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Revising Our Christmas Budget


We set a budget of $150 for our Christmas shopping this year. Um…yeah. Good intentions, but not going to happen. What happened?

First of all, the gift I am making for my siblings ended up costing a little more than I thought. It’s still not a lot on a per gift basis, but I have a few siblings so it adds up. That added about $20 to the cost.

Next up was the gift for my son’s teacher. We usually get an ornament but I decided to not do that. I started looking at “adopting” a zoo animal in the class’ name. My son thought that was a cool idea so I think we will do that. The minimum to do that is $25. So that’s $20 more than we were planning on spending. BUT, we haven’t chosen a charity yet to give money to at the end of the year, so that gift could count towards that and not technically be a Christmas gift. Hmm…

I always seem to forget too that Santa has to get mom and dad something. Argh. To make matters worse, I was working on a snow fort with my son and my legs were freezing and I said I should ask Santa for snow pants. Kids do not forget. He keeps reminding me to ask Santa for snow pants. So that adds another $50 or so to the total if mom and dad get snow pants. I’ve looked for used so far with no luck. This “could” be considered clothing, though, since my husband and I could really use them since we deal with a lot of snow.

That brings us up to $95 already. What was I thinking? Oh well. I can say one thing, if we didn’t set a budget at all we probably would have spent way more than that already. At least trying to get our spending under that has really made us focus on the gifts and not just buy random things. Our son is only getting a few gifts, but they were well thought out. One thing we know he wants, one thing we know he’ll love, and one thing he will probably like after a while but it will be one of those “toss and keep opening presents” types of gifts at first.

I also didn’t consider stocking stuffers when doing the original budget. I have a habit of forgetting about those. They can add up quickly as I found out one year.

We’ll hopefully finish our shopping this week, so I’ll have to post how we did.


  • Reply kate |

    One of my favorite websites for camping/outdoor gear is http://www.campmor.com. They stock overstocks, last season stuff, and do so for CHEAP. I’m from Alaska (and worked in Antarctica), so I DEFINITELY take my cold weather gear seriously. πŸ™‚ I’ve always been pleased about everything I’ve ordered from them.

    I just took a peek at the snowpants… there are a pair of bibs for $30/pair. Just a thought!

  • Reply Beth |

    Why don’t you create a list of Christmas gift purchases/obligations (including mom & dad, stocking stuffers, etc.) that you can refer to every year when setting your budget? That would be more fact-based, so your budget would be more realistic and there would be fewer surprises.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Beth – that is a good idea. I should have run some numbers in a spreadsheet instead of in my head so I always have something concrete to refer to. This year is a little different since my siblings and I do not exchange gifts. But I came up with a good idea and went with it. I could give it to them any time of year, but thought Christmas would be special.

    I know I definitely can’t rely on my head to keep everything (like I used to do). Even my pricing book for shopping is in my head and sometimes it takes a while to get it out LOL.

  • Reply Graham |

    1. I’m not a big fan of Santa since he’s forcing you to buy new pants. Just start “asking” Santa for something else and make sure your kid knows you want that more. And make it something cheap. πŸ™‚

    2. Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Suburban Wife |

    My Christmas spending is going to be more than I’d originally imagined too. My original thought was to not do any Christmas gifts for my siblings’ families but as we get closer to Christmas that’s just not feeling right.

    And I was going to get my children only one gift each — which I’m sticking to but the rub is that in our house Santa’s job is to fill the stockings. My husband said I simply cannot forego stockings. As you said, those stocking stuffers can add up really fast — especially when kids hit the teen years and they trade in enjoyment of Matchbox cars for an appetite for gift cards and electronic gadgets.

    I have to tell you I’m eternally grateful that I decided from the very beginning that Santa brought presents children only so I’ve never had the problem or the added expense of presents (or, in our case, stockings) for me or my husband. My sister, whose financial situation is a LOT worse than ours, has a situation like yours in that the kids expect the parents to get presents — and stockings! — from Santa.

  • Reply DJM |

    While I appreciate the sentiment of giving a zoo animal adoption to your son’s teacher, I’d suggest going a different route. After all, you’ve set a budget for a reason. And budget aside, I think that most teachers would have a greater appreciation for something tangible for the classroom. I’d encourage you to ask your son about the types of supplies used each day. Whether it’s crayons or colored paper, or something else of that sort, 5 or 10 dollars at the office supply store would be helpful for a teacher who is likely digging into their own pocket to supplement school supplies. I guarantee that a Target or Office Depot gift certificate will be gratefully put to good use. And you’ll be saving some money at the same time.

