigslist.

    Some of the cheaper ideas we’re doing this year are dry-erase boards and markers, play silks (instead of buying them online for $10-$15, I ransacked the local Goodwill for flowy scarves with fun prints- it was actually a Goodwill Outlet, so at $1.29/lb., these were a steal!), Hot Wheel cars (still $1 and name-brand). You can also do something that people won’t normally buy for themselves because it seems extravagant, but for a gift it’s pretty inexpensive- like a nice candle or a Smash Book.

    Also, if you’re wanting something Christmas themed for someone else (say, a gingerbread house or ornaments) wait until 4 or 5 days before Christmas. They’ll be on sale or clearance already, and you’ll be able to get them half off or better. And the gingerbread house- great family gift. Around $10 full price, but the kids will have a blast decorating it. A great decoration for the season, no clutter after.

  • Wendi says:

    For parents of teens—what I have done for Christmas with my boys when they have wanted something big (a play station, or computer) is to split the cost with a grandparent, and have them help with part of the cost as well, by reselling old games, saving up gift monies, etc. My boys understand that there is no way I can afford to purchase those gifts on my own, and if having that one large ticket item is important, everyone needs to pitch in.

    It has worked for us—-and eased the pressure of buy, buy, buying for two generations!

    • christie says:

      Wendi: Great idea! When my boys were little, they would be really excited for a Hot Wheel car that I could buy for $1 or less ! Now! Gaming computers etc … It takes a lot more money to get them excited. I miss that excitement a lot. ~ C

  • Lisa-panaMOM says:

    We spend $0 on presents. It works well for us.

  • Jenn says:

    My mother-in-law always has theme Christmas’ that we decide on the year before such as homemade, second hand, or upcycle. I have all year to plan for it and it usually doesn’t cost me very much at all but it is SO fun! Sometimes we end up giving each other a bunch of funny junk but again, we have so much fun with each other, its not really about what we are getting.

    We do a $25 gift exchange with my family and most of the white- elephant gift exchanges we are in are no cost ones where you have to find something from your house or make something.

    We spend $50 per person on our immediate family of 4. And we too budgeted for the year, including birthday and baby gifts, $36 per month for a total of $432 for the year. We are under budget too for the year and I hope to use our extra to bless someone in need.

  • Denise Ocker says:

    We spend about $200. This year my hubby and I’s gift to each other is some home improvements around the house. My husband has 6 siblings and we do a family gift for each.(homemade, coupon deals etc) My Family we exchange names. We have 2 daughters so we have 4 names. We spend $25 or so. Sometimes we can do it alot less with online deals, coupons etc. For our parents we don’t have a set amount just what we know they want or need.

    Overall, this year we have stayed in the $200 ballpark very easily.

    I know it may fluctuate each year but I feel $200 -$250 is a good range.

  • my 2 cents says:

    Several years ago we talked with our families and scaled down on the adult gifts and now only buy for the kids (neices and nephews) at our family gatherings. Such a savings on getting and receiving gifts we all really don’t need. Now we can focus on the kids. Christmas was always such a wonderful time when I was a child and I want to make sure my children have the same wonderful memories. Including waking up and running in to see a tree surrounded by toys. I would definately check out sales and combine with online coupon codes and cash back to get the most bang for your buck. As your children get older and the toys and gadgets they want become more expensive,you will need to increase your budget. For now you could probably spend around $75-$100 per child if you spend carefully and have a nice assortment of gifts for them.

  • Stephanie says:

    My extended family does an name exchange for children, so if you have 3 children, you pull names for 3 children and the budget is about $20. For adults we do a “give a gift-get a gift” game. We bring a gift wrapped and we play a game and pull gifts, a person can steal your gift, etc. It has become a great tradition epecially since our family has grown so much. No one could afford to buy for every niece, nephew and cousin.

    For my household we probably spend $50-100 on children (we only have one), spouse and parents.

  • nancy says:

    The best received gifts that I have given are homemade gift baskets. I find wonderful baskets for dollar or two, at Goodwill, and fill them with a “theme”. Family fun night baskets will have a DVD purchased for about $5.00, theater boxes of candy, ($1.00 each) bags of microwave popcorn, Goodwill mugs, with packets of hot chocolate tucked inside.
    Or you can purchase a game on sale, and use that instead of the DVD.
    This year I did a “Homemade Christmas” theme. I put lots of homemade items, including jelly, and jam, homemade applesauce, apple butter, etc. I put in a big, beautiful jar of cookie mix ( recipe from Dec. Family Circle magazine), a jar of hot chocolate mix, and tucked in a couple homemade ornaments, and a dish towel that said,”Homemade with Love” inside. A big bow on the handle makes it pretty. The baskets are large and hold a lot. It is a very nice gift. Use your imagination and come up with your own themes.

