I want Christmas to be debt-free

Fall is finally here, and everywhere I look I see Pinterest-worthy pumpkin carvings, seasonal door hangings, and all kinds of pumpkin-flavored cookies, breads, and pies. Homemade cornstalk creations line doorways and gourds decorate walkways; neighborhood yards are filled with figures resembling ghosts, witches, and goblins.

Even *I* made a homemade pumpkin pie of my own the other day — from a pumpkin straight from my garden. With a recipe from the web up on my laptop, I learned how to clean a pumpkin, prepare it for roasting, whip up a beautiful filling, and make a homemade crust. The kids helped.

Fall is great but…

With fall inspiration everywhere I turn, it's easy to forget about what comes next, i.e., the madness of the holiday season. Good or bad, Christmas is now only 79 days away. Yes, you read that right. That means we all have 79 days to shop for our loved ones and find ways to lessen the financial impact of our purchases — or make the decision to skip the gift-giving tradition altogether.

Even though I hope to experience many gift-free holiday seasons in the future, I currently have two small kids who expect a visit from Santa. That means that, like it or not, I'm on the hook for gifts I'm not even going to get credit for. (Whose idea was this whole Santa thing anyway?) And it's not just that — I'll also need to pony up some cash for gifts for nieces, nephews and friends.

I could feel that sense of panic I get as the holiday season approaches; but this year, I am determined to control my budget. So, instead of whipping up more yummy fall treats, I decided to create my own recipe for a debt-free Christmas instead. Here's how I got started:

Creating a Christmas shopping budget

Before I could look for ways to lessen the impact of the holiday season, I needed to see how much I was going to spend. So, based on gifts from previous years, I came up with a list of people I currently buy for and estimated what their gifts might cost this year.

My Christmas budget:

  • Nieces and Nephews: $200 (10 nieces and nephews @ $20 each)
  • Parents: $100 (2 sets $50 each)
  • Aunt: $25 (1 aunt @ $25)
  • Adopted Grandma: $25 (1 adopted Grandma @$25)
  • Teacher gift: $25 (gift for my daughter's teacher)
  • Daycare gift: $100 (for my daughter's daycare provider)
  • Gifts from Santa: $250 ($125 per child)

Total: $725

Ouch.

That figure seems high to me, but it doesn't appear to completely abnormal. After all, last year's Gallup poll showed that Americans planned to spend around $704 for gifts during the 2013 Christmas holiday season. I also have a few more nieces and nephews than most people, which drives up my total holiday spending.

Looking for ways to save

Creating a budget is great, but we all know that a budget means nothing unless you intend to follow it. With that in mind, I've come up with a few ideas that will help me stay on track:

  • I'm giving cash. Buying a $20 gift for each of my nieces and nephews is nearly impossible, so I'm giving cash or gift cards instead. Not only will that move ensure fairness, but it will also help me stay right on track with our Christmas spending plan. I also plan to give my daycare provider cash or a gift card instead of a traditional gift because I believe she would prefer it.
  • I'm not buying any “hot” gifts. Some of the “hottest” gifts for 2014 are game consoles that run upward of $400 or more. Obviously, that's just not going to happen. Fortunately, my kids are only three and five and not into all of the new technology yet — and I'm going to take advantage of that while I can!
  • I'm giving used gifts. I always give my kids used toys and clothes for their birthdays and Christmas, and I'm pretty sure they haven't noticed yet. In fact, I already have a small stash of gently used garage sale items from this summer that I plan to add to their bounty. Is that tacky?
  • I'm resisting the urge to give more. My Christmas gift list was a lot longer just a few years ago. Fortunately, I've quit buying for siblings and other family members in the past few years. It was a mutual decision and rather painless on both sides of the family, and I'm thankful for that. With so many kids to buy for, it no longer makes sense to buy for every adult that I'm related to.
  • I'm opting out of gift exchanges. We officially opted out of all gift exchanges several years ago, and for good reason. Nothing drives me crazier than being coerced into buying a generic $20 gift (or a few of them) and getting another generic $20 gift in return — all in the name of “fun.” Sorry, wasting $20 isn't fun for me; it's painful. That's why we're no longer participating in adult gift exchanges anymore, although I would consider a gift exchange for the kids.

