How do you budget for Christmas?

6 Years of Blogging. This article has been viewed 12,131 times since it first published in 2007. We have a ton of preparations for the holiday, but a good perspective keeps us focused and frugal.

We actually spend only $300 on Christmas every year.

We received a question from Maria asking how we budget for Christmas. We surprise people when we say we spend roughly $300 during the month of December specifically for Christmas gifts. Here are some principles we live by throughout the year to make sure we’re prepared during the Christmas season.

1. We shop all year long. If we are at a garage sale in June, for instance, we may see a great deal on a toy that we can’t pass up. Every sale we come by, we ask ourselves, “Should we save it for Christmas?” After buying it, we’ll stuff it in our closet. We have a few boxes of stuff in our closet that are “hands off” for the kids. We pull these boxes out around December 1 and sort through them all and make a list to make sure everyone gets a gift.

2. We keep to a list. All our kids get the following from Mom & Dad: 1 present, 1 book, and 1 stocking stuffer. We wrap all this on Christmas Eve after the kids go to bed. Our kids traditionally get up on Christmas morning to see a floor full of gifts under the tree. We don’t veer from our list; everyone gets the same quantity from Mom & Dad.

3. We emphasize gifts to each other. Mom & Dad aren’t the major gift-givers in our family. The kids spend December making gifts for each other, visiting the dollar store, and wrapping gifts to place under the tree. Already (today’s Dec. 4) there are about a dozen gifts wrapped and sitting under the tree.

4. We don’t give a lot to relatives and friends. We have nieces and nephews that we send gifts to, and they are, truthfully, a bigger part of our budget than our own kids. Friends don’t get a lot from us. We also don’t give to adult relatives anymore. We used to do this in our 20s, but we don’t do it anymore. We don’t feel like we’re missing anything, either.

5. We exchange Christmas letters. We pour a lot of time and energy into creating a Christmas letter that we send to approximately 300 families (we post it online, too, sometime in December). We can’t afford to give gifts to all our friends, but we don’t really feel the need to. We love our friends and we’re glad to share the Christmas season with them through letters. We take each Christmas letter we receive and tape it to the wall. By Christmas, we have hundreds of pictures, letters and cards covering our dining room wall. It is quite the conversation piece in our home. There is usually a family picture of families bigger than ours!

6. We emphasize the spiritual roots of Christmas. Gifts are awesome, and it is a great amount of fun to have the gifts stack up under the tree throughout December. We hold off on our gifts till Christmas morning. For one, this builds excitement for the kids. But more importantly, we spend Christmas Eve celebrating the Ultimate Gift of Jesus Christ to the world. Every kid prepares a “gift” to Jesus (a song, poem, speech, picture–something of their talents), we read the Christmas story from the Bible, and we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

That’s how the Jeubs do it! Do you have ideas on how to celebrate the Christmas season without being caught up in the expense of it all? Post your ideas in the comments section below.

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • Maria

    Thanks Chris for the ideas!!! Maria in NJ

  • Christianity

    Thats great! This post is really very good and interesting and the author have given very good explanation on preparing for Christmas and celebrating Christmas well thanks for sharing a beautiful blog.

  • Michelle

    Aww, we also sing Happy Birthday to Jesus! And we make a special cake that we prepare in steps according to the Bible. We start with an angel food cake, because the angels first came to the shepards, then we have white icing to signify that Jesus is the snow white lamb of God, and one red candle that shows that Jesus is the light of the world, and even from birth, His blood was sent to cover our sins.

  • Alicia

    Very nice Michelle! What a great idea to make a symbolization of the cake.

  • Lynda Larson

    I love the idea of the kids making something for the other kids! We are going to start a christmas savings to start saving a little throughout the year for christmas. I started a christmas letter this year and look forward to getting yours!

    Great idea for the symbolisms on the cake!

  • Nancy Palmer

    This year we went to 3 gifts per child–just as the wise men brought Jesus 3 gifts. The bigger the family gets, the harder gift giving can become. We really wanted to focus on Jesus instead of the presents anyway.

  • Mum11

    Sorry but only 3 gifts per child??? That’s wrong. Really wrong. I have 11 kids and they each get AT LEAST 10 presents. Do you not do Santa??

