Do You Have a Spending Cap per Child for Christmas?

Updated on December 06, 2014
D.F. asks from Monmouth Junction, NJ
28 answers

do you spend a set amount on each child for Christmas, or do you buy what your child wants without a spending cap?

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answers from Dallas on

We never have set a limit or cap. We have 1 daughter and her birthday is 12/27. I keep Christmas and Birthday completely separated.

We never went wild or overly extravagant but we never set a limit either. We just use common sense. Never would we ever go into debt in order to have Christmas gifts.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I am so not organized enough to do that!

Generally speaking, I try to find 2 or 3 bigger gifts and a few smaller gifts. Some are from us, and some are from Santa.

I do try to be fair, but I don't try to be fair in the amount of money, exactly. They don't understand how much an IPod costs vs a Thomas the Tank Engine train set. At their age (5 & 8), as long as they get the same amount of gifts and receive things they want, they are good. When they get a little older, it might become more about the amount of money we spend.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I absolutely shop with a budget. I got something DH wanted half off so he's getting it, but I otherwise would not have been able to do so. Same with the rest of the family. I don't just buy DD whatever because she set eyes on it. Lots of factors, including price. If I can get a good deal? More likely to receive.

As the sks got older, we explained to SS that his games cost more so while SD had more physical presents, it was equal $.

Like Christine, for the extended family we only do the little kids and I still try to keep that within $10 per child (books, small games and toys...)

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Spending cap, of course. I can't imagine working without a people really do that??

We generally allow up to $200 per older child (teenagers) and up to $150 for the 8 & 10 year olds as the older kids were around $150 when they were that age. This is more than enough to get them things they need and want, and they also get gifts from relatives. We try get creative with grandparent gifts and will often have the grandparents give a combined gift for a big-ticket item if it's something all of the kids will use. For example one year, we finished a basement playroom in the fall and one set of grandparents paid for a flatscreen TV (which my husband got a great deal on because it was an older floor model that the store was getting rid of) and the other set paid for a refurbished PS3, which was also a great deal. That way we could still get them other things to open and have without completely blowing our own budget on big ticket items.

This year, my husband got an awesome deal on snowboards w/boots and bindings that he bought used over the summer so we'll count some of that towards the cap for the younger boys and have relatives buying the goggles, helmets and other equipment and my parents are buying a multi-pack of lift tickets to a local they're getting a snowboard package but there's still room in our budget for Legos, video games and other things they want.

My older kids are actually aware of the budget and do a great job of crafting a wish list that fits. It really makes them understand the value of things...for example my oldest son wanted a particular composite hockey stick a few years ago that was $200. I told him that if he picked out that stick, he could either chip in some money from his own bank account to give me room to give him something else to open, or he was opening just a stick on Christmas day. He decided on an older-model stick that was only $125 and then got other things he needed and wanted. My daughter does the same thing, finding things that are on sale so that she can stretch her cap a bit. Takes some of the "magic" out of the process but for teenagers, that's fine.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Yes, we have a set amount within $5 or so. I don't know how old your kids are or your beliefs about these things, but I find it best to keep it simple and clean. Don't load them up with lots of stuff it just causes delayed problems. Don't aim so much for same number of gifts for each child although try to get it that way, but often it's just not feasible. Besides kids learn that things can still be equal and yet not be the same number of boxes.

Most importantly bring traditions and meaning into their lives, this they will always remember.

Now that I have ten grands to buy for I really have to keep it at what we Can do, so our budget is $45-50 per child. We don't buy for the adults any more because we just can't. We always host (and pay) for Christmas eve dinner/party. Although they all bring a dish. We have games for the kids and sing songs and after the games I hand out little gifts to the children, usually something I bought and something I made. So we still spend a lot. And it's gets a bit sticky to keep up, but we don't go over board nor spend what we don't have.

Well, I'm sure this is TMI

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It's not a set amount.

We typically go off of:

Something to read
Something to sleep
Something they NEED
Something they WANT

Our youngest wants a bike this year. He will get it. The rest of his list is small this year. So it's all good.

Our oldest wants an XBOX One...he's not getting it. Not just because of cost but because there really is no sense to have one since he has a GREAT XBOX 360.

So no. NO real "cap" on spending.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Okay so I am the weird one it looks like...

For the past 19 years (15 for the younger one) my kids have received 3 gifts under the tree and a stocking stuffer. 1 from mom and dad, one from each other and one from Santa, plus the stocking. There is also always a Family Santa gift under the tree. And that is it.

When they were younger, we had them make a list of 5-6 things that they REALLY wanted and we worked with that. Now they are older and a bit "wiser", they have figured out the system and are pretty good with it. They LOVE that Christmas morning is about family time and breakfast together and watching movies and not about opening a ton of gifts, getting a bunch of "stuff" and cleaning up the mess.

It is never about money, it's about what is appropriate. My youngest wants a new flute this year, the cost is $1200+ I will give her some money towards that. She has been saving for a while for it. She deserves her new flute. She is a wonderful student and just got promoted to 2 in command of her band, she gets the new flute. The older one got her gift already, a ticket to see her idol in person.