Strategic holiday gift budgeting

Since we have three months to pay for our holiday shopping, I decided to spread the pain out evenly. With that in mind, I set aside $200 for Christmas in my October zero-sum budget, and I'll do the same in November. In December, I plan to budget for the last $325, which will comprise the cash gifts for the most part.

Even though we have the cash to pay for the gifts outright, I feel like spreading our shopping budget over three months is a good idea. Here's why:

  • We won't have to take the money out of savings. One reason I like the idea of spreading our gift-giving over several months is because we will be able to bankroll our purchases as we go. I never want to take money out of savings unless it is entirely necessary.
  • I can shop a little bit at a time. I usually just shop a little here and there, so our budgeting strategy will work well with that. This way, I can just do a little bit each month.
  • All of our purchases can be paid with cash. I like the idea of paying for all of our Christmas gifts with cash as the months progress. Putting gifts on a credit card for rewards is a good idea too, but only if I have budgeted the money to pay them off right away.

Have yourself a merry, debt-free Christmas

So, there you have it. In the time it took me to whip up a homemade pumpkin pie, I created a recipe for a debt-free Christmas for my family. And now it's time for you to do the same for yours. Are you in?

Start by creating a list of the family members you buy for and estimating how much you might spend on each one. Then look for ways to cut down; consider paring down the number of people you buy for or reducing how much you spend on each gift. Next, think about how to spread your holiday spending over the next three months so that you can start the new year with a clean slate — one that has no holiday debt. It doesn't have to be painful, but you might just decide that having a debt-free Christmas is the best gift you ever give yourself.

How much do you typically spend on Christmas gifts? Have you started budgeting for this year's holiday season?

More about...Budgeting, Frugality, Planning

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David William Edwards
David William Edwards
5 years ago

Yipee! Great post – I think the Xmas madness is, well, madness. We start early and have the end of the year in mind. If we see something that would be “perfect”, we’ll buy it and put in on a shelf. This includes gift cards as part of our credit card rewards. It’s great to get to November 1st and already be done.

Mrs PoP
Mrs PoP
5 years ago

Gifts for each individual niece and nephew seems like a lot! When we were kids gifts between extended families were grouped into gifts for between the nuclear families within them. So at Christmastime we would usually give each set of cousins a gift they could enjoy as a family like a movie or a board game, and they’d do the same back to us. I have a ridiculous number of cousins and I can’t imagine anyone would have ever wanted to buy gifts for us all. 4 different “family gifts” was much easier to manage.

Fredrik von Oberhausen
Fredrik von Oberhausen
5 years ago
Reply to  Mrs PoP

This is a great suggestion Mrs. POP!

I will remember it and try to implement it already for this Xmas.

Not that I spend a lot of money on Xmas gifts as it is but I find the concept of buying something for the entire family that they can use on cold dark autumn/winter evenings great!

HKR
HKR
5 years ago
Reply to  Mrs PoP

Our family did a drawing at Thanksgiving for which family would get which kid(s)’ Christmas gifts; a family with one kid would draw one name, a family with two kids would draw two, etc. You couldn’t get your own kids’ name, and all the adults agreed at the outset to a price range for the gifts that was enough for each kid to get a nice gift, but not so much that it would create financial stress for any family. It worked out really well, and we kids appreciated it because instead of getting a bunch of gift bags with… Read more »

Louisa
Louisa
5 years ago

I think it was back in 1991 or so that I heard myself say at a meeting, “I don’t do holiday stress.” I surprised myself saying it. But I was really clear, and it’s true: the holiday season is not stressful for me. In your post, I can see why you panic. You’re spending an enormous amount of money, by my standards, on Christmas. Why? You don’t have to meet the expectations of all your family members, and you certainly don’t have to meet the expectations of your kids– in fact, that’s part of our job as parents, I believe,… Read more »

Holly
Holly
5 years ago
Reply to  Louisa

Trust me, it was a lot worse at one time! We used to get roped into gift exchanges on top of the gifts for everyone in the family. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on my budget, though. Spending $50 on each set of parents is something I do because I want to. With all my parents have done for me over the years, it is the least I can do. Same thing with my nieces and nephews- I enjoy giving them gifts or money. I don’t mind doing so at all. As far as my kids go, we… Read more »

Anne
Anne
5 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Honestly, it is your life and I don’t want to sound critical, but I was taken aback that you spend $100 on your daycare provider but just $50 on your parents.

Who is honestly more important to you?