  • Jill

    Even when I only had three kids (we have five now) my kids got three gifts each. Even if they did not also get gifts from Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, I would still have given three gifts. If it was good enough for the King of Kings, it is CERTAINLY good enough for my kids! I also found that when we went to three gifts, I put much more thought into what I got them…..and I also put much more thought into the celebration of Christmas. We do not do Santa Claus, I have no problem with families that do. However, at some point they learn SAnta is not true….and I never want my kids to apply that thought to Christ’s birth. In any case, our Christmas became far more Christ centered when we limited the presents and focused on the true gift. I am not saying that people cannot celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with LOTS of gifts….I am just saying, I think lots of gifts were distracting to MY kids.

  • Abby

    I think 3 gifts per child is plenty these days as to not forget the true meaning of why we celebrate christmas! :)

  • Amy

    I think that it is the spirit of the season and NOT the amount of gifts that makes Christmas special. This is the time to celebrate our Lord’s birth, and I find 3 gifts an extremely appropriate number considering that is what was given to baby Jesus. What better way to instill faith than to give children another way to connect with the Lord. That is the greatest gift.

  • Kristi

    My kids have never really done Santa… we play the “game” and they know not to burst anyone else’s bubble, but when it comes down to it they know that mom and dad are really Santa. That said, we do one large gift for each child, then they do gifts for eachother and the rest of the family give them TONS of gifts. There is no lack of chaotic gift giving Christmas morning! They have Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors… there is no shortage of gift giving going on.

    The most special thing that we do Christmas morning is that the night before I hide baby Jesus from the Nativity set. They play a game that they must find baby Jesus. I think we’re going to do a scavenger hunt for it this year. I love the symbolism of waking up Christmas morning to find baby Jesus, God’s gift to us. My children know that is the most important part of Christmas.

    And for the record, they’d all rather have one really nice gift that they really want than 10 gifts that would have been worth the really nice one!

  • grtlyblesd

    I have 7 children. My kids get 3 gifts each, plus a stocking. I do not think they are deprived in the least. But there can be more than one thing in a package. For instance, this year, one of my daughter’s gifts is clothing. In one box, she’ll be getting several pieces of clothing. It’s one gift, because that’s how it’s wrapped, but it’s an outfit, some camis, and several pairs of socks. I do the same thing with books. A few of my kids are getting books as one of their gifts. That can be 3 books or 10 books, but it’s all wrapped together as one gift. We use cloth gift bags to reduce waste, so wrapping several things as one is really easy.

    We’re the largest family on the block, but our trash can lid still closes the week after Christmas, wheras most of the others do not!

  • Kristin

    From a very young age I (and everyone else I know) was taught that it’s the thought that counts. Regardless if 1,3 or 20 gifts are given, it is enough. I’m also certain that those 3 gifts to each child are given thoughtfully and lovingly by Chris and Wendy and are accepted graciously by their children.

    It seems very logical and appropriate to give 3 gifts to each child. After all, Christmas is not about presents, but about the birth of Christ, after all.

  • Christine

    This Thanksgiving we studied the Brethren who came over on the Mayflower. We were surprised to learn that the Brethren did not celebrate “Christmas” because everyday is a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and they did not want to distract from that. Whether or not we hold the Brethrens’ convictions, there was ONE gift given to us that is sufficient for all people and all times and that includes Christmas. May your celebration be filled with His joy!

  • Kim

    I appreciate the insights and as a family of 8, we relate! On a humorous note, though, I wonder if anyone has considered the shere madness of Christmas wrap, boxes, plastic wrap and those annoying little twist ties, not to mention the “assembly required” nightmare, as a deterrent for indulging at Christmas? I mean, for a family of four that’s a lot of mess, but a family of eight could lose a child or family pet underneath it all!

    Besides, anyone with a large family knows that it requires planning to keep it simple, and simple helps to keep the focus where it belongs.

  • Rita

    I think three gifts is fine. I’m even more of a grinch than some people on this thread may find acceptable. One gift is something useful–gasp–(i.e., this year, they are both getting a cd player/alarm clock), one gift is a “larger” gift, with “larger” meaning a little more expensive, and then a “small” gift. For example, dd’s “small” is earrings and ds’s “small” is a lego set, each around $10. The large and small value depends on how much I’ve saved throughout the year. We do stockings, too, with a combo of useful (chapstick, lotion, socks) and fun (slinky, legos, ornament). Wendy, I love your idea–and will implement next year–that each of the kids will make or buy something for each stocking. We’ll see how full they can get the stockings before a certain date, then I’ll fill the rest. We only have two children, and I think THAT even gets expensive. Kudos to you for your abilities to pinch a penny and be creative! Don’t let anyone drag you down. Merry Christ-mas!

