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Going Easy on Christmas…



Each year, we set aside $100 per child, $100 for my husband and me, and $150 for family/friends for Christmas gifts.  It’s always seemed like a lot to me and it’s an amount that works.  This year, we’re cutting down the budget due to upcoming furloughs.  We saved enough but have decided to move some of the funds over to the upcoming paycheck shortage category.  There will be no gifts for my husband and me and no gifts for family/friends.  Each child will receive $50 in gifts.


On paper, this seems very straightforward.  Times are tight, spending should be as well.  Not a big deal right?  Well…


Like I’ve said before, I grew up in a large family.  My parents had 7 children and despite the fact they never had two cents to rub together, they somehow came up with $100 for each child back in the ‘80s.  Looking back, I’m amazed they did this every year.  It didn’t matter how tight things were, we knew we had $100 and we carefully crafted a list that equated to that amount.


My kids don’t know we spend $100 on them each year.  I’m not even sure they’ll notice the pile is smaller this year than last year but I can’t help but carry some major mom guilt.  We have the money.  We’ve been setting it aside monthly all year.  We still don’t know how long the furloughs will be but I’m planning for worst case scenario.  The reality is, we have an emergency fund that hasn’t been touched in 4 years.  We’ll probably be just fine adjusting categories and cinching down on the types of foods we buy at the grocery store but in tough times, I’m financially conservative.  I don’t like the thought of possibly cracking into the piggy bank on the emergency fund.


My husband is supportive either way.  He understands my concern but he lives firmly in the ‘everything is going to be OK’ camp.  He has some huge jobs coming up in February that should make up for any furloughs but you know what they say about a ‘bird in hand’.  I’m leaning toward a smaller Christmas this year and leaving the money in the Christmas account.  If everything ends up fine, I can add it to their birthday budget next year or we can do something special as a family after those big jobs are wrapped up and paid.


So much of my angst comes from the example my parents set.  Christmas was always a big deal, current economic situation be damned.  I want that for my kids.  I’m sad about it.  But I’d rather give them financial stability in the long term.  No, avoiding $200 in Christmas spending won’t do that, but add it to all the other decisions over the next few decades and it absolutely will.


Anyone else going easy on Christmas this year?


  • Reply T'Pol |

    I do not remember the gifts I received as a young child but I do remember the fun we had as a family when we played games, decorated our home and did fun activities. I think, it is the responsible thing to spend less and keep the money this year. Instead, you may try to come up with fun activities to do with things already on hand. Staging a kiddie play or a part of a play, making family albums, coloring, whatever they could enjoy.

  • Reply Reece |

    We are also setting a lower budget and sticking with it. Instead of buying for each family member those of us that are getting together drew names, set a reasonable gift max dollar amount and will just buy for 1 instead of all, which will really help. Honestly, we’ve struggled with buying for some of these folks for years because they have everything they need and most of what they want! Same with our kiddos; because they are older elementary to high school they’re at an age where we can talk to them and set expectations about how Christmas will look a little different this year, but they fully understand it and are on board.

  • Reply Julene |

    I think the kids will be fine. Isn’t mom guilt the worst feeling sometimes though? I would make sure they know that you are making adjustments to gift giving simply so that they can learn from your examples. I think the most valuable financial learning is first hand experience. If they see you making sacrifices, they will appreciate the things you do a bit more. You could tell yourself that if things come out okay financially, maybe on your next travels you could give you kids a bit more souvenir money or something like that.

  • Reply Julene |

    One other thing you could do is make gift certificates of time. Maybe one for a family game night, ice cream sundae night, or one-on-one time with an activity they choose, etc. These are almost free and sometimes are what they really remember.

  • Reply Den |

    I don’t think kids really care how much you spend, but they do care what you spend it on. Get them each one thing they really want and they will be happy.

    Also, bargain shopping helps stretch those Christmas dollars. My kids don’t need to know that I got that $40 toy for $15 on sale:) I also got them each a new pillow for Christmas one year (about $5 each) and the size of the wrapped pillows made the tree seem very full of gifts LOL.

    • Reply Cwaltz |

      Some of the most memorable Christmases I have are not ones with huge gift piles but ones with memories of new traditions. Christmas pajamas anyone? I can’t remember how old your kids are but at Christmas the motto in our house became “something they want, something they need, something they will wear and something to read” every year to help with expectations. Christmas is not supposed to be about “stuff” its supposed to be about hope and joyous memories made by giving ourselves to others(The way God gave His son to us. )Bake some banana bread, or dip pretzels with the kids for family gifts. Enlist them in helping you give to others if they are older while still keeping a budget in place. Kids are amazingly resilient and as someone above said, most of us can only name one or two items we got as gifts for Christmas over our eighteen years as children anyway. Enjoy the gift of time with your family. It may not feel like it when the kids are having you consider pulling your hair out with boredom and fighting but the best gift children can receive is one of time, attention and love.

  • Reply Joe |

    I realize I’m less sentimental than most, but you summed it up so succinctly yourself: if your long term financial stability is at all in question, do what you need to ensure that! The most important Christmas memories will never be defined by how much money went into procuring “stuff”.

  • Reply jj |

    $100 USD on 6 kids in my family every Christmas would have been super tough – kudos to your parents. I think a smaller Christmas for many is in the cards, and that is OK! Think about all the other things you have given your kids throughout the year, and all the other years. Release on your mom guilt, you are doing wonderfully this year.

So, what do you think ?