Budgeting for Christmas

We are often asked how we “afford” Christmas, especially with so many children to “buy” for. We surprise people when we say we spend between $300 and $400 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.

Christmas Morning

Even though we don't pour much into Christmas gifts, there are always plenty of presents for everyone.

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 early December and sort through them all and make a list to make sure everyone gets a gift.

2. We stick to the list. All our children get the following from Mom and Dad: 1 present, 1 book, and 1 stocking stuffer. They 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 and Dad.

3. We emphasize gifts to each other. Mom and Dad aren’t the major gift-givers in our family. The siblings spend December making gifts for each other, visiting the dollar store, and wrapping gifts to place under the tree. Already there are about a dozen gifts wrapped and sitting under the tree. Far before we bring out our stack of gifts, the space under the tree will be packed.

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 (see our post 8 Steps on How to Write a Christmas Letter). 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 great fun to have the gifts stack up under the tree throughout December. We hold off on our gifts till Christmas morning. This adds to the excitement for the children, but more importantly, we spend Christmas Eve celebrating the Ultimate Gift of Jesus Christ to the world. Every child 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.

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.

  • Wendy

    It’s always interesting to see how others celebrate Christmas! I was brought up on getting some awesome things from sants when I was a child and Christ wasn’t really talked about to much. As I have grown older and raising my children, I have incorporated the life of Christ into our celebration. We try to focus on keeping the main thing, the main thing.We bake a cake for Jesus, exchange a few gifts and fill a stocking for each one,the children buy there siblings something from the dollar tree. We also give out cards to our family, church family and friends(I may try to incorporate the christmas letter your family talks about instead this year)! Sometimes we do christmas carols in a neighborhood, free gift wrapping at our local Kmart,or hand out hot chocolate at a parade for free just to give a gift to our community and be able to share Gods love in a practical way. We are thinking of taking goodies to our local ambulance/fire dept. this year(thanks to the Duggars sharing this idea) We have taken the Santa aspect out of our Christmas celebration all together(thats just our conviction). Merry Christmas to everyone!
    Blessing~The Plear Family

  • Tammie E.

    What a nice post, I agree whole heartedly with what you’ ve shared here. We do similar things for and with our children and find is much more appealing and rewarding. I used to get caught up in the hub Bub and the I gotta shop and spend alot of money, but that has changed over the course of the last few years. We still are big holiday lovers though, but maybe someday that will change. Thanks for sharing this post today !

  • Shelly

    Great post! I like to say we are counting down to Christmas NOT presents! We try not to go overboard with gifts here either… both for financial reasons and because that’s not what it’s all about, right?! :)

    We don’t do Santa at our house. We do, however, put out stockings on December 5th for St. Nick’s Day on the 6th. It’s a family and cultural tradition (and St. Nicholas was a wonderful example of Christian giving!) . The children know we are the givers but it’s just something fun we enjoy doing.

    I have heard of giving each child 3 gifts because that is what Jesus got. We try to stick to this:

    Each child gets…
    something you want,
    something you need,
    something to play with,
    and something to read.

    Loving the daily posts! Keep up the good work!

  • Abby

    We do “do” Santa, but the stockings are not generally anything too expensive- we generally have a roughly “5 things fun, 5 things useful” rule-which sounds a lot, but at least 2 fun things are candy bars and some of the useful things are normally an orange and a pair of socks!When my son got his first camera last year, we substituted about 6 of his stocking gifts for a memory card, so he got that, a tootbrush and candy, because Santa has to be fair :) We also try to include something significant to the year.

    As my husband is half English, we spend alternate Christmas’s in England with the other grandparents. My children are always involved in a Nativity story with church which is great fun. The children open stockings on our bed as a family, but then we don’t do the presents under the tree until after church and this is done with all of us in the sitting room together and in a calm fashion!- the big Christmas Turkey meal is done on Christmas Day mid afternoon, and we always have an evening gift for each family member, which is something along the lines of a calendar for the next year. When we are in England, we sometimes attend a church service going through midnight which can be pretty magical. We dont really have a gift quantity, but the budget for each child will be the same and will depend on what has happened during the year. I also make sure myself and all my children handwrite thank you letters to everybody who has given them a gift, I think it is important to acknowledge someones gift. (my smallest don’t always like me for this :()

    We also fill up shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and send them off for children overseas and in US, and we are looking at getting more involved with this as volenteers next year.

    Good on you for shopping all ear round, I must try this. I’m pretty awful and tend to leave stuff kinda late :)

  • Shelly Fender

    That is basically the same set up we do! We also only give 3 gifts to our children, just like Jesus!