Christmas is not about money, it never should be, that whole commercialism is out of control. Christmas in our home is about the gift of giving and receiving and the most important of all....the love.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We did, but then plans changed. They always do. My kids get a ton for Christmas, but it's all things they want/need and they are gracious and respectful.

We absolutely overspend, and right now it's the last thing we should be doing...but it's just how Christmas is in our home.

Three Christmases ago we decided to give the kids a vacation instead of a big gift from us...the first year we did a cruise, last year we went to Myrtle Beach for a week, and this year we are staying local - but it's their favorite place to go, and only for 4 nights. We need to get better about not giving them a big gift if we do the trip too - but we haven't been doing a great job at it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I have always set an amount and really try to stick with it.
Our daughter is very fortunate to have a lot of family members who give her gifts too. It helps we live in a tiny house, so she knew the routine. We need to get rid of the things we no longer use or play with to make room for the new stuff.

I will be honest, we did not do a good enough job. I have been packing up this tiny house to get ready to move and we have a lot of junk! She has not lived here full time in about 6 years.. This junk is mine and my husband's!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have a budget but I may spend more on one child than another. I try to get each something they have asked for, something they need, and something extra. This year, I got my teens phones (cheap but it will do), one daughter has asked for a pair of shoes, and they will get somehting small as well. I might spend $250 on one while I get really awesome deals for another and only spend $100 or so. They do not get everything they ask for and we don;t buy a ton of stuff during the year.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's not exactly a set amount but yeah - there are limits.
I don't go into debt for presents.
If I have to weigh food/clothing/shelter against presents - presents lose.
And even if I had unlimited cash - I'm not buying out a whole toy store - where the heck would I keep it all?
Some people get their kids ATVs for birthday/holidays.
I'd have to say the most I ever spent was once on a Quadro building set (Grandma and I went in on it together) and that was about $450 - but it's been 13 years since we did that and our son (currently 16) is STILL using it (to build tables and a stand for his archery target) - so that was certainly a gift that was worth it for us.
We don't do that every year.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Absolutely!! I would be out of control without a Christmas budget!

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answers from New York on

Who buys their kids whatever they want except Hollywood stars who create spoiled, entitled children who don't appreciate anything? I suppose if your kids don't want much or are so young they don't really get it but my kids will look at the catalogs that come and start circling away all the things that look interesting. So yes, we do set a budget. The budget takes into account how old the kids are and then make sure they're getting at least a few of the most important things to them. We are fortunate to have a flexible financial budget but I'm not going to buy everything on their lists just because they put them on their lists. So we pick a number that seems appropriate taking different things into account.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

When my kids were young and at home there were "catalogs" and we would give each kid a different colored crayon and let them mark up the books.

Dad and I would go through the books and make our choices that fit into our budget and get the gifts. Christmas morning was truly a surprise as they did not know which of the gifts they marked they would get. We tried to make the amount of money equal as one would always asked for the biggest thing and the other didn't ask for anything. Hence the big gift person was sometimes put out by the number of the gifts the other got. We explained that you were the one that asked for X and that is what you got. Now you want more gifts so next time you should consider the size of what it is that you want.

I can't see going into debt for Christmas gifts. The meaning of the season has been forgotten and this is a way to get back to it. Also we get something for a child or two that they would not get for the holiday. I buy the same things I would buy my own child and not the cheaper things or quality. Or I sometimes make the items that are requested.

Now not so much as they are older and live in different states so I don't know what they would like but I do surprise them.

the other S.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have savings account that we started just for christmas\birthday money for our girls. There is about $511 in their right now so we set the $200 budget per girl. However, we also both want to make sure that the girls have the same number of gifts so we are being careful to not just use up all the budget but to make it equal.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We have O. child, so no worries about making gifts equal among siblings.
We do have other kids we buy for.
We save all year for Christmas in an account.
We don't do Christmas on credit.
It's always best to stick to a budget!
(We normally don't spend the entire amount that we've saved.)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Absolutely. I'm very surprised other people don't. My kids ask for literally thousands of dollars worth of American Girl doll stuff. It's not a matter of affordability. It'd just be ridiculous to get them everything they want. I believe in Christmas being magical and they get a lot of stuff but I set a limit so it's not insane and I feel it's reflective of how much stuff a child should have in general.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

The last couple of years, not so much. I went a little crazy! This year, absolutely a budget!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

We get a lot of the kids stuff used. One wants a laptop for Christmas. A member of my family just got a new laptop for their embroidery software so they gave us their old one. It's Windows 8 though so it's not too old.

I try to make sure the kids get what they want but sometimes there is no way we could afford their big wishes.

The year we got them both DSi game players we got them at Game Stop earlier in the year. We also bought all the games they played off the sale table at Game Stop.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I have a general idea of what we have in the budget. It isn't a set cap per se, but a range. They do not get everything they want (could anyone possibly, ever?), but we try to accommodate their most desired item if it isn't something we are opposed to them having. For example, son wants a lift kit for the vehicle he is driving. We won't be spending money on that b/c we really don't want him to have that.

