What is your Christmas budget?

I get many questions by email that I think would be great post topics, this one in particular!

Hi Julia,

I’m wondering what other families spend on their kids and families for Christmas.  I am trying to lower my budget while my kids are teenagers!!  So knowing what other people are able to get away with will help me set up my goals and have hope I can reach them. Thanks so much!!

We shared our budget recently in my Groupon Buying Our Way to Christmas post – but honestly that seems a bit high.  With that said, if you’re going to buy any type of video game/system you’d easily blow through what we have budgeted per child and they’d only get one gift.  I do think it gets harder as they get older because they have preferences and you can only buy so many cheap Hasbro games.

(So I thought a friend shared with me recently their method of buying this year, but when I asked her about it she said it wasn’t her.  I remember laying in bed thinking about it, but surely it wasn’t me who thought it up – I know I heard it somewhere.  Either way this is one way you could shop…

  1. Something they Need
  2. Something to Read
  3. Something to Wear
  4. Something to Share

But then I’m not sure where the fun, just because they want it gift comes in.  Alas, we need YOUR ideas!

So what is your Christmas budget, who do you buy for, and if you’re comfortable sharing – let us know how much you spend per person.  I think this would be so helpful!


  1. Adriane says

    We will only be buying kids gifts this year. No adults :( It makes me kinda sad because I love to buy for family and friends. This year each kid (4 of them) will get 3 gifts each (represents the gifts of the wise men). The total of each kid’s gift can not exceed $150 (for a total of $600). I am sure the 10 month old will not have that much spent on him though. We have a Christmas saving account that we put money in every month. So we will have a cash Christmas.

  2. peever says

    I try to keep it to no more than $125 per child, including their Santa gift and stocking stuffers. My husband and I used to not exchange gifts, but the kids were a little sad that we didn’t get to open anything so we exchange something small now and put a little something in each other’s stockings as well. We spend no more than $50 on each other, including the stocking stuffers.

    As far as our extended family goes, we’ve tried to eliminate the gift exchange for the adults, but we’re having a hard time with our parents giving that up so we still buy gifts for each set of our parents. We don’t exchange gifts with our siblings and we have 7 nieces and nephews to buy for. We spend $20 each on them. We also buy my husband’s grandfather a small gift as well. We have 3 birthdays right around Christmas to shop for as well. We used to do a gift exchange for my husband’s extended family, but we decided to celebrate in August this year so at least that’s out of the way.

    So it looks like our total budget is around $700. I was saving $100 per month for Christmas and to help with birthday gifts, etc., but we had a tough summer and had to use that money for bills so now I’m back to being stressed about buying Christmas presents!

  3. Kerri says

    I am sooo in need of some advice on this category! I have six children, and have always been known to go a little overboard on Christmas. This year we will only be buying for our kids, I hate that but we have to do it. I have in the past made sure that each of my children had 10 gifts a piece. Now that I have two teenagers, and one pre teen, it’s getting harder to accommodate that. My children do know the real meaning of Christmas and could probably care less if they didn’t receive evertging they ask for, it’s me that has the problem!!

  4. Candice D says

    Our typical Christmas expenses:
    Our kids $60 each= $120 (this includes stocking stuffers & “share” gifts)
    Secret Santa gifts (for adult gift swap)= $170
    Little cousins $10-15 each= $60
    Nieces/Nephews $20 each = $100
    Our parents $50 per pair= $100
    Each other $50 each- $100
    Grand total: $650
    I’m trying to get it down to $550 through sales & group buying (I did my first group purchase through Jasmere this weekend!)

  5. Jules says

    The 8 nights of Chanukkah has pushed us to get creative over the years to keep our holiday meaningful and lots of fun for our 4 kids. 8 nights of gift giving can get a bit redundant…and at times we felt under pressure to buy meaningless things just so the kids had a bunch of loot.
    Here are some of our substitutes for falling into that trap of excessiveness:

    Grab a handful of balloons and before blowing them up, fill them with rolled up money or handmade “coupons” good for a night of exemption from helping with dinner dishes, an extra hour of Wii or TV on the weekend,”choice night” (as we call it) where the coupon recipient chooses what is prepared for dinner one night…you get the idea.
    NOW…we blow up those balloons and spread them all over the house. The kids must work together to pop each balloon without using their hands or feet. Our kids have linked arms as one or more of them sits on the balloon…put a balloon between their knees as the other kids smoosh their knees together. Let them get creative and figure it out

    Another night, we make clues on note cards and hide them throughout the house…the cards give a larger clue as to where a prize for everyone to share is hidden. At Dad’s “ready, set, go” the kids scatter to hunt down each clue. This year’s prize will be the Toy Story DVD thanks to the great deal at CVS; then we’ll pop some popcorn and watch together.

