We’re all consumers here. And almost all of us get the instant gratification of spending money. We especially enjoy it when we purchase gifts for others. The thought of Oh, they’re going to love this! Runs through our minds at every purchase and makes us feel like a gift-giving superhero. But are you wondering how much you can afford to spend this Christmas?
I just know you’ve read my guide on Christmas Budgeting (because you’re amazing – but if you haven’t, go read it now!). So you might be thinking, that’s great that I can put everything in writing but how much can I spend this Christmas?
Here’s a quick way to solve that problem: ask yourself two questions.
- Did I save any money for gift giving?
- Do I really need to buy all of this?
You’re Santa with my How to Budget for Christmas guide. That list has been checked twice and you’re ready to shop. But do you have money for all of this? Suddenly, your list might look like it’s too much to handle and afford. I’ve been there, too and here is what worked for me.
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How much should I spend this Christmas?
Money Specifically Saved for Gifts
We call this our “gift fund”. It is used to purchase gifts for any holiday or occasion – birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas, get well soon flowers, etc. It is money we have consciously set aside each month while working on our budget. We do this all year long. Having the money already set aside simplifies how we determine how much money to spend this Christmas.
This gift fund allows us to snap up any great deals during the entire year – not just Black Friday!
For example, you want to purchase your kids a Grimm’s Rainbow Stacker. You know they’re pricey, but you also know that your kids would enjoy this toy for years. You’ve already got some money stashed away but you don’t want to lock yourself into buyer’s remorse.
So you get on Amazon, copy the URL into your Camel Camel Camel account, and when it goes on sale – BAM! You get an email from Camel Camel Camel letting you know the Rainbow Stacker is at its lowest price. That money is stashed away for a reason – you pull the trigger to make the purchase and hide the toy until Christmas. Way to go!
Here is a screenshot of Camel Camel Camel for the 6 piece Rainbow Stacker. Notice how the price is SKY HIGH during Christmas last year? This is why it is important to price compare and view historical pricing to see if you’re getting a good deal.
That’s ideally how your gift fund should work. The money is set aside so if you would like to purchase a gift early, the money is already there.
How many gifts are too many gifts?
I’m all about intentional giving, as I’m sure you are too. I would rather my family open a few, quality gifts they love rather than a mountain of stuff they don’t need or want.
Think back to all the gifts you’ve ever received. The gifts that come to your mind are most likely the ones that were well thought out by the giver and that you loved for years.
My favorite gifts (from all times in my life) were a baby doll I carried around for years, Asics cheer shoes, an iPod (that I use to this day), James Avery charms for my bracelet, my college laptop, KitchenAid stand mixer, zoo/aquarium passes, sewing machine, Happy Planner, trip to Mexico, various board games, and a giant gray fuzzy blanket.
Yes, I’m grateful for all the gifts that I’ve been given over the years. I know the givers of these gifts thought about it with their biggest of hearts and spent hard earned money on them. But do I remember all of them as a 30 year old? No, I only remember a handful of gifts. If I were to look at pictures of Christmas Day, I’m sure I would remember playing with more.
Chances that your family remembers every single gift you give them (no matter how thought out) are pretty slim. So while it is very thoughtful of you to purchase multiple items per person, it isn’t necessary.
A simple way to determine how many gifts to give a person is to set a blanket limit. For my family, we give 1-2 gifts per person. For our son, we give 4-5 (majority of what he receives is books). That’s the limit. On my husband’s side of the family, we do 1 gift per couple and small treats for their kids.
The minimalist in me is also budget conscious. Gifts that we give to others should be worth the money we pay for them – not crappy Christmas junk we purchase last minute.
So what’s your budget?
This year, 2019, our budget per person in our immediate family (myself, my husband, and our son) is small compared to years prior. We’re a single income family, so we are very aware of how much we spend. Per person we will spend less than $100. Little Guy’s gifts are already purchased ringing in at just under $20 (secondhand purchases – we’ll get to that later).
Even with our small budget, I honestly don’t want much (if anything) this year. Minimalism and being less of a consumer over all has really affected the way we shop and how often we do it. The gift that I do want – a nerdy board game – is less than $50. AND we will get our money’s worth playing it over and over again.