  • Melissa McKimmey

    We’re not religious, so we do the same as Shelly. Want, need, wear, read. Works perfectly. Plus one Santa gift. We do small gifts for family and we bake gift baskets for friends. That way they get a nice treat but nothing that they may not like or will clutter up their house. I like the dollar store for gifts as well. We say a nice porcelain tea set for $5 there the other day with my daughter’s name on it!

  • Helen Graham

    Great the way you collect gifts throughout the year, certainly spreads the cost. I used to do this when the kids were younger but now they want current dvds and games I can’t really buy in advance.
    I do tend to buy up reduced price wrapping paper etc in January and put it by so I don’t have to pay full-price in December.

    But what I do now to save for Xmas and Birthdays is to start saving at the start of each new year. I treat this just like any other bill. I have a seperate savings account for it and a standing order set up so that a set amount comes out of the main bank account every month and goes into the savings one…this money is then especially for birthdays and Christmas and not spent on anything else.

    I buy a lot of stuff online as you can get great deals on dvds, cds, games etc. and I charge these to my credit card but because I’ve been saving all year the money is there in January and I pay the bill right off and start saving all over again for the next year.

  • Bea

    Like many we browse sales all year long and especially online sales the day after Thanksgiving for more expensive items. The ‘Christmas elf’ makes appearances throughout the month of December and leaves little things in their stockings (candy, little trinkets, Xmas socks, etc). The kids get 2 or 3 gifts each and then we focus the majority of our budget on getting a gift for all the kids to play together(this year is a ping pong table last year was air hockey). We try to focus on gifts that won’t let the kids sit and veg. :-)

  • Rebecca DeMent

    I love this post! It’s a major point once again that shows how Christians are, or should be, different from the world mentality that children need everything they see. Or that if they WANT we should BUY. I’ find it refreshing to scale down…………they dont’ need much and everything gets appreciated so much more than just plowing thru a stack of gifts. WE also try to have our 8 children open ONE thing at a time…one person at a time so that we can SEE what each present is and who it came from :)

  • Gabriela

    We have a partner system we came up with several years ago. We split the kids age wise down the middle and the older kids each draw two names: one older kid and one younger kid. That is who they will get presents for. It is a really big deal to draw the names and see who you get. Then everyone tries to keep it a secret until Christmas morning. We draw the limit at four presents for each kid.
    When Christmas morning comes, we all gather round the tree and pass out the gifts. Then we go age order opening one gift at a time, starting with the youngest.

  • Tarahleigh

    i think its fantastic idea. granted my children are young at the moment so family goes over board with spending we have brought one major gift such as their first bike and then brought things like pencils and crayons for their stocking. and we don’t buy scrap books instead we print up tones of free pictures from the internet. however we donate half gifts to our local charity shops. we know our family may one day grow larger but we believe in sharing our gifts, and this year we have adopted a family for Christmas so we made them a hamper with food, homemade gifts and a free little gifts we’ve collected along the way.

  • Mary

    In the past we have had a budget amount for each kid but that is too difficult because it may seem as some of the kids are getting more that the others so we are trying your idea this year 1 gift, 1 book, 1 stocking stuffer. This will keep it simple for our six kids. Also they drew names to have a secret pal to get a gift, no more than five dollars. Our family loves to go caroling in the neighborhood and give out baked goods. They neighbors absolutely love it. Last year we even made some of them cry. It was a blessing to do. On Christmas day we read the bible story first and then exchange gifts.

  • Jessica Brammer

    I think we are going to start implementing the one book, one gift, one stocking stuffer idea. It sounds like a great way to keep things “fair” and simple.

  • Chris & Wendy

    Thanks for posting! This exchange of ideas is excellent. There are some rich ideas above, and I’m glad to hear so many of you are adopting ours. Be creative and make them fit for you and your family.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Angela

    I LOVE this blog. I’ve never read yours before, but saw the link on facebook and I must say, this got my attention. We do something very similar: 3 gifts for each child: 1 Clothing gift, 1 Educational gift, 1 Toy/Frivolous gift. Each child also gets a stocking w/ age-appropriate items, usually around 5. Some of the stocking stuffers are camoflauge band-aids, a compass, body wash, etc. We also let all the grandparents know that we prefer if they don’t give “so many” gifts. Some of them are very happy to comply, others struggle. LOL! We have been known to donate some if there are so many. We don’t have a ritual or tradition of doing that, but we have in some years donated some of the gifts. We do not do the “santa” thing and all our children know that santa isn’t real. But, we do have some fun wearing santa hats and reindeer antler headbands that we keep under the tree. We also read Luke 2:1-14 before we open gifts and talk to the children about what Christmas is really about. I have wanted to do a Christmas letter in recent years and just haven’t, so I would like to see your info about writing one.

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