You guys still hanging in there? Part 3 of my How Much to Spend on Christmas post series is finally here! Let's recap:
Part I covered the “WHAT” behind buying your kids presents for Christmas – how to avoid going into the “unnecessary” zone and overpaying when you just don't need to. Part II covered the “WHY”, and helped us figure out why do should/shouldn't buy things a certain way for our kids (trust me, it's worth a thorough read).
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for…Part III which will show you the “HOW MUCH” you should be spending and how to do it in an organized way! Please note, you really truly should read parts 1 and 2 before reading this one or else it will be confusing and harder to do…mmmmkay? Without further adieu…
How much to spend on Christmas: Part III
The third important question you need to ask yourself when buying gifts for your kids is:
3. How much should I spend?
This is the golden question, isn't it? Unfortunately there's not a magic calculation that works for every family. Age of kids, family income, time of life, traditions, it all factors in. That being said, it's absolutely imperative that you set a calculation for your own family and abide by it!
A few years ago I started budgeting by price. That worked ok, but last year we tried something new that I think we are going to stick to from now on!
Instead of budgeting by price, our kids now get 1 gift from us, an 1 from Santa.
I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but when you add grandparent gifts, neighbor and friend gifts, aunts, uncles, cousins, even babysitter gifts…our tree is EXPLODING with presents!
(I couldn't help posting this old picture of when Daivy (now 2) was a newborn. Be still my heart!
We found that when we budgeted by DOLLARS we were more focused on the price of each item, than on what they really needed. Plus, we were overspending on some kids, and underspending on others. By focusing on just ONE gift from us and ONE from Santa, we narrow it down and buy the best gifts for them, and really focus on those.
In our house those two gifts still fall within the budget listed below in our family, but it does level out better because my oldest tends to get more expensive gifts than my 2 year old, so it averages out nicely.
For example: This year for Daivy (2 years old) we got her a cute singing picnic basket toy from Target for only $12.99 (plus 20% off using the Cartwheel app), and a princess baby doll something or other (still shopping around) that will be between $15-$20 most likely. That means we are only spending $31 or less. Our budget for her is $50 (see below), so that extra $19 we will put toward Beck's gifts.
For Beck (almost 4) we got him a new bike (his got hit by Bubba's motorcycle) that cost $69. We have a karaoke stand that I got for free using Zulily dollars, so even though it was $19 over budget, it still works out fine in the end.
Random (important) request:
Last year on Facebook a post from a single mother went viral. She was pleading with the world to stop allowing Santa to give the most extravagant, expensive gift for Christmas. She said something to the effect of “How do I explain to my little boy why Santa gives some kids Xboxes, and he get socks? Please mothers, let Santa gift a modest, practical gift, and take credit for the extravagant gift; have it be from mom and dad.”
That really struck me. So now, we give the bigger gift, and Santa brings the smaller or more practical one. A little Freebs food for thought for ya.
My budget recommendations:
The first step is to decide how much you can afford for Christmas (not just gifts), then work backwards, as shown in Part 1. Let your finances decide your kids' gifts, not the other way around! I recommend setting a budget for your entire family, then dividing out from there, and I recommend doing so by age.
Here are the budgets I recommend:
- Kids 0-4yrs – $50
- Kids 5-10 – $75-$100
- Kids 10-15 -$100-$150
- Kids 16-18+ – $150-$250
- Grandparents – $35-$50 each
- Parents – $50 each
- Extended family adults – $25-$30
- Extended family kids – $15-$25
- Friends – $5-$10 family gift (+ a homemade treat. This year I'm giving my girlfriends gorgeous rolls of wrapping paper that I got at a trade show for $1 each! Definitely worth more than $1 and is a great, practical gift.)
- Neighbor gifts – $1-$2 each (see all my neighbor gift ideas! We give gifts to 100+ neighbors so we keep it frugal. If you give to only a few, you could up that number of course. There are 2 families that live by us that really have been a special blessing to our family and have provided us aid and assistance too may time to count, especially needed as we don't have family near us. Thus, as an extra special thank you we are taking the couples on a date to a musical as a thank you. It's a big splurge for us but we felt it completely justified. So just know that you will need to tailor it to your budget and situation!)
A few things to keep in mind…
- Remember, these are general…but reasonable. Your 9 month old won't need $50 in gifts. In fact, please don't buy them anything! Give them a wrapping paper tube and they'll love you for life. Likewise, your 18 year old might need a little more than $150 if you're buying them something they need for high school or college. But again, don't tread into the “unnecessary” zone. If you are spending more than $50 on a 3 or 4 year old, you are overspending. Enough said! You can find incredible bikes, toys, scooters, games, and even electronics on clearance, online, and in the classifieds. That one's easy. The older kids? $75-$150 is reasonable, doable, and very common! (Keep reading for ideas.)