  • Michelle

    We went to 3 gifts (from Mom and Dad) several years ago after hitting “the fulfillment curve” I read about in a book. After the 3rd gift, the little monsters started coming out, “what else did I get? Is that all? etc.,I did NOT like the attitude my children were getting. We focus more on service and worship at Christmas. My kids prefer our Brother/Sister shopping, where they get to go shopping ALONE w/mom and buy gifts for each other(at the Dollar Store-it’s much less stressful,especially w/little ones plus one gift for Toys For Tots. They wrap their gifts, and put then under their own “kid” tree.

  • Christi

    Merry Christmas! When it comes to gifts it is the heart, not the number or cost, that matters. We do try to keep the qty. the same because no matter how untrue it may be, on some level kids think more gifts means more love. I thought it when I was a kid too. That said, all my 6 yo. daughter wants is a $3 hermit crab. We already have the cage from a previous crab experience so we will supplement with paints and a book. My 10 yo. son tends to want things that are more expensive so we haven’t decided yet but the qty will be the same… But I agree with the other folks that the gifts really are (or should be) understated. God and family come first. Gifts are just one way to make visible and tangible our intangible love. If you know your kids’ love languages maybe they’d rather just have a hug, a kind word, or a few minutes alone with you!

  • Marti

    Some wonderful ideas here! Our kids are now all young adults but we still enjoy giving them a few things. As they were growing up, we gave them five gifts – 1) something to read (quality book), 2) something to do (activity), 3)something to wear, 4)something just for fun, and 5)something to help them grow spiritually. They also got a small ornament representing something that had been meaningful in their life that year. These may have been bought or homemade! We, too, shopped all year long at clearance sales, garage sales, antique stores, etc. It was like a scavanger hunt for adults – fun and thoughtful! More than anything, we wanted to keep the focus on Jesus and all that He means to us – very deep! Have a wonderful celebration of Him!

  • Gabriela

    what we just did this Christmas was had the 6 oldest kids in our family draw two names, one older kid, and one younger kid(we have 12 in all) that really helped my mom and dad and let the kids get gifts for each other i really liked it and hope we do it next year!

  • Colleen

    That is wonderful that your children each get three gifts. Thats what my children get also. Thats what Jesus got. And Jesus is the reason for the Season.

  • michelle

    I have a dollar amount that I spend on each child and when they give me their list I ask what they want to the most. That item is what they get from me and my husband. They know if they want something expensive, they might not get as many other presents. I just remind them of that.
    We also get them pjs every year that they get to open in their beds Christmas morning and then they put them on to come down. Makes really nice pictures, esp since I have them sit on the steps every year on their way to see what Santa brought and take their pics….
    I think the key to remember that when people say they buy 1 or 3 gifts for each child is that it could be a range of prices, from $1 – several hundred. We all have our own traditions that makes Christmas special and we shouldn’t judge anyone for those wonderful memories!!

  • Debra

    All I want to say is christmas is to comecral now days , buy this spend this . I love my kids as due so many parrents . If you raise your kids to think that christmas is for greed then they will always expect it. To me its better to teach then that its better to give than to recive and to apprecaite the gifts that they do get and apprecait what christmas is truly about and that some children dont even get christmas dinner and every year I have my kids each pick out something to donate eather to the toys for tots or something like the slavation army . Because its better to give than to recive . I also take them to cruch to help serve meals to people who dont have food to eat this is my family tradition , and we would not have it any outher way the memories are unforgetable !!!! I

  • Elva Jean

    I really like the Jeub family approach to Christmas. I don’t consider myself a Christian per se and honestly don’t feel that the winter holiday is restricted to celebrating the Birth of Christ but at the same time, I don’t like how it has become a name-brand, keep-up-with-the-neighbors holiday. I even see the children of friends buying pricey gifts for several classmates nowadays. Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, etc. should mean more than a gift grab, don’t you think? And while I personally like the idea of giving a new (not previously owned) gift whenever possible, it’s true that any toy is a used toy once it has been unwrapped :) One silly suggestion that might be reasonable as the children grow older: perhaps a gift-exchange (drawing names out of a hat) might be fun (every gets a gift) but still keeps the overall cost down.