  • Amanda says:

    In the past we have done a Secret Santa exchange with family members on both my side of the family and my husband’s side of the family, but a lot of little ones have arrived over the past two years (with four more on the way!), so this year both sides of the family ended up suggesting just focusing on buying gifts for the kids. This makes things much easier, budget wise! I think that I will also make some yummy baked goods to give to our siblings/their famililes, grandparents, etc on Christmas Day.

    My brothers & their wives and my husband & I always split the cost of buying gifts for my Mom & Step-Dad. This allows us to give them something really nice (even though they always tell us not to buy them anything!) without having to each spend a lot of $ out of pocket. I am hoping that the buy 1, get 2 free photo book deal from Snapfish comes back in the next week or so; I made photobooks last year with pics of our now 18 month old son, and all three sets of grandparents loved them! If I can find that deal again these will be gifts from my son to his grandparents.

    I found a lot of amazing online deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, which allowed me to purchase wonderful, quality gifts for my son and 5 nieces/nephews without spending much out of pocket. My son is also getting a climber/slide that my husband is picking up this evening- it retails for $160 (which we would never pay), but I found one in perfect condition on Craigslist for $20!

    All said, I am about 95% done Christmas shopping, and I have spent about $165. The photobooks will add another $30, and I plan to spend another $10 on stocking stuffers for my son. That is just under $210 for 9 people, which is lower than our holiday budget this year :). If I end up giving homemade food gifts that will probably add another $15-$20 to my budget)

    If you are creative, and watch for the great deals posted on this site, I’m sure that you can buy gifts for you entire family for under well under $250.

  • Mary Sunshine says:

    I love reading all the responses to this question! For us, it varies from year to year, but here is the basic budget:

    On my husband’s side of the family, we buy gifts for his cousins’ kids ($5 each at Five Below–That store is a great place to buy gifts for kids!) and my mom-in-law (who is a widow, and my husband is an only child–so we do tend to spend a bit more on her. This year we’re taking her out to her favorite restaurant, which will probably cost $120).

    On my side of the family, we buy for my brother and his wife ($10 each), 2 nephews ($5 each), and my parents ($50 range).

    We have 4-year-old twin boys. This year we spent a total of $240 on them for Christmas AND birthday gifts combined (since their birthday is in February, we always buy the gifts all at once). My husband and I spend about $50 for each other.

    We also budget $100 for our annual “gift for Jesus” from the World Vision catalog. The boys get to choose which animals they’d like to give to help kids in need. And I also budget $50 for Christmas cards/postage; I know a lot of people have stopped doing cards, but I enjoy getting and sending them.

    I use Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks–and the money I make selling items on ebay–to put towards our gift budget. I also shop at thrift stores, yard sales, and on ebay to find gifts for less-than-retail prices. And I am not above re-gifting if I think someone else will like the item. 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Here is what our families do that I LOVE!
    With my family: we have a $5 limit per person. Everyone agrees on it and we all keep an eye out all year for clearance items or handmake items. We all enjoy it and it’s a fun challenge to see what we can get that a family member would enjoy for that price. And, with my sistet’s family we put their $5 gifts together to make a family gift. They get a movie they want and some goodies for a family movie night.
    With my huband’s family: we buy gifts for kids only. In lieu of buying adults gifts, we take te amount we would have spent and all give to a charity together. It still is spending money, but gives us much more purpose and peace to the season.
    All that being said, our budget ends up being: $60 for charity, $80 for nephews and nieces (total), $100 each for our kids, $50 each for each other, $45 on my side of the family for a grand total of $485.

    • Realistically over it! says:

      A similar question appeared last year on this blog to and I didn’t post anything then but I feel the need to post now. A more realistic question is how much can you afford for Christmas and what do you want to spend? That is a personal individual question and a lot of times the answer has little to do with money. These post seem more like comparing what people send and then either feeling good or bad about how much you spend based on everyone’s responses.
      I think a lot of time Christmas becomes more of I spent $25 on you now you spend $25 on me.
      What is important to you this Christmas? Are you stressed over buying people gifts? Is it more about outdoing someone else or making sure everyone is equal? Do you feel pressured or are you putting pressure on someone else to buy a gift when they really truly can’t afford it?
      Every person is different and likes different things so each amount can be different. I picked up 6 boxes of Kre -0(a lego ripoff that is exactly like them) for $1.62 for all 6 and they are gifts for my nephews. They love legos and I don’t feel the need to keep buying til I reach whatever I am spending on my teenage niece.
      I don’t know about anyone else but I get overwhelmed with the STUFF (especially toy stuff) in my home and Christmas just adds stress into that by my children getting more stuff they don’t need or care to play with for that long. I think asking grandparents and extended family to go in and get all the kids one larger or smaller (depending on their budget) is a great idea to minimize stuff.
      This year we are getting our 4 children an outdoor playgound area and everyone is chipping in to buy stuff to furnish their new play area. Best of all my house will not be crowded with more toys :).
      Christmas isn’t about getting stuff or even giving stuff (especially when giving means stress because you can’t afford what others are spending.) Give to others who are truly in need, go in as a family and sponsor a child, send a box to missionaries, cook and serve as a family a meal for your community fire department together as a whole family, buy a cow or a Jesus well. We live in a gimme society and we have reached a season of entitlement in America. Lets not teach that to our children, If you want to give a gift or 5 gifts give them because you enjoy it and that is what God wants you to do with your money. Maybe just maybe this year people won’t have to wade so far through our commercial Christmas to find the true meaning of Christmas. For unto us a child is born, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

  • Sheris says:

    My family’s rule has long been $50 a person.

    • august says:

      Your children are the most important. Luckily they’re still young so you don’t have to spend a bunch. We have a 3 year old and I like to keep it $100 or less, but I’ll spend more if I know it’s something he needs. For example, we paid $500 at his birthday, but that was because he was ready for a big boy bed (we bought a full size so we won’t have to buy again for several years), plus new bedding, and a new bed frame.

      Our immediate family (parents and step parents) equals out to 7 people and those are usually homemade or free (free photobooks from Shutterfly or pictures of the fam). Our other immediate family (siblings) are two extremes -some are in their 30’s and some are under 10. For the younger ones, I limit it to $15 each. I buy all kinds of games on clearance in January and Feb and then clearance name brand clothes out of season. For the adults we do Secret Santa so we only spend $20 for two people.

      This Christmas we’ve spent around $100 on our son, but it’s ranged from big to small items (chalkboard wall, headboard, bookshelf, robe, and toys). We spent around $30 between our parents, and I spent around $60 for my siblings. That puts us at under $200 for a BUNCH of people.

  • Jenni says:

    If we had money, I think $50-75 per child who can appreciate the gifts would be good. As far as other family members go, we generally don’t give things because everyone else has everything under the sun and doesn’t need anything (and they live far away, so baking things doesn’t work well either). If they were close by I would probably make homemade lemon curd or cranberry curd and a package of frozen crepes or scones, some tea bags bought on sale and maybe some vintage tea cups from a thrift shop in a basket w/handmade cloth napkins.

    • donna says:

      We do a game exchange with both sides of the family so that helps cut down on expenses.

      We do purchase for all the grandparents $75-100 a couple

      Staying within a tight budget is much easier for young children than teenagers…I don’t believe in buying me kids “needs” for Christmas…that is my job, not their gift…..I am the mother of 2 teenagers…and I do like to “spoil” them at Christmas…I don’t buy too much for them the rest of the year other than Birthdays. I was the kid whos parents didn’t buy much for me for Christmas and it stunk…

      • michelle says:

        I agree with you – we don’t buy our kids needs for Christmas either. This year my 18 month old is getting a train table (I found one on sale in October that came with the tracks and 3 trains), a musical instrument set, a play tent/tunnel that I bought at CVS with extra bucks, a puzzle, and a Cars aquadoodle I bought on clearance this summer for $2. Altogether we are spending about $160 on him, plus his stocking which will be about $30. My 5 year old, she is getting a Barbie dollhouse and an American girl doll plus one outfit. And I am making her some more doll clothes, a rag quilt, and a felt food set. We are spending about $400 on her plus her stocking. When they are little I like to buy bigger presents that will grow with them throughout the year — while my son will like the train table now, I know it is something that his interest will grow in throughout the year.

  • Bethany M says:

    $400-$500 is just a thought. I usually buy throughout the year so it’s not a hardship in Nov. and Dec.

  • valeri j. says:

    With my inlaws all of the adults draw names. Every family buys for the kids. I just think as adults you shouldn’t need to have a gajillion gifts; one nice and thoughtful gift should do the trick. Cuts way back on the Christmas budget and possibly opens up other opportunities for fun for just your family. Good luck!

  • Teri says:

    I read that the typical American family spends between $800-900 on Christmas, just as a starting point. (http://americanresearchgroup.com/holiday/) Obviously some will spend way above that and others will spend way less.

