You guys still hanging in there? Part 3 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, just fyi 🙂 Without further adieu…
How much to spend on your kids for 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 impartitive that you set a calculation for your own family and abide by it!
The first step is to decide how much you can afford for Christmas (not just gifts), then work backwards, as shown in Part 1. You need to set a budget for your entire family, then divide out from there, I recommend doing so by age.
Here are some budget recommendations based on age:
Kids 0-4yrs – $50
Kids 5-10 – $75
Kids 10-15 -$100
Kids 16-18+ – $100+
This is just for parent-kid relations. Grandparents, friends, and everyone else, stay tuned…another “Christmas Budget Guidelines” post is coming soon for the rest of you!
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 y.o. might need a little more than $100 if you're buying them something they need for 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-$100 is reasonable, doable, and very common! (Keep reading for ideas.)
- Borrowing from budgets is ok. 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. I recommend simply NOT spending anything you don't have to, however, if you want to switch it up, just make sure the end budget total is always the same.
- 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.
- Yes, that includes clothes and “need to have” items. I, personally, am not a believer in buying your kids clothes for Chrismas 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! I think the budget above should include stockings, but I know that can be tough. So if you need an extra stocking budget, keep it small. Think about it, even if you only spend $25, that is 1/4 of your entire gift budget for your older kids! Stockings should be for simple things like treats, toothbrushes, travel toiletries, a magazine, chapstick, etc. Tune in tomorrow for a newly added “Part 4: Stockings 101” with tons of ideas and budget guidelines as well.
- 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 just 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:
Mary L: For many years my Christmas budget has been $500…for everything food, wrapping paper, stamps for Christmas cards, gifts, etc. Now that my children are having children what was once gifts for them are now gifts for the grandchildren….but the budget is still $500.