  • Tracy

    I stop schooling (we homeschool) for the whole month of December and focus on the reason for the season. We start by celebrating St. Nick’s Day on December 6th. This is when I give my 6 children their stockings. In them are the essentials like a tooth brush, hair brush, socks and underwear, lip balm. These items (except for the tooth brush) are only given on this day once a year! We do not pretend, nor have we ever made taken for granted the wonderful deeds of St. Nicholas. We really make a day of celebrating the memory of the Samaritan he was. Then the next day out comes all of the nativity. We set up the whole living room with these 5 inch figures from a company called Fontanini. I have collected (new pieces like towns, kings tents, etc., every year) them for 18 years now. I even have a pregnant Mary that is riding on the back of a donkey and a Joseph that leads the donkey with a staff! They slowly move through the living room, finally making it to the town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. My children have so much fun moving all the animals around and the women and shepherds and children in the busy town. It is tax time, a lot of things are happening here! Before bed on Christmas Eve, my little ones giggle with delight as they send Mary and Joseph to “The stable”…such a humble place for a King. We leave all the animals in the stable and turn all their heads to the manger. While the kids are asleep I take out pregnant Mary and put in the much thinner version 😉 and then I put little baby Jesus in the manger. In the morning they run to the manger and giggle and shout like they have never seen it before, “Baby Jesus was born last night!!” I imagine this is the same excitement some families experience with the surprise of the visit with Santa. We then give 3 gifts to each child. Every year I look forward to that excitement of the discovery of baby Jesus on Christmas morn. I have often wondered how we could daily find a way to experience Jesus this way. If only Christmas was every day :)

  • Peggy Bennet

    We always used to feel like we had to buy everyone a gift. This really became impractical, and it was so easy to fall into the “commercialized” Christmas mind set. My sister’s house is where we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Now that all of the kids are older (the youngest are 18) we decided to ask everyone about doing a $25.00 gift exchange. The response to go ahead with it was unanimous. So in my family which consists of my husband, son, and myself, we spent a total of 75.00 for gifts. I purchased a gift for a female, and then we purchased two gifts for men. We absolutely had the most fun, and we weren’t broke!! My sister put names in a hat and the first person to pick a gift from under the tree had the option to keep that gift, or pick another gift. We were pleasantly surprised by the creativity of some of the gifts, and no two gifts alike. We plan to do this every year. After the gift exchange, we sang Christmas carols with my Brother’s karaoke equipment. Our families are all Christians, and this less is more idea really worked for us. We enjoyed the fellowship of each other, and the next day some of us served breakfast to people in the community who live in the local Homeless Center. We were reminded how Blessed we truly are. Peg

  • Amy

    It’s nice to read how other large families handle gift-giving. That’s funny that you spend more on nieces/nephews than your own kids because that often ends up being the case with us as well.

    Our six children are very young, but for now we have a limit of $20 per child and shop year-round for sales and for “that perfect gift” for each one. They get an outrageous amount of gifts from grandparents, but tend to love best the one thing that we got them because it is exactly what they wanted!

    We just started doing stockings and we fill it with the rare treats of candy, gum, and dollar tree “fun” toys and they LOVE it.

    I love the idea of the kids buying each other gifts, too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rose

    One year my children received lots of presents. The next year I asked them what they got for Christmas. They did not remember any thing and we were opening up presents for an hour. so we decided to just buy one family gift. We got a trampoline one year. The next year a go cart and they had to follow clues to find it. And they remember. This year we put there presents on the table and played a game. Four sets of dice being handed around when you got doubles you grabbed a gift. When the few in the middle were gone you stole a gift then after two minutes when the timer went off who ever was holding the gift opened it and gave it to the person it belonged to. It was real fun.

  • Michael

    Is #7 serious? Wow. We’re on a totally different page. We actually don’t give any presents to our kids on Christmas, but instead save them for their birthday. We’re trying to figure out how to keep the focus of our minds on Jesus Christ, and not on ‘stuff’. We do lots of driving to see family too and that eats up a fair chunk of change now-a-days :-) My $0.25

  • Audrey

    I’m not a parent, but I am a college student with a family of seven (and growing) to get gifts for (often in addition to buying a plane ticket to go home for Chritmas). I pinch every penny I can but still find I can’t buy all that much, or I think what I _can_ afford is “lame”…..but this last Christmas I came up with an idea:

    I had signed up to take ceramics just because I needed an art class. A couple weeks into the semester I got the brilliant idea that rather than buying gifts I could make them (we’ll ignore the fact that art is NOT my strong subject).

