Do You Put a Limits on Your Child's Xmas Wish List?

Updated on November 13, 2011
C.M. asks from Bartlett, IL
23 answers

Just wondering if you are "realistic" with your child about their Christmas list or if you let them dream.

My stepdaughter is 10 and in the past she didn't want so many expensive things! Now that she's getting older, the gifts she wants are more expensive. Nothing on her list is under $30, many of the items are over $100 and some even over $200 and $300!

We usually spend maybe $200 on her, she gets one big gift and several smaller ones. The past 2 years her big gift was an American Girl Doll so then she got a few smaller things. She also gets one expensive gift from her mom (usually around $100) and then many nice gifts from her grandparents and great grandparents. Great-Grandparents usually don't spend as much as they live on fixed incomes, and the grandparents may spend up to $50.

I think she's old enough to look at price tags and know that she won't get 10 things that are over $100, and that she should narrow down the list to what she *really* wants of the expensive gifts and then put on a bunch of things that are less expensive or just expect that the Grandparents will buy her whatever they want.

She also put on several things that were over $250. I feel that we should let her know that she won't be getting anything that expensive. My parents did this with us kids, we knew our parents weren't rich and that we could *want* the expensive gifts but we weren't getting them!

My husband said Christmas is for wishing and dreaming and to let her put whatever she wants on her list.

I see both sides. What do you do?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the suggestions! This is the last year for Santa for her, and the only reason is because she's home schooled. Next year she'll know for sure that what she gets is what we can afford.

For some reason she is the type of child that is SURE that something is going to go a certain way and is EXTREMELY disappointed if it doesn't go that way. She will work herself up, last year she was SURE she was getting an iTouch and was disappointed when she didn't get one. No one ever said she would get one but she thought Santa would bring her one.

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answers from Chicago on

I say to my kid...wish for what ever you want...dream big....but know that santa will choose an appropriate gift that mom and dad would approve of.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I always tell my kids to put whatever they really want on their lists. What I find interesting is my kids pretty much always include things they NEED too (jeans, shirts, socks, etc etc). They all know the value of a dollar and know that if they have several items that are REALLY expensive on their list the chances of them getting all of them are zero.

They usually get one really expensive gift (but even that has a price limit) and some smaller less expensive gifts. And that will be especially true this year, finances are a little tighter with two of us in college, and us having to foot the entire bill for my son's tuition and books, as well as all my books.

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answers from Beaumont on

Yes, they have price limits. My 10 and 11 yr. old are only getting 2 presents each plus some small stocking stuffers because what they wanted was expensive. They know that they have 2 each so they're "prepared". It's disappointing to me to but you can only do what you can do.

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answers from Charlotte on

It's time for a talk with her about money, and how it doesn't grow on trees. It's fine to put stuff on her list that she wants, but she should realize that she doesn't get everything she wants.

Keep with your current spending habits for her Christmas. Wishing and dreaming are fine, but you "keeping it real" is important.

I do think that sharing her wish list with the family is a good idea.


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answers from Springfield on

We let them put whatever they want on their list, but they know that Santa is on a budget and has lots of kids to deliver toys to. They put "x"s next to the things they really want, but they know they get what Santa can get them, especially after he delivers toys to needy little kids who don't have two parents and aren't as fortunate as they are. =)

Our kids also must donate some of the great condition toys they no longer play with before Santa will visit. Our kids also get "used" items and have no issue with it.

Merry Christmas!! Have fun!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

From the get go I explain to my kids how much things are & how much mommy has to spend on shopping trips now I take that lesson & teach them that during the holidays.I also tell my son who is 8 that there is no need for such an expensive item that is made for an adult he can save for it if he really wants it,to me an ipod,kindle whatever it is a child doesn't need that if I have it great they will be allowed to play with it but since I don't need/want it I will not purchase it.They have circled almost every toy in the catalogs but as a reminder I tell them great but there are many children in this world who "santa"delivers to & he also runs out of money.They are still to young yet to know that "santa"isn't real I will not spoil the magic or the true meaning of Christmas for them it is a special time of year.
This year I have a list of items wanted then a list of items needed I plan to do practical items it is time to buy new jeans,winter clothing,& add in a few smaller gifts but 2 big toys from "santa" for each of them & stockings are always from "santa".Every year I buy too much & it takes them forever to open then they are tired of opening them.