Holly
Holly
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I could spend $1million dollars on my parents and it would honestly never be enough to pay them back for all the support they have given me since I was born.

On the other hand, they aren’t so petty that they think the amount of money I spend on them has anything to do with how much I love them. It’s not a contest.

My mom reads these comments, by the way. Love you, mom!

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Anne, good daycare workers are worth their weight in gold. They also don’t make that much for the hard and important work that they do.

Would it help you understand it better if Holly classified the $100 as a Christmas bonus for someone she has hired?

E.B.
E.B.
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I spend more on my daycare provider as well. My parents are better-off than she is, and they would not be jealous. Our day care lady watches their grandkids, so they would WANT her to get a nice bonus!

Anne
Anne
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Midwest Jane,

And good parents are priceless. They can not be found again if you don’t get them at birth.

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Anne, like Holly already said, it’s a good thing that the amount of money you spend on your family has no bearing on your love for them or how important they are to you. My husband and I spend zero money on each other at Christmas. Does that mean my son’s teacher is much more important to me than my husband, just because I happen to give her a $15 gift card? Come on now.

You are comparing apples to oranges in her Christmas budget.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
5 years ago
Reply to  Louisa

Choosing between disappointing family members or spending money on gifts does not seem like a way to avoid holiday stress–it seems more like a way to chose a bigger stress over a smaller stress. We have been fighting how to handle other’s expectations regarding the “holidays” for a long time. Yes, one can “manage expectations” by being clear what one will and will not do, but this cannot be mistaken for not disappointing others. We have tried the “Hey, parents and siblings, let’s do ‘X’ for Christmas instead” but a lot of families have long-established Christmas traditions and some do… Read more »

Rail
Rail
5 years ago

I try to spread Christmas shopping out over the whole year. If I find something in March that would be a good present for someone I will buy it. Mom Is getting a steam cleaner this year that I bought in April. Dad always gets me a U.S. mint proof coin set for Christmas and I usually find him a old tobacco tin or some kind of old baseball collectable that he likes. Our family has never gone overboard on huge gifts even though Christmas is the biggest holiday we celebrate in my family. My cousins are getting my homemade… Read more »

Stayc
Stayc
5 years ago

I do think it’s a little strange that you’re giving your daycare provider almost as much as one of your kids, but maybe that’s just me.

I don’t necessarily budget for Christmas gifts, I just tend to use my credit card rewards/money I have put aside for my personal shopping. But then I only spend maybe $200 a year or so on Christmas/holiday gifts, so it doesn’t require much planning. But I don’t have kids/nieces or nephews, so I imagine that will probably change.

Holly
Holly
5 years ago
Reply to  Stayc

Giving one week’s pay to your daycare provider as a Christmas tip is actually pretty standard:

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/12/10/holiday-tipping-guide-who-gets-how-much/

Carol
Carol
5 years ago
Reply to  Holly

These are the people that can spend more waking hours with our kids than we do. We, too, spend more on daycare gifts than family gifts.

mary w
mary w
5 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Tips to service providers are part of a Christmas gift budget but they are really more of a bonus/tip at the end of a the year than a “gift”.

I agree with Holly that tipping is appropriate and in an amount related to what you pay them on a regular basis rather than what you give to others on your gift list. My massage therapist, manicurist and hair dresser all get holiday tips that are larger than most of the gifts I buy.

Laura
Laura
5 years ago
Reply to  Holly

“Giving one week’s pay to your daycare provider as a Christmas tip is actually pretty standard.” And if one week’s pay is only $100, you’re getting off pretty lightly. One week’s pay for my son’s caregiver back in 1998/99/2000/2001 was $200, and that was for a 4-day week (I took care of him 1 weekday), otherwise it would have been $250. For those who haven’t done daycare, Holly is absolutely correct: a holiday bonus of one week’s pay is the norm. Daycare workers generally don’t make a whole lot of money, even if these numbers make it seem like they… Read more »

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
5 years ago
Reply to  Stayc

My daycare providers need money more than my children or parents do. My family gets thoughtful gifts no matter what the price, our children’s educators get $. Money is not equivalent to a thoughtful gift.

