christmas gift budgeting

The Gift of Not Gifting

christmas gift budgeting

Christmas is the season of giving, but sometimes giving can become a burden on our wallets. Unfortunately, the burden of giving turns into stress for far too many people. This can be even worse when you have a large family. Growing up, I had a total of seven siblings in my family after both parents remarried. That is a lot of kids and a lot of family gifts! I can only imagine how it would be if we were all still buying gifts for each other and our children. If you are feeling emotionally and financially stressed by your gift list, it might be time to re-think your gifting and suggest a change to the rest of your family for next year.


There are a few ways that families choose to handle the gifting burden. One option is to give to everyone but limit the dollar amount you can spend. Another is to have a sort of Secret Santa where you pick a name from a hat and only buy gifts for that person. Both of these are great ideas that can reduce the financial stress of family Christmas gifts. Plus, everyone still has a gift to put under the tree and open during your celebration.


My problem with this is that it is still a waste of money for everyone involved. How many times have you ever received a really fantastic gift that you loved from one of these gift arrangements? I can tell you that my answer is one time. Yes, one time I received a gift that I actually liked and used. Every other time? Well, there are gloves, hats, scarves, slippers, socks, and jewelry that I never wore and only end up throwing out or giving away. I am literally throwing someone’s money away, and I hate that. Chances are that no matter how much I try to find the right gift, my family members are doing the same thing with my gift to them. Let’s stop the madness this year!


Consider the gift of not gifting next year. What is that? You and your family members decide that you are not buying each other any gifts next year. (Note: I think this really applies best for adult family members. Kids still like to get gifts, and it is part of the holiday magic.) Everyone saves the money and stress of buying Christmas gifts. Take the money you would have spent and buy a nice gift for yourself instead. Use the money to pay down some debt or build your children’s college savings accounts. Donate the money to a favorite charity in your family’s honor. There are so many better ways to give by not gifting at all next Christmas.


What’s the worst gift you ever received from a family member?

christmas personal finance lessons

Lessons in Personal Finance for Children During the Holiday Season


christmas personal finance lessons




Christmas is a great time to teach your children some important lessons about money and personal finance. A hidden benefit to teaching your children these lessons is reinforcing them for yourself as well. Try some of these activities with children of all ages this season.


Christmas shopping provides a wonderful opportunity to practice budgeting. Share your family gift budget with your children and allow them to help you make a gift shopping list that stays within the budget. While you are shopping, let your children keep a running total of your purchases to practice math while keeping you accountable for sticking to your budget. Consider giving your children a gift allowance of their own money to spend on gifts for siblings. Any activity you can provide that involves managing money and budgeting is an opportunity for applied learning.


While talking about budgeting, include the practice of saving and giving in your discussion. One of the best experiences for my children has been choosing Angel Tree children every year. We started a tradition of letting each of our children pick a child off the tree who was about their age. I set a gift budget for each child, and they had to help pick out gifts within that budget. My children learned about budgeting because they had to weigh the cost of each item they chose. They learned lessons about the tradeoff between one big gift or many small gifts. Most importantly, they learned how blessed they are and that the bigger joy during Christmas comes from giving rather than receiving.


If you are a homeschool mom teaching elementary and middle school children, I also recommend incorporating some of these lessons into your math studies. For those looking for a ready-made lesson, try one of these:

Christmas Math: Grades 4-6

Christmas Measurement and Money: Grades 3-6

Christmas Budgeting: Grades 4-6



How do you teach your children about money, budgeting, and giving during the holiday season?


Follow These Four Tips to Avoid Holiday Spending Hangover

Person 1: Starts holiday shopping in July.  Puts gifts up so they are out of the way or cannot be found by tiny hands.  Forgets what she bought until she starts pulling everything out the week before Christmas.  Realizes she bought bought way too much for everyone or that one kid has twice the amount of the others and proceeds to go on a buying spree for the rest of the family to make it even.  Spends three times more than she would have if she had just waited until December to shop.

Person 2: Goes crazy Black Friday shopping only to come home and realize that she still doesn’t really have any gifts that fit the bill for most of the people on the shopping list.  Unless all the teachers love fuzzy cat slippers and Aunt Rita in Florida needs a matching scarf and gloves.

Person 3: Waits until two days before Christmas and buys whatever is still on the shelves no matter what the price.




Now I am sure none of those things have ever happened to you because you are far too savvy, but maybe you know someone like this.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I have been Person 3 and have to make sure I don’t turn into Person 1.  These are some of the tricks I use to keep holiday spending from getting totally out of control.

1. Make a budget.  Sounds obvious, right?  But how many people actually do it or stick to it?  I like to recommend not just an overall budget but a detailed budget by person.  Then, if you need help sticking to that budget, use cash.  You can even break down the cash into an envelope labeled with the name of each person on your list and the dollar amount you have budgeted for their gift.

2. Keep it simple.  If you find a great gift at a great price, buy several of them and give that great gift to as many people on your list as possible.

3. Make a list and check it twice.  Santa does it, and so should you.  Keep track of what you bought and how much you spent.  This will help with the “forgotten gift expenses” and make sure you are sticking to that budget.

4. Leave a little extra.  It never fails that you realize there were people you left off your list who suddenly need gifts.  This is one way that tip #2 can help (you have an extra gift on hand!).  Or if you are like me, one week out from Christmas your kids will suddenly decide on a new gift they absolutely need to have or they will just die.  So, you are a diligent parent and run out to get this gift and now run way over your budget.  I’ve started planning ahead for this and leave a little padding in the budget just for these events.

I hope these four tips help you to have a happier holiday season and a stress-free New Year!