    Also, one night (or one gift) is dedicated to charity. The kids research a charity that they would like to support and we write a check on behalf of each child in lieu of their gift for that night. We still light our menorah, sing songs, play dreidle or some other game together… and last year the kids talked about who may have been helped through their gift to Operation Smile.

    Our kids are teenagers now, and they still really enjoy the craziness of surprises throughout the week. For a one day holiday such as Christmas, I think this could still work well particularly if you let the kids redeem their coupons as the holiday excitement starts to wind down.
    Peace to all-

    • Kelly says

      I love this! I don’t have kids and my family Celebrates christmas, but it is still a great idea. I know my little cousins would love this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Cary says

    Boy, I sure hope my kids don’t read this! We’ll be in trouble…
    In our family, we give the Grandparents, Uncles, and Aunts the opportunity to bless our children. My husband and I have the opportunity to bless them the other 363 days of the year (by feeding and clothing them) so I don’t want to in any way marginalize the extended family gifts. We don’t generally give them birthday gifts either.

    We do encourage the kids to budget and plan to make/buy things for their extended family – under $5 per gift. We try to make/get something for the kid’s teachers but in the rush of Christmas that doesn’t always work. (Again, under $5 per gift.) Then we buy extended family gifts of $50-100 each depending on what we end up finding. That amounts to about $500 total. Oh, and we try to find some family to bless each year through our Church, co-op, or Angel Tree – probably $50 or so. We try to help the kids to see how blessed we really are and focus on the real reason for Christmas.

  7. Amber in Maine says

    Well, this year became suddenly and unexpectedly very, very tight for us just recently, no allowing me any time to save for Christmas. Usually it is $50-$100/kid (x2), $50 each for us, $20-40/couple for parents, $5-$20/sibling (9 total), $20 for nephew. And a $10-$20 each for gift exchanges at office and holiday parties and teachers. This year we can’t even do that.

    I’m hoping for $50 max per kid (including Santa), $20 each of us, free for the parents and some siblings (I have 400+ photo credits at snapfish and photo albums I picked up at a closing store that were 10 cents), $10 max for other siblings (hoping to make things, though – I can sew) and $10 for nephew.

    We’ve been really honest about our money issues with our kids, even though they are just 6 and 7, because they stem from my husband’s bad use of credit. His parents are the same way and didn’t teach him how to manage money at all (I thought I had, but he just got good at hiding his poor use). I hope that teaching them about this young will help them with their money management – especially seeing that when you use credit you need to pay it off, even at a sacrifice. So far they are doing good with it and are thinking of free things they can do.

    With a large family we always have limited their gifts from us to not spoil them – we communicate their wishes to their grandparents and aunts and uncles who, between them all, almost always manage to get everything they wanted anyway.

  8. Melissa says

    We do a similar rhyme: something you want (ONE modest item), something you need (usually an item of clothing or pair of shoes), something to grow with (usually a keepsake ornament or similar in the stocking but could be educational), and something to read (usually a Christmas book, new Bible or similar). I like the something to share…will be thinking about how to incorporate that.

  9. Kim says

    I would really encourage the families that only give gifts to the children to ponder what that teaches. My husband and I did just that in the early years of our marriage. I’m very happy that we no longer do. I think that it could have lead to teaching them that perhaps the holiday centered around them. And that they are a priority over your spouse. I’m very happy to report now that all of them (three 17 yo’s and one 14 yo) now are cheerful givers. Well, the 14 yo still has room for improvement ; )

    Our Christmas budget is $500 for everything! That includes all gifts, parties and the meal. We usually spend between $50-$100 per child (4) and they only get one gift each. Now, if I’m able to get items throughout the year on clearance within my grocery/household budget for friends and extended family, then I can stretch my Christmas budget a little further. This year I’ve completed my list, buying windchimes at 90% off at CVS and buying Restaurant.com certificates for $1, etc. So I won’t have to touch my Christmas budget for anyone outside my household.