Jerome
Jerome
5 years ago

The gifts for your two kids seem very reasonable, but all the other gifts for me personally are madness. Why would every niece and nephew get a 20$ gift certificate? And I bet that your parents are much happier with something made personally by your kids. Let your kids draw on a cheap white pillow with a textile-marker or something comparable and wrap it up as a special gift by your kids for their grandparents. And gifts for teachers and daycare? It should easily be possible to reduce your budget to below 300 dollar. Use the rest to better your… Read more »

PawPrint
PawPrint
5 years ago
Reply to  Jerome

Personally, I think the “donation” to her daycare provider definitely is a good cause.

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
5 years ago

I come from a family of large Christmases that I have been steadily working to fix since I became an adult. It doesn’t always work, but alas. One model I really liked (and want to implement) something I saw on a blog was a mom who gave each of her kids, “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.” That way, each kid got the same “number of things” and it really can be taken to either extreme budget-wise.

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
5 years ago

Santa just fills stockings at our place. My in-laws give the kids so much stuff that we have to put some away for later so they’re not overwhelmed. So we give one gift each from mommy and daddy just so they get something from us (last year it was a sushi set for the oldest). We do spend a lot on daycare teachers and private school teachers– $20-$30 giftcards for each (and there are a lot of them– 8 daycare teachers, something like 10 private school teachers) depending on our finances for the year. Plus charitable donations. We also buy… Read more »

Jean
Jean
5 years ago

I put $25 from each paycheck (bi-weekly pay) into a Christmas Club account that will be released to me on November 1. Then I will scour the Black Friday ads for good deals. I need to do a better job of using my points/rewards for discounted gift cards, since that’s what the older niece & nephew usually get.

superbien
superbien
5 years ago

I have a lot of family (5 sibs, 5 SILs, 12 nieces/nephews, 2 parents, 2 grandparents), and Christmas/Hanukkah is only one of the gift occasions! There’s alwsys a birthday, graduation, etc. The adult siblings finally agreed to do a gift swap for only 1 sibling, and then made the rule that only gifts for parents, grandparents, and kids under 18.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
5 years ago

My daughter, the youngest cousin at 12, has reached the age when she wants a new wardrobe for Christmas, preferably in the form of gift cards. My 7 nieces and nephews get something I make (a set of 3 zippered bags this year) with a bit of money inside. My two kids will probably get that in their stocking. My sibs make a charitable donation instead of buying more Stuff, and Hubby’s sibs pull a name from a hat/box. It’s worked well for several years now, but my MIL died this year, so we have to adjust a bit.

BG
BG
5 years ago

A big part of our holiday budget is additional food expenses. We have many parties that time of year and we have to bring a dish/dessert/or drink to each of them. It really maxes out our grocery budget quick!

Tom
Tom
5 years ago
Reply to  BG

Yep – the wife is a great baker, so we do cookies & other goodies in lieu of gifts for friends/coworkers/teachers. But it still adds up.

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
5 years ago
Reply to  Tom

This might be individual, but I’ve read that many teachers pitch the homemade goodies. I don’t blame them. They know nothing of the cleanliness or lack thereof of their students’ kitchens. Plus they probably get more than they could ever eat.

Aldo@MDN
5 years ago

We used to be big on Christmas shopping, but every year we were broke after Christmas. We finally decided to get the family together and just do a “Secret Santa” in which each of us just picks a name out of a hat and give that person one gift. So now all I have to worry about is one gift!

We still all get together for dinner and enjoy our time, but with a lot less presents and gift wrapping.

Scooze
Scooze
5 years ago

Your numbers are almost identical to mine. My family and I agreed to stop buying gifts for each other about 5 years ago. My immediate family still does, but we keep it reasonable. I will spend $50-80 on each niece and a little more on my sister and parents. Not buying for aunts, uncles and cousins and step-families is much easier (just cards for all of them). A funny thing happened in my family several years ago: one set of parents found themselves overwhelmed by the amount of money they were spending on presents to 5 kids – and their… Read more »

Barb@lvingrichlyinretirement
5 years ago

By shopping year around and making things myself I provide Christmas for over fourteen people for less than five hundred dollars. It is in fact easy to get fifty dollar gifts for twenty dollars if one plans ahead, much of the time. Last year I got five family sized games (monopoly, risk and so on) for ten dollars after sale and rebates. The later you wait to start shopping, the more you pay. In my family at least, I have a good enough knowledge of wants and needs year around that I can do that. I also earn free gift… Read more »