    I was pleasently shocked. Everyone loved what I had made for them, and in actually making them I broke the cycle of finding one thing for someone, then deciding that would make a great gift for seveal others as well. I made a gift for all seven people, and all it cost me was the clay I used that I had to buy for class anyway, and I got a grade of a B in the class. It’s definaely somethng that’s going to happen more regularly.

    I had to laugh at your comment about going to the dollar store for gifts. Been there, done that. A friend and I joking led me to go once to the dollar store for gifts. They’ve got a lot of neat things for gifts, and not only for kids.

  • Paula

    We have 7 children and we also just give 3 gifts. Each child has an ornament that is a box so I find something that fits in there (one year it was a one-month gift certificate to Club Penguin). One toy gift (Garage sales or super sale stuff). Then each child gets their own box of cereal. (We don’t eat much cereal, let alone sugary name-brand IN A BOX cereal.) I budget $20 each child.

    We also celebrate Hanukah so that is when the children give gifts to each other…usually from the Dollar Store.

    By the way, I NEVER give clothing as gifts, even for their birthdays. I think clothing/shoes are necessities. And what kid is excited to get clothing anyway? :)

  • Paula

    Wait, I need to clarify my “what kid is excited to get clothing anyway” comment. My children are all under 10. I’m sure there are teenagers that enjoy clothes.

  • Amber

    I want you to know that as a 15 year old teen girl, I admire you. Some people have said things to try and break your spirits and wreck all hope, but I want you to know that I think the world of you all. I think that 3 gifts is enough. Some children in the world don’t get any. You two people are amazing and I admire your strength. You have a beautiful family.
    May God Bless you in Spirituality and Health,

  • Ann

    Honestly I think that as long as all the kids get around the same value in gifts there won’t be much complaining about not getting enough gifts, plus Christmas isn’t about gifts. How much do kids really need? Many toys get played with only a few times when they have alot, so whats the point in spending so much money?

  • Tanya

    I have 2 children, ages 9 and 4…this year, after being inspired by the Jeub Family and their “3 Gift” concept, we’re going to try it. It’s very important to us that our kids that they don’t fall into the trap of “more is better”. We want our kids to grow up well-rounded individuals that don’t worry about “keeping up with the Jones’s”. I am a stay at home mom, so we are living on one income…in these difficult economic times, our new family motto is “I have all I need”. I am so blessed to have a loving husband and two healthy, loving children!

  • Laura Wilkins

    There is value in keeping a check on how much you give your children for sure. Last year we spent a ton on our kids and vowed, almost immediately that this year would be far less. On the one hand it was a good feeling to have all the major purchases completed for the kids, but also it ended up being a bit of a hardship, and then that’s not a fun holiday for US. Mind you, our kids never expected to get as much as they got, nor would they have ever asked for so much. It always feels nice to do for your kids, but I have to say I really like the idea of going a little easy this year and letting ourselves “off the hook” so to speak.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their ideas and thoughts.

  • Laura Wilkins

    Oh, and I wanted to add one more thing. Tanya, you mentioned that you are a stay-at-home mom. I am too finally. For the past year and a few months after working 15 years and I can tell you that YOU BEING HOME WITH YOUR KIDS IS THE BIGGEST AND BEST GIFT – BEYOND ANYTHING YOU COULD EVER BUY FOR THEM. It gives me personally, endless joy being home with my kids finally and I just love to hear about other mom’s who are able to do it too. Christmas, can become more about traditions and cozy times and happy contentment than about chasing purchases.

  • Kristen Marble

    We are a family of 10 and have completely re-thought Christmas and gift giving. We have gotten away from gift giving completely, and won’t go back! Last year, we adopted an orphanage in Uganda, and spent “Christmas money” that we would have spent buying gifts for children, and helping them buy gifts for each other, and purchased shoes, socks, underwear, pants and shirts for Ugandan orphans. Our children were thrilled, and touched, and we celebrated the true meaning of Christmas. When we “give” gifts to others, we often donate in the names of others, and send them a note detailing that gift. For example, our kids will send 5 soccer balls, in their cousins’ names, to Africa. One year, they sent a goat, and several chicks in their grandparents’ names. The Heifer Project (and another, just can’t recall their name right now) puts out a Christmas “catalog” of items you can purchase for prices from $2 and up…My kids don’t “know” what a Christmas wish list is – they focus instead of how we can bless others at Christmas time, just like we were all blessed with the ultimate gift – Jesus, the Messiah. Our children WILL make gifts for each other – often drawing pictures, or making some small craft project, using what we already have at home. (For example, the younger girls are learning to embroider, so they are talking about making something for their grandmother using embroidery.)