Last year, he got a phone. He'd been wanting one for several years, but last year was when it became something that was more needful and helpful to US as the parents, rather than just something he *wanted*. So he got it last year.
This year, he doesn't have much on his list, and what is there is expensive (Costa sunglasses anyone?) I don't think a 16 year old needs a $200 pair of sunglasses just because it's Christmas. His tastes will change in 2 months and he'll want a different kind.

But, kids need clothes, and this time of year there are always massive sales on them at their favorite "teen" stores. So they will get a good bit of clothes. Less because they ask for them, and more because I will be buying them clothes anyway, so why not get a deal and have them under the tree to open on Christmas morning?

Daughter wants a flute. They aren't cheap. I've done my research, scoured online, been into music shops, etc.. found one on CL, had it checked out by her band director, and bought it. That will be her "big" gift this year. It isn't something she needs. She plays in the band, but on another instrument, so this is just to play around on. It's still a very nice gift. She also is a voracious reader, and is constantly asking for books. So she is getting some of those, and lots of clothes.

When I feel "done", I will make a list and see if there are relatively similar numbers of items for under the tree, and supplement from that. No matter the pricing/value, it is sad to have 25 gifts under the tree for one person and 5 for another. So that doesn't happen at our house. If I have to buy socks and wrap them, I buy socks and wrap them. :)

Good luck. And Merry Christmas!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

when they were little there was more focus on balancing the amount of presents, because when they're little they care less about the cost of a gift than whether or not they're out of prezzies when the other guy is still going to town<G>.
but we ALWAYS had a budget. a tight, tight budget.
when they got older they had the option of requesting one big thing or more little ones. we just asked that they prioritized when they made their lists.

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answers from Chicago on

We give equal numbers of gifts. My kids are young yet, so they are more concerned with amount, not cost.

I have no cap. I tend to spread the cost of presents over a 4 month span, so i start shopping during July toy clearance and then buy little things every month until Turkey day, at which point I wrap everything and hope I didn't miss some toy that will be deemed essential.

For next year, i'm saving all my target gift cards and all my amazon reward points. I'm hoping to not spend a dime of my own money next year. We shall see how it goes.

But we are still in the number of presents land, but I doubt we will ever have a cap. if we can afford it, and it's reasonable, then we will buy it. Christmas is magical to me, so I want to see giant smiles, and I want them to feel the magic.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I have one child, and he has a birthday in December too, so I usually have a budget for both Birthday and Christmas. I have to otherwise I just overspend.



answers from Tampa on

Not really. I usually start shopping way early for things and just put them up in the closet. I buy a few things here and there for about 4-5 months prior to Christmas. If you added up everything, I am sure that the total cost is high. I try to keep the gifts about even between my two kids. By other folk's standards, I probably give too much to everyone in my family. However, I enjoy that part of it and it makes me happy to see my family enjoying the gifts.



answers from New York on

This year we are trying something new. For Christmas everyone is getting something they want, something that's good for the world (we are doing some service projects or donating old toys), something to wear and something to read. We just moved back to the U.S. from Switzerland and we are heading back to switzerland for Christmas. We didn't want to go crazy with the gifts since the trip is really our big gift. My girls are 6,5 and 2.5 and we talked about this with them and they all agreed. It's really going to cut down on spending and it helps keep the focus off of all the "I want everything" that usually happens because they have to think of 1 thing that they really want. Then Santa will bring them 1 gift and of course the grandparents will spoil them because that's what they do!😊 have a good Christmas!πŸŽ„πŸŽπŸŽ…



answers from Atlanta on

My family works like Barbilee's. Each kid gets 6 presents - 1 from mom and dad, 1 from each of their 3 siblings, 1 from santa, and 1 stocking.

I have a general budget, but it's used more as a guideline. One kid really blew over the budget this year when he went and asked santa for a pricey present.


answers from Phoenix on

We are not "Hollywood stars" as someone said, but we typically try to get what our kids want. We pay cash for everything, nothing charged, and save throughout the year. The kids are 15 and 12 so they are out of the "toy" stage. Their toys now are electronics. We got them a new PlayStation and 2 games each since our Wii from 5 years ago finally died a few months ago. We also plan to get each of them a new bike or electric scooter for my son. That being said, we don't really buy them a lot throughout the year. For holidays I usually buy them each a video game or some other thing they may want. For example, my son has been begging for Air Jordan shoes practically all year. I haven't gotten them for him because it's excessive, I feel. So for Christmas, yes, we spend a lot and get them what they really want, within reason and not EVERYTHING they want. Also, I do try to make it "fair". Not really the dollar amount, but the number of gifts and "like" items. So my husband will get the PS from Santa so the kids don't each say, "it's mine", and they will get the games for it from Santa. They will each get the bike or something like it, like the scooter. And some clothes they need, and smaller things for their stocking. My husband and I don't have a large family, it's really only my mom we buy for and each other. This year, we have a couple weekend trips we're going on so not spending a lot on each other. He always gets me a nice piece of jewelry, no matter what and I got him a family collage on a canvase.



answers from Louisville on

I lose my mind and all sense of financial responsibility at Christmas. Thank god I've only got 1 kid, and that this year I got a huge refund from my hsa and the dentist. πŸ˜„

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