How Much Moms Really Spend on Kids' Holiday Gifts

Amid the flying wrapping paper and squeals of delight happening over the holidays, it can be easy to forget that those gifts don't materialize out of thin air (or Santa's bag, either). Nope, those presents cost cold hard cash -- and it can be hard to calculate exactly how much money you should be blowing, particularly on your own kids. To help you figure that out, we asked a bunch of moms how much they spend on Christmas gifts for their little ones. Their answers -- and their reasoning -- may give you some ideas on how to approach your own holiday budget this year.


'The Relatives Give Them Enough'
"Last year, we decided to go to Fort Lauderdale for Christmas and spent $0 on gifts! And it was then that I realized that between my mom, aunts, and uncles, my three kids -- age 9, 7, and 1 -- would still get lots of gifts for Christmas. In fact, I've found that if I get them more than what they asked for just to ease my conscience -- say, an unsolicited expensive train set -- it will be a waste of money." -- Dileesa H.

'We Follow the Rule of Threes'
"I keep my budget for everything to $1,000 for three kids aged 21, 19, and 12. Each child gets three things, since that's all Baby Jesus got: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I try to get them two things on their list and one surprise they aren't expecting at all. That makes it more fun for me!" -- Catherine K.

'We Give Trips as Gifts'
"For the last two years, my husband and I have spent about $700 on our 15-year-old son and 14-year-old stepdaughter. We gave them cruises. We feel the experience of travel and seeing other countries is well worth it." -- Jennifer W.

'We Get a Group Gift to Save Cash'
"Our budget usually sits around $50 per child, although we have done less. We typically keep the budget somewhat low for Christmas, simply because money can add up fast and we like to focus on hanging out and having fun as a family! We also usually stick to about two to three gifts per child. Last year, we did one individual gift and one group gift, which worked out well. Our children have never complained." -- Brenda P.

'I Hit the Sales Rack'
"I definitely fall in the 'less is more' camp at Christmas and spend maybe $200 on each of my 13- and 16-year-old girls. It's really just slippers, books, simple jewelry, PJs, fleece things, a sweater, socks, undies, etc. For years, I shopped bargain basements because underwear is underwear and mittens get lost, but they are savvier now of course, so I hit up the sale rack at trendier stores." -- Jennifer G.

'I Stick With One Expensive Gift'
"Last year on my 10-year-old, I spent around $300 on a video game console, plus more on his Christmas Eve pajamas -- a tradition -- and a couple smaller things for his stocking. I usually do one big gift, and the older he’s gotten, the more expensive his Christmas list gets, though it’s usually limited to just one or two things. I justify it because he’s an only child, also he doesn’t get spoiled by his grandparents on either side -- too many other grandkids, not enough money. So I don’t have to worry about counterbalancing that. Nonetheless, all this holiday spending gives me an ulcer!" -- Adriana V.

'I Compensate Disparities With Birthdays'
"I try not to spend more than $500 total on my three boys. But that said, it's a pretty uneven breakdown because my youngest benefits from all the hand-me-down toys of his older brothers. And of course, my oldest, 12, wants more expensive electronic gadgets that are super-small and look like nothing under the tree, so I end up getting him a few small things in addition so his pile doesn't like as meager as his 9- and 7-year-old brothers'. I find it really tough to come up with an even distribution, so I try to make up for it on their birthdays. If they ended up with less at Christmas, they'll get an extra gift or a bigger party on their special day." -- Elizabeth A.

'We Let Their Requests Pile Up'
"We probably spend about $100 each on our twin 8-year-old daughters. We don’t buy many toys during the rest of the year, so we let all their requests pile up for holiday (and birthday) gifts, especially for big-ticket items like skateboards or an American Girl doll." -- Dulcy I.

'Whatever You Do, Don't Shop Christmas Eve!'
"I spend around $500 each on my three kids, ages 11, 15, and 20. I can't afford $1,500, and they don't deserve it, but I do it anyway. The trouble is the older the kid, the more costly it gets. And no matter how much I say that since they want pricey things, they are going to only get just ONE gift, it never sticks. After a lifetime of piles of presents under the tree, it's very hard to stick to one each and have Christmas morning be over in five minutes. So what usually happens is I will buy them each the one or two pricey things they 'must have' early on, when I have extra cash or I see a deal. Then, on Christmas Eve, either my husband or I will be overcome with panic that 'we don't have enough' and run out to buy random stuff. That's how I wound up with a guinea pig one year. That nobody had even asked for. Can you imagine being so gripped with 'not good enough mom' panic that you would impulsively buy a guinea pig the kids never even mentioned? That's what comes from Christmas Eve shopping." -- Christina V.

How much do you spend on holiday gifts for your kids?


Image © Edith Held/Corbis

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