Our budget for others in our family is more difficult to nail down. We don’t have a huge family and our siblings realize that we would rather spend time together than spend time shopping and spending money. Here our budget will be $20-$50 max per sibling/couple. You know what’s about $35? A nice sized bottle of Jack Daniels. Ya welcome.
Your budget will depend upon how many people are in your “gift giving” family (the people you exchange gifts with) and how much you’ve saved or can fit into your budget for November and December.
Our estimated max budget looks like this:
Us – $150
Child – $20 (already spent)
Parents x 3 – $100
Siblings x 4 – $100
= $370 total
In true to self fashion, I will most certainly look for items secondhand before purchasing new. In turn, that should help bring our budget down.
How to keep you budget down
There are 3 things you can do to help lower your actual expenses:
- Buy less
- Shop secondhand
- Make items by hand
This goes back to what I’ve said before; be intentional about what you purchase. I personally would rather have a single, quality gift under the tree than ten “just okay” gifts that I’ll forget about in two months.
Have your kids pick their top two gifts they just have to have instead of them circling the entire Target toy catalog.
All-in-one gifts like an Instant Pot are fantastic items to give. Just make sure they don’t have one already 😉 . Kindles and other tech can be great as well if you have an avid reader in the family. Both of these examples are high quality items that should last years and earn much use by the gift’s recipient.
If you know that your nieces and nephews are showered in gifts from their parents, don’t feel pressured to buy them something equally exciting. Instead give them a small treat like a tin of cookies or their favorite snack. Actually, the favorite snack item works for everyone (one Toblerone bar please!).
Secondhand shopping is my favorite way to save money on the items I need to purchase. I originally felt weird purchasing something used for my family as gifts. But you know what? The items were still high quality and in amazing condition. PLUS they were half the price of the item brand new (if not free).
I mentioned that my 2 year old son’s gift budget was $20 and was already spent. Two words for you: Consignment. Sale. I went on the half-price day and scored a barely used Little People train plus several train related books. I also purchased a board book, the Baby Shark children’s book, and some bubbles new and on sale at Target. Total spent: $20 (and I’m rounding up!).
Look for consignment sales in your area and double check for the half-price days. They are normally at the end of the sale period, but worth the wait! eBay is another great resource to use for toy shopping. I’ve seen many brand-new toys and books listed for dirt cheap.
Stores like Children’s Orchard and Once Upon a Child are simply a blessing. Why? You can sell your kids’ outgrown toys and clothes AND purchase gently used clothing and toys parents like you have sold to them as well. They give you store credit or cash for whatever items they purchase from you.
Regular ol’ thrift stores can also be a great resource to purchase secondhand items. Consequently, you may spend more time hunting for just the right thing.
I’m relatively crafty, so I enjoy making gifts by hand. Wreaths made by you rather than purchased from a store are inexpensive to make and take only a little time (after you watch some YouTube videos on how to do it 🙂 ).
Can you create one-of-a-kind gifts for your family? Paintings, placemats, quilts, keychains? If you create a gift that someone will use and appreciate for years to come, then go for it! Get creating! If what you create usually ends up as junk in your own home, then maybe reconsider crafting the same thing for someone else.
You can view my hand crafted items for sale in my Etsy shop HERE.
Remember your financial goals
You want to be debt free, but you also want an amazing Christmas experience for your kids. I get it. For this reason I highly recommend you put your financial well-being before all the stuff you plan to buy for your family. Yes, make sure they have a wonderful, memory-filled holiday. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on it and go into debt.
Create traditions that don’t cost a thing. Go strolling through your neighborhood with hot cocoa in hand to look at lights. Make a new cookie every weekend in December so Santa can “taste test”. Choose December as your “decluttering month” and sell the stuff you don’t need on Facebook Marketplace or eBay – and the kids get to keep the profits of the sale!
Holidays aren’t supposed to be stressful. They’re meant to be filled with love. At the end of it all, no one cares how deep your pockets are. All they care about is how big your heart is.