Mike
Mike
5 years ago

We don’t eat for 2 months so we can afford gifts. Then I take the clothes from 5 years ago we don’t fit in and wrap them since they fit now. We wear them for a month or so, pig out over the holidays and they don’t fit again by Feb, so I do this over and over, rinse and repeat. I take the money I saved from the gifts and put it into a 529 plan. Actually, since I scrimp and save most of the year, mainly buying nothing for myself. I don’t mind spending a little more at… Read more »

adrian
adrian
5 years ago

I’ve done debt-free Christmas for years now and I spend a fair amount. I just have a set-it and forget-it account with a debit card that only comes out of the drawer in Nov & Dec. I do have some fun ideas for the cash gifts though. I sometimes do this for my grandkids or for graduation gifts or other occasions – I get cute little Chinese take-out boxes at the craft store, and then I fold up the money into little heart shapes and put it in the box with some confetti and shredded paper. Or I have fun… Read more »

Even Steven
Even Steven
5 years ago

Christmas should absolutely be debt free, even if you are just saving today, that gives 2 1/2 months to put together your savings, if you can’t make the whole budget it’s ok to cut or reduce your spending across the board, debt free Christmas feels better in February and March.

Mike
Mike
5 years ago

Also my family does the 7 fishes for Xmas or a version of it which runs about $500 just for the food. I usually put in about $200 just for that but its worth it, just for the memories of Grandmom making it every year and keeping the tradition alive. My aunt does it now.

Sable Weisman
Sable Weisman
5 years ago

As a family, we’ve never done really big holiday gift-giving bashes, which is something I am endlessly grateful for now that I am an adult. I never got gifts from my aunts and uncles or even my grandparents, and it’s never been an expectation that cousins will gift each other, etc. For that reason, I spend <$200/year on holiday gifts.

Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions
Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions
5 years ago

Giving used toys and clothes to kids is not tacky 🙂 For the used toys, I usually set it up and hide it under a box or something, so I don’t think he notices that it’s used.

I’m actually all done with my Christmas shopping, except stocking stuffers and making some ornaments for my 10 nieces and nephews. What a relief!

Ely
Ely
5 years ago

Maybe you’re being tongue-in-cheek, but it sounds odd to complain of a 3- and 5-year old expecting a visit from Santa when you set up those expectations yourself. Expectations are the worst part of the holiday season. Every year my parents complain about how many presents there are, but every year they buy more presents. FINALLY my dad stopped doing stockings – we’re all adults for crying out loud – and then my husband was disappointed. I wish I could go into a cave for the month of December. I am grateful, however, that I do not have 10 nieces… Read more »

Alice
Alice
5 years ago

Lauren, I come from a large family of Christmas’s too. It’s my family’s sir name(last name) and so we have many Christmas cousins, nieces, nephews and so on in our family. My immediate family is quite large so we do a Chinese Christmas. Each person buys a generic gift for under $25 and brings to our pre Christmas party. We draw numbers and then choose a gift when our number comes up. It saves our family a lot of money. Even the grandkids over 12 years of age enjoy this. The children under 12 get individual gifts. There are only… Read more »

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

I use 2 tricks to save on holiday shopping: 1. Use gift cards received from last year’s Christmas haul to buy this year’s Christmas presents. This is especially handy for that $75 Bath & Body Works gift card I get from one relative every year. There’s no way I could use $75 worth of body lotion, but so I just buy stocking stuffer bottles for all of my co-workers. Done and done. 2. I set up an automatic savings account that withdraws $50 per month from my checking account. That sets aside $600 a year, which is plenty for birthdays,… Read more »

Juli
Juli
5 years ago

Several years ago my siblings and I stopped exchanging Christmas gifts, but we still bought for all the kids. (There are a total of 9 including my two). This year, I made the suggestion to have the kids draw names, and thankfully everyone went along with that. That will greatly cut down on the number of presents I have to buy. My husband’s family, however, everyone buys gifts for everyone. It is insane. Opening presents takes forever, and my kids get way overwhelmed by the time it is all over. They are not at all interested in cutting back, and… Read more »

Kyla
Kyla
5 years ago

A few years ago, I did a “No New Gifts” Christmas. I told my family and friends that I wanted to exchange either handmade or inexpensive used items rather than a ton of new stuff. It was actually a really fun challenge because it took some time to think about what each person would enjoy and use. I ended up finding things like a used cookbook (in nearly new condition) and vintage records for a few family members, and wrote letters and poems for others who truly loved the thought behind those gifts much more than anything I could have… Read more »