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answers from Biloxi on

I began letting my son go through the Toys R Us Big book at a very early and mark off things that interested him....he could assign them as must haves all the way down to interesting. BUT, I also gave him a price limit of overall value - I never spend more than $300 on him for Christmas, and most years are actually at $200.

So he knew he could dream all he wanted, but by letting him know up front what my price tag limit was he learned to really consider what he wanted. Some things he put off until his birthday (thankfully 6 months after Christmas) and the things he really wanted stayed on the list. He did always pick out several lower priced items for ideas for family when they asked me what to give him.

I did always have Santa surprise him with one item from the list that I had already nixed. Or, he made a separate list for Santa - that also had a price limit....after all, Santa has to keep a budget also since so many toys are too complicated for the elves to make in the workshop - they have to go shopping also. ;)

This system works for us - it kept his expectations within reality and got rid of Christmas morning disappointment.

I say, at 10 your daughter is old enough to begin understanding a price limit and more realistic expectations of Christmas.

Merry Merry

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I say that being realistic with her is doing her a favor. I don't have to do it with my little guy yet, he'll be 2 and 8 months at Christmas, and whatever he receives will make him happy. With my daughter by this age I let her know she should put down the things she wanted the most and would be happy with, and if there was something she absolutely wanted to let me know. She knew she'd get a big item and other smaller ones from me. Grandparents always gave her something as well so she more than often received the top two items she really, truly wanted. And because her birthday was in June she would usually get the extra items then (if she still wanted them) and was fine with that.

It's fun to dream and I believe we should all be encouraged to dream, but to set a child up to expect everything on their list is setting them up for extreme disappointment when they don't receive it all on Christmas morning. Case in point, my father, in his 80's, still remembers how his mother told him and his brothers that if they "were good, Santa will bring you something." He said he was very good, and there was nothing on Christmas. He said had she been honest and told them there might not be any money to buy them something (it was the Depression) he would have been prepared, but instead he has carried the disappointment with him for nearly 80 years. One of his brothers also was disappointed and couldn't let it go, his first Christmas as a married man at 19 he went out and bought himself a teddy bear and put it under the tree because he didn't get one as a 5 year old.

So I'm all for wishful thinking and dreaming as your husband is for, tempered with some reality. It will make for a happier child : )

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answers from St. Louis on

At ten they should know there is no Santa. I have told my kids this is the budget. I usually go over but at least I am not taking a huge list and trying to figure out which are more important than others. Every time I have done that I pick wrong. :(

My kids have been very happy with one gift only if it is the gift they wanted. There have been times they wanted something so big we bought it with my parents. They don't care because they got something they really wanted instead of a bunch of crappy stuff just to fill the tree.

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answers from Dayton on

I put limits.
Because if I didn't I would have major problems on my hands.
But my DD is only 6.
My case and point...for her birthday she wanted the AG doll, Kit.
Now I have had Kit hidden away for years...but she was not brand new. So we bought a trunk to put her in to give to DD.
Too big to wrap-hid it in our room. All the presents are opened...and DD is looking around and getting really upset.
So-there is no misleading going on in our house.
I'm not saying you ARE misleading, but it is hard to really pine for something and not get it.
I know it would have upset me as a child.
Now as an adult...I'm used to the disappointment. ;)
As long as you state clearly to SD that she can't possibly get everything on her list...I think you're good. :)

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answers from Austin on

She does not still believe in Santa does she?

If not you can be very honest that Christmas is not a free for all. That you have a budget and even though you would love to give her everything she wants, you just cannot afford it.