  • Gina

    I will definately be practicing the three gift idea this and every year from now on. We are a blended family with our fifth on the way and I must admit that I have a hard time (picking out) buying as many gifts for my step children as I do for my birth children it is just easier to buy gifts for the kids who are with you 365 days a year (you know what they like). This will solve everything.

  • Sara

    One thing we do as well is to have the kids make or buy (dollar stores are wonderful!) a gift for someone else. Every year on Christmas Eve we cart them off to a nursing home, find out which residents have little or no family visitors, and then each child picks a “grandma or grandpa” to adopt. They give them their gift, hold their hand, talk to them or whatever they are comfortable with. It makes Christmas that much more meaningful to my children when they get to see the look on the faces of their “grandparent”. It helps to reel them in from the typical Christmas chaos of “I get presents!” And turns them more toward, “I felt good after making him/her smile”.

  • Kathy

    I will also be going to the 3 present rule this year. We have given 10+ presents to each child in the past and most of the gifts never have been played with. Not to mention my daughter still has a gift in the box in her closet from last christmas. We are about to live on a very tight budget with work hrs being cut and look forward to teaching the children how to live on a budget and have a happy and good life. I also Homeschool the children and have a 6 wk old baby to enjoy this year! Happy Holidays to all.

  • Mary

    I am the youngest of five and grew up in NYC. I am older now and my Mom still likes to buy me gifts but she’s retired on a tight budget. My idea was to give her a book called “all about me..” I bought at the book store. It prompts you to write about life from childhood onward. I told her that she never needs to give me a gift again, simply fill in the book with a page for each occassion. It’s been going on for five years now and I know I’ll have something to treasure for years to come and she need not feel she’s hasn’t given me anything.

  • Kataleena

    We spent over $1,000.00 on our family this year. We only have four children one of them is an infant. Each child got way too much stuff. Between mom and dad and other relatives, they each had at least 30 gifts to open. They were cranky and tired on Christmas morning from opening so many gifts. Part of the money we spent was on other relatives, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, we did sponsor a family but that only cost about $100.00. Anyhow my husband and I were horrified at the amount we spent. Every year we say we are going to keep it simple and just remember what it is all about. But usually we get caught up in the spending blitz. I wish I could learn a new way. I think telling all the adult relatives that we will no longer be exchanging gifts is a great idea. However my husbands family is very materialistic and love to give expensive gifts. We have to get rid of our pride. Usually when we suggest “cutting” back, his family gets worried and thinks we are broke. They have no understanding of being frugal. It is depressing that we spend so much more than all of you and we have a small family.

  • jacqueline

    I’m glad I am not the only one that purchases Christmas gifts early in the year. My family members laugh at me but they are the ones that are broke when Christmas comes and I am paying my bills (on time)!! haha

  • Beth

    Question: with buying only 3 gifts for each child, do the gifts have a dollar amount to them? Are the gifts new items or are they used items you’ve picked up at garage sales? I think the idea of 3 items is great, but I know my children would squack if 1 of them got a higher dollar amount item than them.

  • Gretchen

    Hi Chris and Wendy! We have had some tough times and last year decided to pick names. Each name goes into the hat at Thanksgiving, even the parents and we trade names(We now have 10 children). Each person gets a present for that person(about a $30 value or less). We help the little kids buy their older siblings a present and then Mama and Papa fill the stockings and get a few family gifts. I know that we also had a few people give gifts to someone that was something special they picked up. There wasn’t any resentment and we were all blessed. We picked names again this year. The kids are all excited mostly to get the present for the person they are giving to. It was getting overwhelming for everyone to buy so many gifts let alone many for everyone. This will work for years to come as we add more to the family. The tree had many presents and everyone had something to play with, it was a blessed day of giving and receiving!