    My husband and I spend $100 on each other. For my family, we spend $60/adult (4 adults) and $25/kids (2 kids). For his family, we swap names and have a $25 limit. For close friends, we spend $25 per person or couple, depending on the situation. Our budgeted amount is around $800, but we’re going to come under that this year.

    One thing we’ve done that’s been helpful is to save all year long for Christmas. We put aside $80/month, so come October, it’s time to start shopping!

  • Becky A says:

    When money was tight for us we decided to make baskets of things that they needed and could use. I did this from free or very cheap items from couponing. I tried to give them items that were their favorites. It really depended on the person as to what they got. My brother in law who was 21 and just on his own got a lot of food and personal care products. Everyone loved them so much that they begged for them the next year! We also did baked goods one year and everyone loved them as well. I felt like we were giving big and I barely spent anything so it was really fun! Good luck!

  • Natalie says:

    In the past we’ve budgeted $25 for each member of our family (we have three kids under 5), as well as $10 for stockings, $10 for filling the advent calendar. Then we aim for $10 for each of our siblings and parents (10 of them). Usually we go over a little bit but this gives us a total of $250 to aim for.

    I was really hoping to increase the budget a bit this year as the kids get a little bigger and into more expensive things like Lego blocks and have asked for specific Imaginext toys, and especially since we do not usually buy toys besides Christmas and birthdays. Unfortunately our transmission just went out, so it looks like this will not be the Christmas we increase the budget. I’m getting more creative though and have located the $40 Imaginext ship my 4yo wants for $8 on Craigslist. 🙂

    • Katie says:

      We budget $600 for our family of 5, two little cousins, plus we draw two names on my side of the family, plus our 4 parents and one grandparent. We usually have family photos taken and those are a big part of the parent/grandparent gift. Whichever side of the family we’re spending Christmas with gets a basket of handmade food gifts. I try to roll extra baking supplies into our groceries in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

      The trickiest part for me is remembering to include postage! Planning ahead, having online gifts shipped directly to the recipient and then wrapped by the recipient’s spouse or parent, and emailing our Christmas cards to everyone except grandparents, all help.

      I make ornaments with stuff I have on-hand for any last-minue gift-giving or swaps that ALWAYS seem to come up in December. Crocheted snowflake ornaments are my go-to. I think a package of homemade cards & envelopes would make a lovely gift as well. I keep a closet drawer with toy freebies or nearly-freebies for stocking stuffers, church donations, etc. that come up this time of year.

  • Erin says:

    We spend about $30 on each of our siblings, $50-75 on each parent, and $100 on each of our kids.

  • Lorie Chance says:

    We are doing simple gifts this year. Our budget for 18 people is $200, but I think we may make it under $150 since we have used several coupons and leftover gift cards.
    Moms get photo calendars of our children. $15 each. Walgreens has great deals every week.
    Dads get specialty home made grill rubs. $9 for set of 3. Bed Bath and Beyond has containers for $1. Use their $5 off coupon and you get them free.
    Siblings get a gift for under $10.
    My husband, I and the kids each have a max budget of $25 for gifts for ourselves.
    Some of my girlfriends are getting NYC nail polish sets. Each bottle of polish is $1.

    • Lorie Chance says:

      For all the girls in my bible study we are doing a secret santa love letter exchange. We each draw names and write a loving letter to the person we picked. It’s the perfect thoughtful thing to give in case we get the winter blues!

      For another girl group of mine we are doing an accessory exchange. We each sift through our own possessions and find something to give away during a white elephant type of game. I’m going to bring one of my necklaces this year. I can’t wait to see what new thing I inherit!

  • Christine says:

    My 5 kids know that they get only 3 gifts from us on Christmas. We started this 4 years ago and I LOVE IT!!!!!! GOLD – something they really want, FRANKINCENSE – something related to a talent of theirs and MYRRH – something religious. (Santa always brings one gift for each chld or something for them to all share.) The amount varies ($40-$60 per child) and I always seem to spend more than I plan but it is still so much better than several years ago when we bought many more gifts.
    For other family members, we draw names or do gift swaps to keep costs down.

    • aricka says:

      I wouldn’t worry to much about the amount of gifts or money spent. I’m 33 years old and looking back on my childhood I seriously can only remember 3 presents I got. My favorite my care bear Love a Lot, a sweater dress, and then strangely one of my favorties was a plastic charm necklace my aunt got me when they were really popular. It was probably the cheapest gift but I loved it the most, but it was something my “wealthy” parents would never buy me because it was a waste of money. Junk… ect. My son is 4 yrs old and gets a variety of things but the things he always defaults to playing with when the $1 matchbox cars. But what ever you decide I wish you luck and pray that God blesses you and your family. I know he will provide for all your needs.