    Now, why $500? Well, that’s my husband’s Christmas bonus. And since my husband is paid weekly we receive an extra paycheck in December. We’ll add the two together and for Christmas our family is buying a family gift-a new flat screen TV! All teenagers are on board for this one!

  10. Kelli says

    I too am in much need of this post. Honestly we’ve never been good at budgeting… while we try not to go crazy, I don’t really pay much attention to how much we spend on each child.
    I appreciate the post about what not buying for adults teaches the children. I’ve never thought of it quite that way before. My husband and I usually don’t buy for each other, other than stocking stuffers and for other adults in our family I try to buy things like frames that go on clearance after Christmas for the next year.
    This year I’m going to try to keep the presents for the kids at $100 each but that also includes some things that they need like clothes. My oldest is only 6 so that does make it easier. Don’t know what I’m going to do when they are teenagers and asking for big ticket items!

  11. rebecca g says

    It’s just me & my husband. We have one son, daughter in law & twin grandchildren boy & girl. I buy the kids 3 gifts each (Target 75% off toy sale) and clothes purchased thru the year at end of season sales, roughly $100 each. We give our son and daughter-in- law $100 cash and a goodie bag w/ drugstore deals saved thru the year. I also shop garage sales every Saturday and have 3 – 4 new w/ tag items to add to their pile. My husband & I spend $50 on each other. Nieces, $25 each (2) parents $75 per couple and dirty santa gifts are again drug store goodie bags. No adult gifts except for dirty santa. I have a savings acct (WFargo) linked to my checking acct that transfers $1 each time I use my debit card – that’s my Christmas & birthday fund. I also do a Christmas shoebox and buy for a child of a needy family thru my Sunday school class, $75. Roughly $800 when you include food.
    Too much, I plan to do better next year.

  12. Suzy Lizarraga says

    Every year we try to not spend too much on Christmas… We feel that giving doesn’t require a HUGE budget! We have 2 daughters that we spend $100-125 each on (and you can really stretch that with sales and deals through out the fall!) We spednd $75-100 on each other. Then we spend about $200 on our families including 3 sisters and 2 brother-in-laws, 2 nieces, 3 sets of parents, 2 sets of grandparents and a granddad. We are able to really stretch our money buy making gifts for the adults! I have done photo books at $9 each for a lot of the adults, art projects and homemade gifts from all of us and the kids. So we spend about $600 on Christmas. Which we believe is fairly resonable considering how many family members we purchase for! We also make 2 shoeboxes and purchase 2 gifts for children in need (one for each of our children).

  13. says

    We really save a ton of money by shopping the day after Thanksgiving. My husband and I really enjoy going together to find all the good deals. We are able to finish all of our shopping on that day which is great because we don’t have time to shop any other time! We only buy for the kids (6 of them) so it does add up, but we keep a very strict budget for ourselves.

  14. Kim says

    I’m struggling with this issue this year also. The baby is getting older and will notice if only his brother gets gifts. In the past we got him just stocking stuffers. I’m trying to put stuff away when I see it on clearance, I still have $15 toys I got for $3 at Target on clearance and the Star Wars rebate stuff.
    I also sold video games they no longer use and textbooks to Amazon and used that money to buy new stuff to put away for Christmas. I’m also “stocking” things from the Dollar Store when I go and see something they might like as well as the dollar section at Target.
    As for a big gift, not sure if it will happen or how I’m going to buy for the adults. I plan to host a candle party and hope to get some gifts with the credits.
    I’m hoping no one asks for a big ticket item this year. In previous years grandparents have bought them the big stuff but as our family ages, they really don’t have many people buying for them at this point.

  15. Larissa says

    We generally spend $125 per child and have 3. My husband and I generally don’t buy for eachother. Then for grandparents and 4-5 close friends I make a different craft each year. I usually spend $5-7.50 each family. Then we make treat bags that range from $1-2 each for the kids on our list (friends and family). We try to stay under $500.