  • Reply Margot |

    People! Gift buying is not the reason for the season, so please stop finding ways to justify spending more than you can very easily afford. Someone put gift cards and electronics in the category of “stocking stuffers.” Seriously!? I grew up having my stocking stuffed with chocolates and a few equally cheap things, and this was fine. And there’s no reason why married adults need to give each other gifts that blow the budget. When I was getting out of debt, my husband and I made agreements that enabled that goal like exchanging meaningful letters or agreeing to $10 gifts, which forced us to be creative. The fact that your son is asking about snow pants in no way means that you suddenly need to buy two pairs!

  • Reply Nancy |

    We’re on a really tight budget this year, but are have managed to find a few stocking stuffers we know our three year old will love for a dollar or two an item….silly putty, a jar of playdoh, silly string, and of course the candy! Happy Holidays!

  • Reply Rachel |

    There are snow pants at http://www.sierratradingpost.com also for $30, if you don’t find something at Campmor. STP is another catalog/web site that sells overstock/discontinues/2nds for greatly reduced prices, and they have lots of good stuff.

    As for stocking stuffers, we usually get an orange and an apple, which both take up quite a bit of room, candy, socks, and some other fun thing–an ornament, post-its, a pen, a small toy–depending on age and interest. None of those things need to cost much.

  • Reply Rachel |

    I agree – stick to your budget! Get a $5 Starbucks card for the Teacher instead πŸ™‚ Or a handmade card from your kid that is virtually free to make.
    Maybe because we don’t teach our kids Santa I’m indifferent to the whole “we have to do it because Santa promised” thing. But at the very least you could tell your son that you aren’t going to ask Santa for snow pants because you really want [something cheaper]. I don’t like my husband getting me gifts – I’m always thinking “that could have paid down some of our debt…” Even if it’s only $10 that’s where my mind goes… lol.

  • Reply Suburban Wife |

    @Margot — Why are chocolate and “cheap” items better ideas for a stocking than gift cards or electronics? Not that I said that I buy them for stockings — I just said that the “toys” that interest teens are typically more expensive than those that interest young children.

    I’d much rather spend $50 on something that will be used for a long time than $5 on something that will get a quick laugh and then be stuck in a drawer and immediately forgotten.

    Personally, my desire to tighten my Christmas budget is purely voluntary. We live well within our means and carry no consumer debt. But I am completely sympathetic to those who are in debt or those who are directly and seriously impacted by the current economic conditions.

  • Reply jcrn |

    I think you are absolutely right about the importance of setting a budget and how even if you overspend..well, you spend less than you might have. We have a budget too, but then we had a major pipe leak, one that was located in an interior wall, beyond our usual skills. That cost to be repaired, even though we tried to work out a barter arrangement, something that works quite often. Hang in there because you are on the right track. Inspiring post!

  • Reply jcrn |

    P.S. I don’t know where it is located exactly but Amazon has a thread, possibly in the cookbook community, of recession recipes. Some are great! I’d provide a link but I honestly just get email notifications of new messages in that thread, can’t find a link.

  • Reply Jennifer |

    In my family the adults never get gifts from Santa. Because this has always been the case no one thinks it is odd. As for the stockings, we always had oranges and nuts in them which I’m sure was to fill them up a little more without having to blow the budget. Now it’s a tradition and it doesn’t seem right to not have the oranges in them.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    I’m enjoying watching you struggle with this. You’ll figure out something that works well with your budget and your family values.

    I grew up with the orange in the stocking (and a silver dollar, some chocolate and the rest were useful items like shampoo, bubble bath, pantyhose.)

    My kids grew up with some candy, some small toys and some useful things.

    But we have all the useful stuff we need, and I’m avoiding buying things from China so that eliminates all the cheap stuff, so as they get older (they are 20 & 23), it gets much harder.

    Magazines are still a staple, and take up lots of room, but they cost many dollars each (most are $7 – 10 for topics they are truly interested in.) There will be some quality chocolate, and some fancy socks and some used books, but I’m still scrambling for ideas.

    This year, we are all only getting a stockings so I really don’t mind them having larger dollar value items in them. Dh and I aren’t giving each other anything because we have no needs and precious few wants and are trying to downsize; my son got concert tickets and we paid for my dd and dsil to fly home for Christmas (including the stop with his parents Dec. 20 – 25).

    My dd just graduated and got married this year so she doesn’t need any more gifts at this point. My son could use some stuff (he’s moving into his own place on December 16) so I think I might put a gift cards in his stocking Craig’s List (I’ll make a mock-up gift card for him, instead of putting cash in.)

  • Reply Tricia |

    About the stockings – having mom and dad have one too was my original doing from the beginning for our family. Growing up, our family didn’t even have stockings. It was my chance to surprise everyone with a little treat. I enjoy that greatly, but yeah…if I had to do it all over again Santa would only get gifts for children.