  • Hillery Potter says:

    We have had years where we spent $300 on the kids and giving gifts to extended family and friends. It was by God’s grace and coupons that the money stretched that far! And everyone was happy with what they received.

    This year we have four kids, plus us, my daughters birthday, and my birthday in December, our family exchange gifts, and gifts for family that live far away.

    Our budget is $100 per immediate family member. I am currently under budget on two kids because of toys that the babies will be “sharing.” Budget for my daughters birthday is $30 for gifts, met that. For family gifts, $20 each. For family far away and friends nearby, I make candy and food mixes. It usually ends up being about $5-$7 a piece. Then we pay flatrate shipping, usually $11 each for 3 boxes.

    All together this makes for a budget of $800.

    For my kids presents the older kids are getting: clothes, pajamas, a “large” toy or wanted item, books. The babies are getting a nice toy to share, books, dress up clothes.

    Even though I have a larger budget this year, I still shop the deals. My oldest daughter and husband are getting used ipod nanos (2nd gen) off of ebay. My oldest asked for an ipod, I told her upfront we could not get a new one in our budget, she was okay with that, and is used to buying things used at consignment stores.

    The books I bought the kids I got used on Amazon.com for pennies, literal pennies. All the clothes were black Friday specials.

    I would say I have saved an average of 50% on everything I have bought. No matterr your budget, be a good steward. When we had very little I would pray over our money, pray for what we needed or even wanted for Christmas. God rewarded me and guided me every single time!

    My family actually sees our budget as small. When looking at black Friday ads together, I was told that I should get my daughter a Kindle Fire for Christmas instead of a used ipod. They felt that this was an appropriate expenditure. For us, it is not.

    Our “splurge” this year was my husband’s gift to me. He saved his work checks when he had good weeks, and bought me something I had onnly dreamed of…a pottery wheel. This will be my gift for everything for at least a year! This was not over budget, just kind of outside of the budget, but still paid for with cash.

  • abageal says:

    We have 2 children, 2+6 and always keep a small budget. We do 3 gifts each and we do that because Jesus recieved 3 on that day and we explain that too our children also. I will also buy gifts second hand which I know many dont agree with but what we buy is usually what they want and in great shape. My oldest who understands everything is always thrilled with what she gets and is never overwhelmed by too much. As far as family I always take a nice pic of my girls and stick it in one of those clear frames you stick on the fridge with a nice note tellin about the girls year. It always seems to be appreciated.

  • Jessica says:

    When my kids were really little, like 2 like yours, I bought most of their gifts at the kids consignment store. They have no concept of packaging. I filled my daughters sticking with loose Duplo Legos and Little People. It saved me a ton. Also some people don’t wrap Santa presents, I would even consider (in retrospect) maybe not even having them in a package and continuing to buy stuff off craigslist, consignment, etc..

  • Koree says:

    I plan on getting each of my 3 siblings a nice bottle of wine or a 6 pack of artisan beers. My parents gifts were between 20-40 $ each. Intend to spend more on the bf. Also will buy for two aunts and a teacher friend. All told I will probably be spending about $200-250 for 9 people. Don’t send out any cards except the ones I got free off cardstore.com recently….My close friends and I don’t swap gifts.

  • Corey Lesko says:

    I don’t know if you have any college kids in your immediate family but one side of my family had all of us in college pretty close to the same time so what they did was great: two of my aunts put their money together and gave us a gift card to
    Amazon or college book store to buy next semester books (even if it was only $10 it was
    Great!) my other aunt instead of buying of Christmas gifts would send us a card on all the
    “little holidays” as she called them (valentines, st Patrick’s, halloween) with 3-5 in it for a cup of “real coffee” aka Starbucks it was the best gift ever! Especially for us who had no money in college to get to feel spoiled. It was a great alternative to
    A Christmas gift!

  • Felicia Adkins says:

    I normally try to budget $10 for everyone else except my kids. Then I buy accordiningly. Hubby and I don’t exchange gifts since having kids. We’d rather spend it on them.

  • jessica says:

    The hardest thing I have is, gift giving for my parents. Whether it is father’s day, birthday, or xmas, I feel obligated to spend a large amount on my Father.

    Ideally, I would spend $20 or less on Father’s day, I think that should be a meal and activity, spend time with or do something for. and like maybe $50 for birthday max.

    Unfortunately, nearly eveything my Father asks for is always expensive, usually $100-300. Tech-y things for his hobbies. And some years my Mother’s list can also have a range into expensive.

