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How Do You Decide on a Christmas Budget?


Budgets are something that we discuss often. And many would say I don’t have a budget, but rather monitor my money with the spending spreadsheet where I forecast out a year. I would say I do have a budget, but we are not going to get into that.

For Christmas, I make a detailed budget and stick to it. It usually starts with me figuring out a total dollar amount and then dividing it up to save throughout the year. I start with the ”fixed” or non-negotiables like stocking stuffers and food and fit in everything else.

Hope's Christmas Tree

I did hold true to my desire to decorate for Christmas early. Our Christmas Tree and the bulk of our decorations went up the week before Halloween when all the kids were here to celebrate the twins’ birthday. I love it! And get to enjoy it every day while I work.

Our Christmas budget has changed a lot over the years as our family has grown, jobs and income have changed and the kids have gotten older. But it’s currently about $2,000 per year. This covers good, holiday activities and all gifts.

In addition, our traditions have changed. While we are still very big on presents, I think we’ve all become alot more thoughtful in our gift giving. I know I work very hard every year to find a “wow” gift for each child and then also fulfill some needs and a want or two. Experiences have become my favorite gift to give as well.

I Love Tradition

Our roller coaster life has really hindered creating many traditions that stick. Stockings remain. Some type of game on Christmas Eve. And we do tend to have “junk food” day on Christmas with our family meal the night before. While almost all of my Christmas traditions cost little to no extra money, I am of the opinion that I would like to create some sort of experiential tradition now that the kids are older. But I have no idea what that would be.


I know everyone has a different feeling about this topic. I personally love Santa. I love how excited kids get when talking about him and for many years we had Santa gifts as well as gifts from each other. But after the twins joined our family, the financial burden was too much for me.

I wrote them all a “good-bye” note from Santa one year. They still talk about how devastating that was. (Terrible mom idea by the way.) I’m not sure what the kids will decide to do when they have kids. Of course, I will support whatever they decide, but I like the idea of one or two Santa gifts only. Not only does this put a limit on things it also sets a reasonable expectation for what Santa can do. This is what worked for me when Gymnast and Princess were younger.

I wrote a couple of months ago about my desire to use my Christmas budget a bit differently this year. I’ve not completely given up that idea. But I also haven’t come up or settled on any brilliant ideas on what they would look like.

Some people spend $0.00 on gifts and that is 100% fine. Though Christmas will always be Christmas even without the gifts, there is a big part of me who gets genuine joy with the exchange of a gift.

How do you decide how your budget will get broken down? What are your non-negotiables?


  • Reply Melanie |

    A Dear John letter from Santa, after and due to having your childhood disrupted by the addition of two older siblings? Jesus Christ, that’s dark. Sorry, I’m too flummoxed for anything else.

  • Reply Katie |

    My kids are now older, so Santa is a non-factor (mine are 14 and 16 and step kids are 13 and 15). When they were younger, I would pick a couple middle of the road gifts as Santa gifts. I’ve heard stories of kids who don’t get anything or really small things from Santa and then others get bike, and ipads and all sorts of stuff and I think that’s confusing to young kids. Anyway, since I use YNAB to budget, I save a certain amount throughout the year and that’s my “budget” for all gifts. I have a lot of family to buy for in addition to my immediate, so my budget is probably larger than most. This year is $1800 because that’s what i have saved. I tend to like to do a bigger Christmas because that’s what I had growing up. To be fair though, growing up, Christmas was always kind of over the top, but I didn’t get much the rest of the year. I think my kids get more throughout the year and also get more gifts from other people (like their dad, grandparents, etc.), so I have scaled it back a little.

    A couple of years ago, I realized all of the little things Christmas related were taking a chunk out of my budget, so I started doing a separate line item for misc. Christmas. This covers Christmas cards, postage, events, treats, etc. and is usually around another $175.

  • Reply MW |

    $2,000 per year?!? Wow. Everyone has their own priorities, and obviously this is very important to you. But holy cow! My household income is about $400k/year and we spend less than half that!

    • Reply Anonymous |

      I agree, that budget does seem really high! I know people like a big Christmas and we do Christmas big at my house too…but we’ve also all come to realize that we don’t need more “stuff”. I think it would be difficult to spend that much even if I tried.

So, what do you think ?