    DJM – I viewed the “adoption” as a learning opportunity for the class to learn about a particular animal and I guess to expose them to helping others. I help with supplies throughout the year by having my son bring many of his own supplies and he shares with others. I also donate things from the wish list that the teacher sends home and I volunteer weekly in the class with a task that directly saves the teacher time.

    Suburban Wife – I agree about giving something that is lasting. That was in my mind when purchasing things for our son. So many of his early years were spent buying thing after thing that were played with a few times and then neglected. His favorite gift of all was duplo blocks. I bought a tub new and supplemented with used. That was quite a while ago and he still plays with them daily!

    Margot – I can’t spill the beans, but if you knew what I was making for my siblings you may see why it is worth it to me to spend a little bit more than I thought I was going to spend. It boiled down to bad planning on my part and thinking I could get something cheaper than it ended up being. We normally do not exchange gifts between the adults and my husband and I stopped exchanging gifts a while ago. But this gift is special.

    Kate and Rachel – thanks for the links! My husband and I discussed it more, and we probably will get the snow pants and use money we receive as a gift towards them. Once we get them, we can “play” outside more including doing more snowshoeing and sledding! It will be a good buy since it will help us get more active this winter.

  • Reply Tabitha |

    I agree – snowpants will get used and if they’re quality they will last a loooong time. The plus side of being an adult is that you will not grow out of them. I still have the Columbia snowpants I bought ten years ago. Great investment as I live in Minnesota. And you’ll save tons of money b/c you won’t get sick from sopping wet jeans and feet!

  • Reply emmi |

    I’ll second the suggestion that the 5 or 10 dollar gift card to the office supply store would be very useful for the teacher, and cheaper for you. Win-win.

    In terms of stuffing your own adult stockings… is there anything small stashed away in the attic or up in a closet that the kid hasn’t seen that you can wrap and “give” to yourselves? It sounds like you’re worried more about keeping up appearances than anything else. Which is fine, it’s the mystique of the season at that age to believe in something magical, but it shouldn’t break the bank, either.

    Good luck.

  • Reply mc |

    One thing to remember is just because you set up the Santa scenario one year does not mean it has to be like that forever. You can always find a creative way to explain to your son why Santa is going to concentrate on kids and go from there after this year. It should be relatively easy as most movies/stories revolve around kids sending lists & sitting on Santa’s lap.

    On the animal gift, it seems fun but the gift seems like it is for your son’s class and not the teacher. I think a teacher gift should be something for her to enjoy rather than a work tool. For instance, a thank you to a doctor would not be a box of tongue depressors. I love the Starbucks gift suggestion. If you go with the adoption idea, I might run it by the teacher first – yes it would be a great learning opportunity but as a teacher I know we have tons of curriculum to cover each year. There may not be time/resources/etc to “teach” about the animal.

  • Reply TM |

    Trish: I’m pretty sure that no one’s concerns over your budget were directed at the increase in your gift for your siblings. After all, $20 isn’t the end of the world. It’s that this can then snowball into self-justification of increasing your spending in many other areas, which it seems like you might be doing (and which can be a slippery slope at the holidays). If I had to eliminate one area of extra spending, it would be the snow pants. I’m not sure why your son asking you about whether Santa is getting the adults a certain gift means that you therefore need to buy the mentioned gifts. First, your son doesn’t need to think that Santa automatically gets everyone what they want. Second, as someone mentioned above, you can simply tell him that you would actually prefer that Santa get you some less expensive item. Eventually, I’m sure you’ll add some snow pants to your wardrobe. But, for now it seems to be a matter of how much you want to prioritize your Christmas budget and getting out of debt.

  • Reply TM |

    Regarding the donation/adoption of an animal: Unless you are homeless or otherwise destitute, giving should always be a line item in everyone’s budget. We can all afford to give a little to make the world a better place and to teach our children to be givers. So, hopefully this fits into your budget whether it’s for Christmas or otherwise.

  • Reply Craig |

    It’s always better to over estimate than under. Costs can add up for gifts and then if you include wrapping, etc. it can add up more. If you were shooting for 150$, plan more for $200.

  • Reply Stacey |

    Yay for snowpants! My husband and I don’t exchange gifts anymore, but we’re “buying” each other a good pair of gloves. It’s cold outside!

    We don’t have kids yet, but I will definitely keep in mind that Santa doesn’t have to bring gifts for parents. My parents always exchanged simple presents, like a new bathrobe or clothing, but they never got anything from Santa.

    Of course, my parents also told me that Santa sends them a bill for my presents! It never ruined the mood, just made me more consious of what I requested. Not so sure I want to tell my own kids that! Perhaps we will focus on giving, and have our kids pick out a charity for the family to donate to.

So, what do you think ?