- Borrowing from budgets is ok. Like I described above, if your 2 year old only needs one toy that's $14, you could use the rest of her budget for your older kids if needed.
- Let them choose! As explained in detail in Part I, let them choose if they want one big gift, lots of smaller gifts, or want the cash to put toward a gift outside that budget. There is absolutely no harm in that. Or, you could do what we are doing and have them tell you their top TWO gifts and just go with those!
- Yes, that includes clothes and “need to have” items. I, personally, am not a believer in buying your kids clothes for Christmas unless that's specifically what they want on their Christmas gift. I use Christmas and birthdays for the two times per year where I can actually give my kids fun-only items. I buy their clothes throughout the year as I see them come on sale, using my weekly “other” budget. I always have more than I need because I buy one year ahead as seasonal items go on clearance. Let your kids buy their own school clothes, and if they didn't buy enough of something they need, have then earn allowance throughout the year and have them whatever they want…with their own money! There is no harm in that. Don't let the items YOU want your kid to have eat into your (already tight) Christmas budget.
- Gifts from you are NOT the only ones they will be getting. Grandparents. Cousins. Friends. Gift exchange at school. Aunts and uncles. We don't even live near our family, and each year my kids get more gifts from others than we know what to do with. Don't believe me? Check out last year when Mimi and Grandpa were in town for Christmas:
It was like the North Pole threw up in my living room. And Beck wasn't even born yet, so that was for only two kids! They got so many gifts that my kids were actually overwhelmed. So here's what we did…
- Rotate the extras out. I took 2/3 of the gifts, hid them in the closet under my stairs, and there they remained all year. I've given them back to the kids for their birthdays, they earned a few on their behavior chart, and they will get more for Christmas this year…but we will STILL have leftovers. Don't tell, but I even re-gifted a few (not the ones from immediate family, though) to other kids' birthdays throughout the year. Our kids just don't need so much! And trust me, I'm not depriving them in any way. My kids have more toys than anyone I know personally, and that's saying a lot.
- Remember VALUE and PRICE are different. When you look at $75 you might think, “but that won't even cover the one bladiblah my kid wants, let alone 3 or 4 presents!” Yeah, probably not…when you pay full-price! Remember, if a gift your child wants costs $50, don't pay $50 for it! Keep your eye on it throughout the year. Online, in stores, Zulily, daily deal sites, Amazon (if you add it to your cart it will notify you when the price changes), Black Friday, Hukkster. Buy the gift AFTER Christmas when it's on sale, and it give it to them for their birthday! (January and June are the best two months to buy things as explained HERE.) Trust me, it WILL go down in price, I PROMISE!
- Get creative. If your child wants something uber expensive that doesn't ever go on sale (like an American Girl doll or iPad mini…but please don't buy your kid an iPad mini, just for the record…) then buy it refurbished. Find a used one. Trade for one. Is your husband a dentist? Plummer? Piano tuner? Are you good at sewing or cleaning houses? Post on the classifieds that you're willing to trade and see what happens! Just. get. creative. Yes, it might mean work work for you. If you don't want to do the work, then don't buy your kids expensive gifts. Easy fix 🙂
- Don't forget the stockings! See THIS POST for stocking recommendations. In all, I don't believe stockings should be for gifts! They should be for simple things like treats, toothbrushes, travel toiletries, a magazine, chapstick, etc.
- Don't do it all on your own. That will just stress you out, honey. Read blogs! Check Pinterest! The work is basically done for you. My good friends the Six Sisters posted “75 gift ideas for under $20”. Some are so cute! Don't reinvent the wheel, take advantage of what's out there.
- The main rule here is to push yourself. If you can afford more, I totally understand the challenge (read what I have to say about that excuse in Part 1). As a rule, just make the budget tight! Challenge yourself! Force yourself to take time to carefully think through, plan ahead, and strategize for their gifts…rather than just waltz into the nearest toy or electronics store and walk out 30 minutes later with Christmas over and done with. Your Christmas, and kids, will be better for it.
- Make your own tradition out of it. I did a lot of market research before writing this post, and even posted the question on my Facebook wall. I got so many great ideas from readers about how they make their tight Christmas budget special! Hear what readers just like yourself have to say about their Christmas budgets for their kids:
Hannah K: We do 3 gifts, because the Wise men brought baby Jesus…3 gifts!