    Ideally I would think $50 for each parent and my sister is ideal for her and my budget, but we feel obligated to spend more. Our parents provided for us while growing up. They paid for our college, and they allowed us to live at home (with chores) during school breaks and early on in our careers (we graduated during the recession; get a job period was difficult. the first thing to hire me was retail with less than part time hours, and another 6 months before I got a decent full time job). Once we were working, even during school, we felt the need to give decent gift, and often we feel it is expected from our father (though this could be perception).

    Last year was a costly xmas. Thankfully I use mypoints and such mixed with coupons, so I knocked out brand new towel sets for my mother, what would have cost $50. Everyone got a $10 gift card treat to spend on themselves.

    This year, I put a $100 limit on everyone, and told my sister (so she wouldn’t feel caught off gaurd). I also told my mother Iwould like a small xmas (no stockings too) because we all have small lists. But even $100 seems high. it’s my immediate family, $300! I love them, and like to treat them, but I would prefer to go to $50 one year. Luckily, I got $50 in gift cards again this year; by giving two $25 gift cards (gift card was on list), I can put two down to $75. But it’s hard. I am SO grateful for my family. My mother helps me out all the time, from secretarial help, advice and help to a me a-new-home-owner, letting me talk out my stress, I don’t know what I would do without her. My sister has helped me out a bit this year with work travel. and my parents provided me with college!

  • Mary says:

    Our family Christmas budget for 2012:
    $100 for my husband’s gift(s)
    $100 for him to buy my gift(s)
    $50 for our 18 month old son. (and I’m not convinced that we’ll use that whole amount…)
    $15 for each of my husband’s 3 siblings (if siblings are married, we get a $15 family gift for them) and both of his parents
    $5 each for the 5 nieces/nephews
    $15 for my boss
    $15 for a few couple friends of ours
    $0 for my family (we no longer exchange Christmas gifts. I buy them a larger birthday gift instead.)
    Total: $395

  • Sarah says:

    You can spend very little with kids that young and you’ll be glad you scaled back at this young of an age so they don’t expect a ton of stuff for future Christmases. For other family members consider homemade food gifts like fudge, spicy mixed nuts, cookie mixes in a jar, hot cocoa mix, etc. They’re gifts people will actually use and you can buy the ingredients in bulk!

  • kathy says:

    Tara, I would say a realistic budget is what you. Can afford without going into debt. Rather than trying to come up with amounts for each person, first come up with a total amount you can spend. Then do the division based on that. “Realistic ” will be different for every family. One suggestion for some nice inexpensive gifts for extended family : magazine subscription. If you keep an eye on the blogs you can get some free or pretty cheap. Also you can pick a few magazines you are interested in, call and ask for their lowest price..you may be surprised. So far this year I have received the following magazines freewe do ( 1yr..subscription ): Everyday cooking with Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart Living, Field And Stream, Better. Homes and Gardens, Taste of Home,.For coke rewards points I receive All you. I receive Family Circle.for $4.99 a year. I haven’t read all the posts but others have shared some good ideas as well. In our home we do Christmas maybe a little differently for my husband and myself. We often give each other a larger gift because we do not buy many

    • Carlee says:

      We started a tradition when our youngest was 1 (other two kids were 3 and 6). We take each child on a date, just that child and both parents. We talk about the past year, make goals or wishes for the next year, and enjoy each others’ company. Then we give each kid $20 per sibling (so $40 to each kid, $120 total) and they put in $10 of their own money for each sibling. We go shopping for the other 2 kids. It is amazing to watch our kids buy gifts for each other. The first year was funny, but now they watch and pay attention to what the other ones want. We do not buy any other gifts for our kids! We get the gift of time with them, one on one, and they LOVE to give and receive from their siblings. They start to ask for their shopping dates around Halloween :o)

    • kathy says:

      ” wants ” during the year. Rarely do we splurge on anything that is not a need during the course of the year.so Christmas is our time to receive something we may have been wanting for a long time. Bottom Line : Give what you can afford .. A gift given with love is priceless. Stress over Christmas can easily happen when money is tight. Choose not to let it : keep Christ, the real meaning of Christmas in your home and enjoy your blessings and what you can give.

  • Jennifer Schmerer says:

    If anyone else is like me, I need a budget AND a spending plan. I think everyone’s budget is subjective to their income, but I’ve found that whenever I’ve said, “x amount per child” I usually overbuy just because I’m trying to meet that dollar amount or I have to buy an even number of gifts for the kids. Last year I tried to do three gifts (Jesus got three gifts, so three gifts are good for us too), but then we added Santa on top of that and all the little stuff didn’t seem like it should count and it still exploded into too much! This year, a friend told me a cute spending plan and I am done and very happy with what we bought:

    4 gifts:
    -Something you want
    -Something you need
    -Something to wear
    -Something to read

    This really helped me focus my spending for each child and make sure that what I was buying mattered enough to be one of the four. For their need gift, we got things that they needed that were not every day purchases (suits for church for two and scriptures for one). Their something to wear is the pj’s I get on sale Black Friday every year. Santa is bringing socks/underwear and the coin banks that they asked for (that were $5 on sale at Kohl’s) cause Mom and Dad want the credit for the cool gifts!