  • Michelle

    Several years ago, we switched over from giving several gifts per child to an 80/20 deal. 80% of the gifts we give are family oriented (board games, certificates for family outings, new DVDs, etc.) and only 20 % of the gifts are for each of our 6 children individually. They usually include a book (or set of books, if the budget allows), socks, undies & P.J.’s, and somewhere between 1-3 “larger” gifts (usually no more than a $10-25 item) such as a new Christian music CD or a toy specific to their individual interests. As much as possible, our gifts are educationally or spiritually related (for their spiritual & academic growth). Then we have a variety of “stocking stuffer” type gifts that we wrap as well. We’ve never had a place to hang stockings, so that stuff just gets wrapped too. That could be anything from matchbox cars (when they were little) to hair scrunchies, etc. I have no problem opening packages & separating things into separate gifts for them. The more mega-packs of stuff I can do that with, the better. With 8 of us, our typical Christmas budget is around $300 most years. And we do shop all yr round too.

  • Robyn

    My family has a $5 per person spending limit. With that said, we can ‘regift’ something, give something of ours to someone who has admired it or shop at yard sales, etc. It is a great way to really focus on the person not the amount of money.

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  • Amy

    Great ideas!!! :)

  • Kristi

    When our family was smaller, we thought the “3 gift” idea was a cool idea too, focusing on the 3 kings and their gifts, but then as our family grew (we are expecting #10 in Jan) we realized that their were still too many gifts under the tree, and it took hours to open them all. Plus add a gift from Grandparents/sometimes a godparent/or aunt/uncle and it was overload. They were so excited after their first or second gift that they ran off to play, and we had a room of adults, no kids, and still a boat load of gifts left unopened under the tree. It was like gift gluttony. We moved down to one gift per person quickly, for monetary reasons and to teach them that we don’t need that much STUFF!

    We don’t do stockings, but we do celebrate St. Nicholas day (today) on Dec 6. The kids put out their boots by the fireplace and during the night they are filled with socks, candy, and coins. This year we could only afford candy. We read the story of the real St. Nicholas.

    Sometimes we let the older kids (the ones with money) do a secret santa with each other. This year though, we are struggling to pay bills and the mortgage and so I have even old the kids to save their money. I have told them that this Christmas, we are going to focus even more on Jesus, less on gifts (we have everything we need) and on entertaining our family who will come to visit. Plus I am on bedrest with the new baby – who is the greatest gift of all – and she will be our new joy when she arrives shortly after Christmas. Pope John Paul II has said, “the greatest gift you can give your child is a sibling” so that is our biggest gift this year.

  • Kristi

    One more thought –

    A couple of years ago I asked both grandparents to buy the kids consumable gifts. Having 9 kids makes for a lot of clutter in the house and I really needed to stop that. So one grandparent buys the kids educational magazines for each age category in our family – for example Ranger Rick, Cobblestone, ZooBooks…
    The other grandparent buys our family a membership at the MN science museum, which we use many times throughout the year. My kids haven’t always appreciated not being able to open something from grandma, but last year when the Star Wars exhibit was coming in Jan, my kids were really hopeful the tradition would continue so they wouldn’t miss Star Wars!

    Another rule in our family is this: when one toy comes in – two go out. We keep a box in our garage for donations. Kids don’t always understand how a box of donated toys help someone they never see, but I do shop at thrift stores and always explain that the money they make goes to a cause and I teach about that specific cause. Like how the Salvation Army helped the flood victims in Fargo, ND this spring. Since we have relatives in Fargo, they could understand the connection between our donations going to a thrift store, being sold, and the profit being used to purchase food for volunteers to hand out sandwiches to the sandbaggers. (Long explanation, but my kids needed that).

    this doesn’t apply to christmas, but we apply that rule when my kids are shopping at garage sales with me too. If they want to buy a toy it has to be with their own money, and they have to donate two toys to the donation box when they get home.

  • sandra

    great idea,I like it! We don’t spend a lot on Christmas either,but one thing that helps is we cash out my husband’s FSA (flexible spending account at the end of the yr and use it to buy gifts.(it’s tax-free money).Even if we can only set aside $5-10/week for the whole yr,it still adds up and helps a lot.
    my teens do like to get clothes,so esp. if they ask for something useful like a coat,we do try to get it for them.

