How much to spend on your kids for Christmas: Part III…the “HOW”

Happy Christmas Santa

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:

christmas day

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:
 Hannah K: We do 3 gifts, because the Wise men brought baby Jesus…3 gifts!
 Callie O: We do 3 gifts as well we spent under $100 on all 3 kids.
 Kami L: We decided to do the “something to wear, something to read, something you need, and something you want” plus one gift from Santa. None of the presents so far are extravagant so we haven't set an exact budget. I like that there are 5 presents for each kid. Easier to keep track of and keeps the materialistic side of Christmas down.

 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.

Cheryl VW: We have a budget set so the amount of gifts depends on how expensive the items are that they want.
Kim A: I way way way over do it usually so this year we decided on doing 4 gifts.. (santa, parents, sibling and something they want) My kids are 2 and 4 and we figured we need to start to simplify now so that later when they are older and gifts are a lot more expensive they don't expect a million gifts. its been really wonderful to put alot more thought into each gift instead of buying the entire toy store.
Amber V: Three gifts, like Christ received. Something they want(gold), something they need(frankincense), and something made by the other members of the family(myrrh).
Kelsey Jo R: I do the 4 present thing as well!! I figure out which to get for each category and then find a way to get it cheaper! I think I spent $100 this year
Ganine M: We do number of presents and try to keep it under the $30 range (my kids are getting older so that is changing) They get a nice present from Santa, toiletry items in the stockings, and a fancy treat from the parents. That is it. I have 3 kids and they get something from their Aunt and Grandpa too. They don't need a ton of stuff.
Debbie W: Our kids get soooo much from their grandparents throughout the year (and at Christmas) that we don't spend much at Christmas (literally…like under $30 this year on both of them). But what we desire to do is spend more for birthdays and less on Christmas on our kids…and give more at Christmas to those in need and family who don't know Jesus. But in a nutshell, we'll probably never budget more than $50/kid for Christmas.
Christi P: I gave myself a budget of $100/child. That has to stuff their stocking, put a present under the tree from Santa and a present from Mom and Dad. They buy presents for each other with their own money, too.
Nalea B: We do what Hannah K does makes it so much easier and get the 3 main presents they want. We do a gift from Santa, mom and dad but it ends up being a gift from Santa and then two from mom and dad. For the main stocking I do fruit, toiletries, new socks and underwear with a little bit of candy. I still have little kids my oldest is 4 so we scored this week at Walgreen there toys are on sale buy 2 get one free, then this week only the $9.99 toys with a $4 in store coupon. They had great toys.
As you can see, these number guidelines are not only somewhat common, but they are even generous compared to what many families are pulling off. See, I'm not that mean 🙂
All-in-all, this Christmas please keep the bigger picture in mind. Challenge yourself to hold back, and I promise you it will be just as great of a Christmas as any other…if not greater.
A Merry Christmas to all!

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  1. Love it!! My parents are being so rude about my 4 items rule. They are even mocking me. I then mentioned how I only considered a Christmas a good one by the amount of presents I got when I was younger. Exactly the opposite of what I’m trying to instill in my child. He has TONS of toys, clothes, books, shoes, etc. Christmas is about Christ, family, traditions, and giving more than receiving. I just wish more felt this way!! Excellent article & thanks for featuring me!
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  2. You must think I’m crazy then lol. My son is turning 4 in march and my daughter turning 2 in January. This year we spent probably close to $350 on both kids, with stockings, plus my 4 nieces each got a gift from that money also. I shopped about $300.00 of that on black friday or on the sales before and after. Only a few items were not bought on sale, which were mainly small gifts for stockings. I also used my shop my way points probably saving me $50.00 or so. We always set a budget depending on what our Christmas bonus is and then we will split that between both kids minus $50 for our nieces gifts. Last year it was $500 and this year we didn’t set one, we were aimed for the $500 but as you see didn’t spend that much.

    • arg. Baby hit enter. lol. We set up the one gift/$50 rule before we had any kids and have stuck to it for 7 yrs with all 4 kids. It makes Christmas so much calmer.

  3. I have been “meaning” to cut back on Christmas every year…it didn’t happen this year! My kids have more toys than I know what to do with. So these tips will come in very handy for next year (and I think we will be revisitng the already wrapped gifts and pulling some out for birthdays!) I knew 1 thing I wanted to get all 3 kids this year…while doing our annual Black Friday shopping I looked at my husband and said “I’ve been watching these for like 6 months and they NEVER go on sale…let’s just get them now”. We dropped $15 on each one. The very next day I went to Fleet Farm and they were on clearance for $5 each! Returned! I have also been wanting to do the 3 gifts per child thing-1 they need, 1 they read and 1 they want but also want to be realistic…so I think next year we will be doing the 5 gifts that someone else mentioned! And stocking stuffers and also a weak spot for me so we will be working on that. Thank you so much for all these great ideas. My kids also get spoiled at my husbands family Christmas (3 sets of aunts/uncles plus grandma and grandpa spend $50 on each kid). Then there’s my parents (who actually did a lot better this year than in years past!) and my cousin buys them a lot!
    We did start a new tradition this year of going through the play room and finding all the toys we don’t need anymore. I made them all agree on toys we were giving away. Once I told them the toys would be going to kids who won’t get many or any toys for Christmas like they do he practically emptied the play room! He was willing to give away some of his favorite toys because “other kids need them”. He got so mad at his brother and sister (2 and 3 and slightly less willing to part w toys!) when the said “no” to giving away toys! This tradition will definitely become a yearly (maybe even twice yearly!).

    • It’s tough, but so worth it to cut back on Christmas. Our kids simply don’t need everything we give them! They would be thrilled with one gift, it’s US as the parents that give them so much more and set the expectations. Thanks for sharing, and I’m so proud of you for planning to cut back next year!

  4. I went overboard this year. I admit it. But after 4 Christmases of giving my kids mediocre presents, I wanted to spoil them rotten. Not that they need to, but hey… So, they are getting around $150 worth of stuff each… BEFORE sales and coupons. AFTER sales and coupons, it’s probably around the $75 mark each. Next year though, I want some of that money to be used on clothing as well. But yeah, I got so much stuff, and I’m seriously considering stashing 2 of the larger gifts for their birthday’s in June, because I have no idea where they will put it all. 😛

  5. I do what my heart tells me. Every year is different. Some years only a few gifts and a hotel suite. Other years, like 40 gifts each. This year I set a budget. $400 for each kid. I have two. It’s all just stuff they want this year. I grew up poor and refuse to act like I’m poor to my kids when I’m not. God has blessed us in soo many ways. I thank him every day. Also, the kids pick out toys for the needy.

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