  • kathy says:

    Continued post :” wants ” during the year. So Christmas is our time to give each other a special “wa3nt “. That being said we keep it in the range we can afford. Also we only have
    3 other family members to buy for+ 2 extended family. For the. Friends we all play dirty santa at the Christmas party and.we are responsible for 2 gifts. I put together 2 gifts consisting of a copy of taste of Home magazine, a free subscription, a westbend wooden spoon, King Arthur dough scraper, a jar gripper. Heavy duty clip magnet. In other words a kitchen gift for $2 each! God Bless.and do what you can and enjoy doing it. As long aas a gift is given in love it is priceless. Merry Christmas!

  • Diane says:

    One thing we did when our kids were young that I don’t see mentioned here is actually wrap “hand-me-down” toys from older siblings that had been put away for awhile. Money was very tight, and the older kids sometimes didn’t even remember the toys (depending on age). Sometimes I would include the older child to wrap the gift from him to baby brother, so he didn’t blurt out, “Hey, that’s mine!” on Christmas. 😉

    • Sandy says:

      When my husband & I got married 15 years ago, we were the last in his family to have kids, his next oldest sister is 7 years older than him, and we were the first to have kids in my family. So in his family they gave our kids gifts at the time we only had 2. By the time my siblings started having kids, we had moved 1,800 miles away. So we sort of lucked out on the whole gift exchange thing. But what I can say that as a mother of 8 kids ages 14, 13, 10, 8, 6, 5, 3 and 2 Christmas is a very hard time for me. My budget for the older kids is:

      14 yr old girl $250
      13 yr old boy $250
      10 yr old boy $200
      8 yr old girl $150
      6 yr old girl $100
      5 yr old boy $50
      3 yr old boy $50
      2 yr old girl $30

      **I also have 3 Birthdays in December, the 8th, 15, and 30th BLAH! LOL

      Since the older my kids get the more expensive thier presents are. I have explained that to them and they understand, that while the younger kids will still be opening presents on Christmas morning, they will have 1 or 2 gifts to open.

      I do a ton of my shopping on black friday to get the best deals. I also save up my CVS bucks, my WAGS points, and any gift cards I recieve throughout the year. As of right now I have $35 at WAGS
      $25 CVS bucks
      $40 Target gift Cards
      $40 in Itunes gift cards(cashed in on old reward points from 2 years ago)
      $50 Frys Food Card (they have toys and electronics) Got this card when I replaced my windshield earlier in the year
      $5 Starbucks card

      I will use most of these for the little kids which will cover the 5, 3 and 2 year olds.

      I will be giving teacher gifts this year, its something I found on pineterest. Go to the dollar store and buy a hard plastic Christmas plate and bowl, flip the bowl upside down and glue it to the plate, buy Holiday Oreos, a cheap mug fill with hot cocoa and a pepermint stick. Wrap the whole thing up and you have a $5.00 teacher gift. Who doesn’t love Oreo Cookies!

      • Sandy says:

        Oh I forgot to mention as soon as we started having kids, my husband and I stopped giving each other gifts. (Well I can’t resist, he still gets something for Christmas, even if its just a couple of new clearence t-shirts) lol, and I bought myself (from my husband) a pair of ameythest earrings that were only $10 at Kohls on black friday, I had to get my total up to $50 or have to pay the $7 in shipping, I was $5 short of my $50 total.

  • MrsWJAA says:

    For us, if we don’t do homemade (which we don’t have time for this year as we are renovating our home ourselves), we generally give gift cards or gifts we find on sale / used.. Our limit this year was $10 per couple, or $5 per individual. If our own child was of an age to recieve gifts (this one is still baking, lol) we would have a limit of $20 for each child..

    So, using our budget, it would be reasonable to set aside around $80.

    • Traci C says:

      One thing that I try to do every year before Christmas is get the kids picture taken together at JC Penney. This year the package was $8 plus $18 sitting for 2 kids. It came with enough pics for the Grandparents and Great Grandparents. The frames I picked up at the dollar store. These are gifts I know they cherish and don’t break the bank. Also there are so many free 8×10’s during the year at Walgreens, these make wonderful gifts by blowing up favorite pics.