  • Paula

    My immediate family is small so I have mainly my sister and Mom to buy for. I used to think I had to have 5-6 boxes of stuff apiece each year for them. A couple years ago, I suggested 3 boxes (or 3 gifts). Whatever can fit into 3 boxes or bags was the limit. Now, I have them doing the same for me. It has been less stressful for me and this year I’m giving my sister a box of groceries from Aldi’s as 1 of her gifts. She is in a new apartment & will need the food later. I think more & more people are being a bit more practical this year and spending their gift money more wisely.

  • Amy

    Wow. We have 5 children and I can’t imagine getting them each 3 gifts! Usually, each child gets one “personal” gift just for them ($15-$20 limit). Then, we get a family gift. We may spend $300 on the family gift, but it’s always something everyone wants. (for instance, yearly passes to a local amusement park, or Kett cars, or something like that.) Even with just that for the “under the tree” gifts, we get overrun with gifts from extended family. I think I will start looking for gifts year round, to try to cut back on Christmas spending.

  • WarrenTribe

    We don’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday with giving gifts to our children and each other. And we don’t do many of the normal Christmas traditions, since they originated from pagan holidays worshiping false gods.  But what we do is give things to Jesus.  Each of our kids makes a gift for Jesus, and we do activities that honor Christ as a gift to Him.  Ex….going out street witnessing, making a meal for all of the residents at the local homeless shelter, helping a family in need, etc…  We keep everything focused on Jesus and celebrating Him.   We have 9 children with one more on the way and we did a family project of researching the origins of many of the typical Christmas traditions, (christmas tree, wreath, etc…) and our kids came to the conclusion themselves that it would not be honoring to the Lord for us to do those things.  So it isn’t that they feel deprived, the simply want to honor the Lord in what they do.  On their birthdays, we make that a special day and they get gifts then.  (most of them second hand from yard sales and such)    We feel convicted that we are suppose to be raising disciples for the Lord, and keep that as our primary focus as we make the daily choices of parenting our children.

  • Shayna_tews

    We could definitely cut down on our expenditures for our children.  But what we do for our extended family is pretty neat.  A few years ago, we were financially burdened… and we were in that state for a long time.  We felt so badly at Christmas, not being able to “keep up” with the level of giving that our family members did for us.  So we suggested for the adults to stop gift giving and just have one small gift each for the children.  Now what we adults do is get together, and each family brings a fun drink and an appetizer to share for a meaningful evening together.  It really reduces the stress that we have built upon ourselves trying to keep up with the gift-giving circus during the Advent and Christmas seasons and lets us focus on what the season is really about — the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

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  • Housemouse71

    I admire and respect your whole philosophy of what Christmas is ( or should be ) all about. However, I just can’t get away from old habits and traditions. Christmas is probably the only time I feel like a child again, and as we all know, kids love presents, the more the better !I will try to cut down ( thinking of you ) just for the principle of it.

  • Erika Shupe

    I love this post! And I’m glad you re-published it again as I’ve not had the privilege of reading it before. We have 9 children and I’ve been thinking that we need to cut back and re-do our gift-giving again this year. We’ve done this in the past, but it needs to shrink even more in the gift area, and we don’t need or want any more toys anyway. I think we’ll shoot for the family gift idea mostly (like a membership to the zoo), and probably do one large “family stocking” with stuffers for the family (it’s hard to find inexpensive stocking gifts that aren’t junk or clutter to just stack up around the house!). I’m going to print your post and all the comments, highlight the ideas I’d like to consider, and then go over it with my husband! =D *cheer!* *yay!* – Erika from =)

  • Susan Schmidt

    Thank you for this wonderful post! We have 9 children right now – I would love to hear the story behind your large family. Our family does Christmas boxes on Christmas eve instead of stockings on Christmas day. We do a reenactment of the nativity and our wise men carry in some of our Christmas boxes. Each of our kids has a Christmas box (we use those really sturdy hat box like boxes and just reuse them each year). In the box there will be some treat and a book or maybe new PJ’s. Then on Christmas day we do the presents. The parents buy for the kids and in the past we have done 3 gifts a piece but that is even getting to expensive. Which is why I am reevaluating. The kids do buy for each other from the dollar store. The parents buy something for each other and put it in our Christmas boxes, like treats and cologne. My favorite part of that is that we open them after the kids are in bed and we can enjoy without interruption. Then we can focus on the kids on Christmas day. Thanks for sharing!!!