  16. Danae says

    We used to buy a lot more, but thankfully both of our families have really cut back these past few years. We don’t do anything for siblings (all 8 on my side & and my husband’s sister decided we were old enough to buy things for ourselves if we wanted them). This year we are not doing anything for each other since we need to get a couple big ticket items soon after Christmas for the new one on the way otherwise we usually only do $30 each. For parents we have started doing photo albums or collages since our daughter was born…I think they appreciate this more then anything we ever bought them ($20 each couple). Then for my husbands side of the family (which is WAY smaller then mine!) we exchange names and each person gets one person to spend $50 on (our total will be $100). My daughter just turned 2 this year so we are only going to do a stocking for her with little items from us ($20). She (and my little boy we are expecting in April) will probably get spoiled rotten this year as EVERYONE buys for her/them. I tried last year to limit it, but it didn’t work very well. I just put a lot of the stuff away and pulled it out throughout the year as she needed new things to play with. Loving the balloon idea and hope to remember that when my daughter and our soon to be new little one are older. So for this year we will have a grand total of $180. I imagine as our family grows and the kids get older it will be a lot harder to keep it low.

  17. Dagmara says

    It’s hard not wanting to buy the kids so many toys. In reality, we are so blessed to have even one toy. Their play room is full of unused toys that they don’t play with. I think we’re going to clean those out before Xmas and give them to Goodwill. I’m thinking my budget is $200 for everyone. Baby gets clothes that she really needs for the cold weather and one – two toys @ a great price. The girls are getting one throw each (2), one doll each, and one Leapster Explorer to share with two games on sale. Hubby and me usually don’t give each other gifts. We usually make a large purchase on something we’ve been wanting like a TV after we get our tax returns, if any. We don’t usually buy any gifts for our extended family. We did buy gifts last year for the kids and that was kept at $50 for everyone.

  18. Ashlee says

    I’m done buying cheap stuff for my son. He never plays with it more than a few days anyway. So this year I got him a very few toys (Mega Bloks and Melissa & Doug items). That’s it. He will be 16 months on Christmas, he really doesn’t need to unwrap 500 items. We spent $45 on him and will probably spend another 10-15 on stocking stuffers. We are giving three main gifts to people this year: a set of handmade wool dryer balls (cost approx $2.50 per set to make), coffee/tea baskets (will cost approx $9 per basket), photobooks from Picaboo (paid $25 from groupon and hoping to spend no more than an extra $10 for a total of 6 books= about $6 a piece). Most people (Aunts, Cousins, etc) will be getting dryer balls and a coffee/tea baskets which is $11.50 per gift (and we are giving them to couples not just individuals). Then Parents and Grandparents are getting the dryer balls, gift baskets and a photobook for about $17.50 per couple. We also have several great kids to buy for and we splurged a little and bought $15 personalized Disney blankets for them, but I think they will be well received and be used long past the New Year.

    So I guess when it comes down to it we are spending about $50-$60 on the baby and between $10 and $20 per couple for everyone else. We happen to have very large extended families, so this will add up, but we have slowly bought things over time to soften the blow and bought things from thrift stores where possible (all our gift baskets came from there for under $1 each).

  19. Jackie says

    This is our first year with a Christmas budget. The total is $600 for everything plus $100 for Charity. We have 3 kids, and 4 cousins plus our anniversary is close to christmas so that is part of it. We decided since money is tight for all the families this year not to buy gifts for the grown ups and only the kids. We are allowed each child to pick out 1 gift for their brother or sister and then one gift from us. My inspiration for staying within budget is if I can keep the rest of the spending down, my husband and I will get Rock Band 3 for our christmaversary (it is $120 and probably won’t be on sale)

  20. Tanya says

    This year I told the kids (4) to make their lists early. We are trying very hard to get out of debt and the kids know that. They range in age from 12 down to 7. We plan on paying cash this year too. We usually spend $100 or less on each child. They do want pricey items this year but also know it’s slim they’ll get them. However, I do want to get them things they’ll love. It’s picking and choosing along with sales.

    We only buy for our children, parents (6) and my one grandparent. I work in retail and already got most of the parent gifts from my store at more than half off original price. I got $270 worth of gifts for $80. That comes out to $16/gift for five of the parents. And I know they will all enjoy them.