  • Samantha says:

    We don’t really have a lot to spend this year but we have a pretty good break down of how we spend it.
    Parents(2 sets)- $30 each
    Married siblings with no kids- $20
    Nephew (we don’t buy for siblings when they have kids, just the kiddos and the gifts are “from” my children) $30 (this year, next year will probably be split between the two of them since she is due in a few months)
    Daughter-$100, it’s her last year as an only child, i’m gonna spoil her a bit =]
    Hubby- $80
    Self- $0
    Normally we don’t buy for each other, but I found something he wants and it actually benefits our entire family so i’m okay with that =]

    Nana/Gigi- $20 combined (they live far away so we normally get a nice family pictures printed out, for free!, and framed and sent up to them =])
    $310 ish

  • Sandra says:

    I don’t know how to help you set your budget – it all really depends on what your available cash is. However, I can help you, hopefully with the spending. My two kids have birthdays this week – Daughter is 6 tomorrow, son is 8 next Thursday. So we have birthday presents before Christmas to deal with as well. Prior years, when the kids were really young (as yours still are), we bought them token gifts – more for them to open something. We bought books, coloring/craft items etc… cheap things we could get at the Dollar store – as they have grandparents, aunts/uncles who buy. We would then put money into savings accounts for the kids for their futures. The kids don’t have any idea, they can’t remember who gave them which gift etc… And the gifts break. The money is in the bank. This year the kids are asking for Legos, so we will probably get them each a set and then small items.

    Also – in my family we no longer get gifts for the adults – we will do a white elephant exchange with a theme chosen (ie: buy at the dollar store, animal inspired) and a $10 limit. In addition, due to the economy and some family member situations, we draw names for the 10 nieces and nephews instead of everyone buying a gift for all the kids ($25 max). Each kids name is in the hat twice – so they get two gifts to open in front of the whole family rather than a gift from each aunt/uncle. There is less chaos in the house too.

    I wish you well in striving to control you Christmas spending and send blessings to you for the New Year.

  • Our Christmas budget for presents is:
    Husband and I – $50 each
    Child – $30
    Parents and Siblings – $20 each
    Grandparents – $10
    Cousin White Elephant Exchange – $5
    And I make cookies every year and give a plate to any neighbors/friends/etc that I want to give something to.

  • Emily H says:

    Well the last two years I gave “baskets” of my stockpile items at Christmas to extended family members. The price of the pre-made ones at the store are outragous. This year I thought doing this again may be repeatitive and those may not enjoy it. Unitl I had several family members at Thanksgiving ask for them again. I fill them with items they can use from beauty supplies to household cleaners depending on the person/family. I may even throw in a few little items I picked up during the year on sale. I place the items in either baskets, plastic tubs or gift bags I picked up on sale. Many of my family members have been on hard times the last few years this gift also helps out their budgets. This gift also works for teenagers as I would in the past pick up one of the pre-made baskets.

  • Sherri says:

    OH, how I wish my family would get on the drawing names bandwagon! I suggested it a few years ago, and we tried it once, and I thought it worked well. Then the next year we were back to normal- and the one who pushed for that is probably the one who can afford it the least!

  • Christine says:

    I find that I need to budget for more than gifts. Christmas cards, for example, including postage. We host Christmas Eve dinner for the extended dinner, and even though I cook everything from scratch that is still an expense, with a nice main course, wine, etc. Then there are monetary gifts for teachers (all the parents chip in) and that sort of thing. For our three kids I have never spent a ton of money because they get so much from other relatives, it can be overwhelming. However, this year I really wanted to get my 8 year old, who has had some medical difficulties, a wii, and was blessed to find one new in the box (but second hand) for $40! I have saved $750 throughout the year through Smarty Pig, and it has to cover all these things. Like Crystal, I don’t start Christmas prep until December 1st.

  • Christine says:

    oops – I meant “Christmas Eve dinner for the extended family!”

  • Amy says:

    I know this isn’t really answering the readers questions- but I’m looking at the bigger picture here… and I think Dave Ramsey has said the same thing. Christmas comes every year- it’s should be no surprise or shock to the budget. If you want to spend money on gifts, budget for it! We do have a bundget- apparently a bit more generous than those commenting here- although not crazy, at least in my mind. But we save every month for it in one of our envelopes, including a buffer for extra food expense and certain holiday tradition/expenses we always seem to have(ex: shoe boxes, donations, craft shows, christmas lights.. whatever.) But that way we don’t have to spend outside of that envelope even sometimes we shuffle the budget to allow indugences- but always within the budget. So this year that might not be an option but certainly for next year it can be. Our budget is more around $35 per person and $75 per kid.

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