Megan E.
Megan E.
5 years ago

Surprised no one mentioned this… I like using Raise or GiftCard Granny or other exchange sites for getting gift cards for x% off (yay for 20% off Starbucks – perfect for teachers, parents, friends, college-aged family, etc). Also, I like the idea of putting a cap on the NUMBER of gifts, rather than the amount – so each child gets stocking and 1 present from Santa and one from Mom/Dad – at age 3, the wrapping paper if shiny is as awesome a present as the stuffed bear inside… Finally, no reason to have to cram saving into 3 months… Read more »

Dianecy
Dianecy
5 years ago
Reply to  Megan E.

Go Megan E! I was scanning all the comments with the same thought in mind. I’m happy that you beat me to it, but I am surprised no one made the point sooner than #36, LOL! Donna Freedman at Surviving and Thriving (and formerly here) is something of an expert at this and should have some more useful hints for buying cards at a discount. Coinstar is also an option if you have a big stash of coins in the house. Won’t save you any money, but will help you clear out some clutter! Be aware that you won’t get… Read more »

Beard Better
Beard Better
5 years ago

As a single person with no kids, I am lucky to not have to deal with the effects of consumerism on children like you probably will in a few years, which I do not envy one bit. I also see that there’s already been a big discussion of the gift to the daycare provider, but I can’t ever see myself doing that; regardless of the value of the gift, it’s hard to not roll my eyes even at the thought of it. Personally, I am terrible about planning ahead for holiday gifts and usually don’t start shopping until early December;… Read more »

CheapMom@SimpleCheapMom
5 years ago

Now that there are babies in the family again, I’m hoping we’ll have a good conversation and get this gift thing under control!

Louise @ Good Financial Choices
Louise @ Good Financial Choices
5 years ago

Hi Holly, it always amazes me how many people don’t plan for Xmas, and act shocked when it comes round.

I’d be happy receiving (and giving) used gifts, especially for items like books and toys where the recipient will still get the maximum use from them.

Tom
Tom
5 years ago

This year I started taking out $25 per paycheck and socking it away for Christmas. I’ve bought a couple of gifts already when I found a great deal, but still have a few hundred in Christmas savings, so we should be in good shape this year.

Just crossing my fingers that everyone stays well, because the winter medical bills before the HSA replenishes in January are always a killer.

Zambian Lady
Zambian Lady
5 years ago

At first I wondered why you were giving the daycare provider such a high amount. However, I remember the young lady who took care of my little niece that I was taking care of some years ago. She was very good to her and my niece loved her. I left Zambia ten years ago and that is how the young lady stopped working for me, but our relationship has grown stronger over the years. I never gave her any Christmas presents when she worked for me, but my family and I helped her over and above the call of duty… Read more »

Jennifer Roberts
Jennifer Roberts
5 years ago

We set aside money early in the year when we receive our tax refund (I know, I know, we should work out our taxes so we don’t get money back, but whatever, it works for us). Our “Special Occasion Fund” has all the money we need for birthdays, our anniversary, Christmas and other holidays for the entire year, and it sits in a high interest savings account. For Christmas we budget $100 per person for our immediate family (the people who live in our house). We also purchase gifts for our parents and we donate some gifts to charity. We… Read more »

Rachael
Rachael
5 years ago

Gift exchanges are the WORST! I am the only one in my family who does not participate, but c’mon… $25? (yes, my husband’s family is a bunch of high rollers). It’ never something I will use. I am positive that his cousins dislike me because they think I’m not a “joiner.” And I could care less. That $25 is much more useful in my kids’ college savings accounts. My own family does a $5 grab bag, which I almost always get something useful from! I can handle $5. Not at all tacky to give used things, as long as they… Read more »

Kasia
Kasia
5 years ago

Chrismtas is crazy…every year. I was shocked to see Chrismas decorations going up for sale at the end of September in a local department store. Seriously, I do not want to be thinking of buying Christmas items three months early. Unfortuantely in our family we always go overboard when it comes to presents. Last year our Christmas spending exceeded $1500 (gifts, food, miscellaneous). This year was an expensive year for the whole family so we’ve decided that this Christmas we’re doing Secret Santa on a budget. We only have to buy one present for one member of the family and… Read more »

Shari
Shari
5 years ago

I stopped buying gifts 0 years ago. I told everyone to stop buying for me too. Dec is much more enjoyable now.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

Since we’re just a couple, no children, my husband doesn’t have living family, my immediate family doesn’t celebrate, and neither one of us have nieces or nephews, we only spend on each other.