    Shop sales, use online coupons and only get them things they really want. I’m no doing “filler” gifts anymore.

  21. Angie says

    We have 3 kids ages 9, 8 and 5. My husband and I buy for them, each other, our parents and grandparents, a sibling and nieces/nephews. Everything including wrapping paper comes to less than $200. My kids will get 3 gifts a piece and everyone else will get 1 or 2 presents except I already have 3 or 4 ideas for things for my husband! All inexpensive meaningful gifts. That’s what I really want to give. I am making a gardening wreath for my MIL, a framed picture from our anniversary with memories written on the mat for my hubby, Picaboo books for grandparents (using a Groupon) and easy homemade truffles for co-workers and friends that I want to give something but we don’t really exchange presents. We always pay cash for Christmas and we love Christmas no matter what is under the tree. Merry Christmas everyone! :-)

  22. robin says

    I normally spend about 600$ on Christmas presents. This is 5 adults and 7 children. I shop all year, cruising the clearence isles, and I shop second hand for the youngest childern (you would be amazed at how many toys I’ve found still in the box, never played with!). I buy the adults things they need. Last year my sons weedeater broke, so I waited for them to be marked down and got him one for 20.00!. another thing we do is save our dimes and dollar bills that have the letter F at the begining of the serial number( f for family). It is easier to save dimes, (who wants to carry 10 or more to the store?), and you still have some dollars left in your wallet after the F’s are taken out. I also do online surveys all year to get free gift cards for the teenagers.So far this year I’m giving out 100$ in cards from American Eagle and GameStop that cost me 0$. Hope this helps someone.

  23. foamgnome says

    The actual saying is a victorian saying and it goes like this:
    1.Something they want
    2. Something they need.
    3. Something to wear.
    4. Something to read.

    We actually have a fairly large budget. We get 26 pay checks a year but fix our monthly budget based on 24. That leaves two extra bonus pay checks. One we use for our summer vacation and the second we use for Christmas shopping.

    We also set up a health care savings account which we ignore all year and then cash in at the end of the year for extra Christmas gifts.
    We give to 4 nieces and nephews, two god children, our own two children (2 and 6), and two teenage siblings. We have cut out all adult gifts to extended family. We do exchange gifts between my husband and myself.

    We spend about $600 on each of our own kids, $50 on each niece and nephew and god children, and $300 on each of us. So that is $2,100 on gifts.

    Then we have the miscellaneous gifts to teachers, baby sitters, girl scout leaders, mailman etc… Plus food and other holiday purchases.

    I also tend to buy all year, so my kids actually do end up with more than their alloted $600. I am thinking of cutting back. I love the Victorian saying but I can’t imagine sticking to it unless we needed to financially.

  24. Melani in PA says

    Our budget was generally $1000-$1200 for Christmas. This year ended up being tight, trying to get things paid down to refinance our home. Most of our family members are in the same financial boat. I hoping this year to cut that in half, about $500-$600 this year.

    My New Figures:
    $125 on each girl (x2) =$250
    $50 on each other (x2) = $100
    $50 on each set of parents (x2) = $100
    $20 on each niece (x2) =$40
    $5 gift from each girl to cousin = $20
    Pollyanna gift (exchange with siblings) =$30
    Christmas Pictures / Cards for Grandparents / Aunts / Uncles = $60

    My goal is to do it a little cheaper…

  25. Gabriela says

    This year i shopped for 5 of my best friends, my fiance, my mother, grandmother,father, brother and his girlfriend and i spent only $350 as my grand total ! The secret to keeping it low is to buy in bulk …. what i mean is say you go to victorias secret and buy the body sprays and lotions ( they have a constant deal of 6 for $35 …. well that would mean one lotion and one spray for 3 women on your list while spending only $35) and i mean i shopped elsewhere and threw in a few small extras say a candle etc. for men …. at bath an body works they sell buy 3 get 3 free on basically everything INCLUDING mens washes and body sprays as well so they are 11 dollars each …. you spend $33 you get 6 items ….. just keep your eye out for bargains like these that look like you spent alot but really it saved you money ! 😀 Merry christmas to all !!!!


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