We do community Christmas events (city tree lighting, house tours, etc), buy a small 6′ tree, have dinner with friends and buy each other modestly priced but memorable gifts. We’re good.

SAHMama
SAHMama
5 years ago

I shop throughout the year for my 3 kids, which allows me to get things like art sets for 90% off as I find them. I have two nieces and I do the same for them. For our parents, I make a photo calendar featuring photos of the kids. We don’t exchange with siblings. Teacher gift= supplies for the classroom that I picked up over the summer for cheap. My husband and I don’t exchange holiday gifts.

Suz
Suz
5 years ago

The stress & cost of Christmas gifts for everyone was one of the reasons Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday! Now that there are 5 grandchildren, my adult children don’t get anything and I just give each child a small gift (ie book or video) and then a nominal cash gift for their 529 plans. Santa does very well for all the grands anyways and their parents appreciate the help with future college costs. I do give my 88 yr old Mom cash! She can get just what she needs or wants!

Betsy
Betsy
5 years ago

As for giving ‘used’ things, call them antiques or collectables and everyone will gush over them. We always got a family board game, a set of flannel pjs, hand-made by my mother and I read a lot so I got ‘antique’ books.

Lloyd
Lloyd
5 years ago

I’m not sure what to say about the quantity or cost of the gifts, since that’s really a personal decision.

My wife and I are generally pretty frugal people, and so our total Christmas Gift expenses are generally in the $300-$350 ballpark. So I set aside about $30 out of each of my monthly paychecks, and by the time the holidays roll around, it’s all there. It becomes a non-event. No stress at all.

I realize it may be too late for many people this year. But it’s something to improve in the future. I highly recommend it.

Celeste
Celeste
5 years ago

I started the ‘3 Gifts for Christmas’ family tradition when my two kids (now young adults) were very small (so that’s it’s all they’ve ever known). Every Christmas they get 3 presents (plus a stocking). Why 3 presents? Because Baby Jesus got 3 presents (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). Heck, we aren’t even that religious, but it’s a very logical conclusion to come to after all. We would read the Christmas story to the kids, with the 3 wise men and their gifts, and they would totally get it. And having the structure to the gift giving really helped to keep… Read more »

Nancy
Nancy
5 years ago

When my kids were little, Santa only brought one or two things and the rest came from mom and dad. I didn’t want the big guy getting all the credit! It was much easier for the kids when the were old enough to understand who Santa really was!

Fred
Fred
5 years ago

If you really want to reduce your Christmas expenses, start by cutting the gifts to the nieces and nephews in half. They should be just as happy to receive a gift from you and you should expect a thank you letter from all of them.
In regards to the other gifts, check your credit card points for gift card purchases. Many $25 gift cards are available for $20 in points.

Lola
Lola
5 years ago

It is such a relief of doing cash only Christmases. I get paid biweekly and have $20 transferred each payday to a Christmas club account at my credit union. On November 2 I get my $520 and that has to pay for everything – gifts, tree, decorations, postage, cookies, holiday luncheons, etc. I also factor in birthdays that fall between November 1 and January 15. Because I don’t have children and only exchange with a few family members and a handful of friends, I can make it work. It takes a lot of planning but so worth it not to… Read more »

Ann @ CME
Ann @ CME
5 years ago

We have a really big family and it’s really a pain in the pocket. You had just given me ideas on how I can be able to cut out the expenses for this upcoming holiday. Thanks a lot for these informative tips!

Spendwise Mom
Spendwise Mom
5 years ago

We are doing a $100 out of pocket Christmas this year. The last couple of years, I have sold our clutter to pay for Christmas. The house is less cluttered and easier to clean and I didn’t have to spend any extra money for Christmas.

Mauricio
Mauricio
5 years ago

My wife and I are taking all family the kids to Chuck E Cheeses (or some other save kids place) for an afternoon.
We will take group photos and send to their families.
That should cost about $12/kid with pizza and games, spend quality time with them, give parents a break and kids can do what kids like.
Besides that… nobody else gets gifts.
(Exception for white elephant parties which are awesome)
Total cost: $150.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

When i give gift cards they are purchased at my local Kroger store when they offer double gas points.

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