We were always honest about our financial situation and our daughter knew how much things cost. She would have a wish list and if we were asked by relatives what she wanted, we told them she was saving up for... whatever the item was.. Sometimes, they gave her money and sometimes, they just gave her what they wanted to give her.

IF she still believes in Santa, you can let her know that even Santa has a limit, because he gives gifts to all children. We do not want to look greedy.

I just do not think it is healthy for children to really expect to get all of the things they wish for. Instead they need to learn to prioritize and not forget the meaning of Christmas. It is not about the presents under the tree.

You all should consider adopting a family in need and actually delivering it to the family. Your daughter will understand how fortunate she already is.

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answers from Tampa on

My kids know that it is a WISH list, and that they are not going to get everything on their lists. We do ask them to put a star next to their top 3 choices, and if all 3 are high priced items, I would ask them to pick a few items that are not so expensive in case we had a friend or relative ask us for ideas. (they know when someone asks for gift ideas you should always give low cost ideas and not ask for the high priced items)
Also, we added a new twist to their list a couple years ago. We had them write a few ideas of things they would like to do, or places they would like to go and with who. (for example out to lunch with just me and Mom) We also have them put on their list 1 or 2 places that they would like to donate their outgrown clothes and old toys to this year. (church group, a family they know, salvation army, the local woman's shelter, etc) Then we go through their toys and clothes together, and pack them up on a weekend day when we have some extra time. I have the kids come with me to see where the stuff is going. Sometimes they get to meet the people, and other times they don't. At least we get the rooms cleared out a little, and they are learning to help others and share. One last thing we added to their wish list a few years ago, is on the back, they make a list of who they want to GIVE to this year. Then they make a list of gift ideas, some they can make and some they want to buy with their saved money. They ALWAYS have a MUCH longer list of who they are giving to than their want list. I really hope that means something..................

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answers from Providence on

My mother never really had us make up a list of things we wanted for christmas. When we were teens, my brother and I were into music, so we would let her know what CD we would like,etc. Usually, for our birthdays she would ask us what we really would like to get. Most often enough, the birthday gifts were the most expensive. Christmas, was usually gifts of surprise, and we loved it.

Now, with my son, I have to ask for a list now. His birthday is in december, so it is a double wammy for us. Most often we give one big gift for his birthday, and one for christmas. The other gifts are less expensive, and he likes them just as much. Both my husband's family and mine are big into getting him gifts, so it makes it easy to do a list. I do tell him that sometimes even though you may want something, you may not always get it. He asked for a DS, and I already told him not to expect one. That way he won't be disappointed.

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answers from St. Louis on

It's a Wish List!

It's an acknowledgement of their dreams!

& then it's a reality check....which we always talk about. I also am clear in setting rules...."as big & as little as you can wish for". My sons always made sure that they had a doable list.....

I hate how electronics can spoil a budget....& yet, our son's last "basic 12speed" bicycle from WalMart was almost $200!

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answers from San Francisco on

My 9 yo put an Apple laptop on her list this year. Umm, not happening. I told her that Mommy and Daddy can't afford an Apple laptop to which she replied, "maybe Santa will bring me one". I love her spirit and enthusiam so all I could say was "maybe". Her older sister chimed in with a big fat dose of reality with "haa haa Santa's not bringing you a laptop". I subtly let them know what's realistic and what's not and I ask them to rank their list when I get close to going shopping. She also asked for a bird or a lizard. That's REALLY not happening!


answers from Jacksonville on

We have always talked about the value and cost of things. All year long, not just at Christmas time. My kids know that you can get a deal spending a lot of money (for a very good quality item that will provide lots of use and enjoyment) and that you can waste money by spending only a little (on something cheap that breaks immediately or is no fun or interest after using it just a few times). I discuss with them the information I am using when I consider making larger purchases. I even took my 12 year old son with me when I bought a sofa set earlier this year. I really liked the white one the best. And the price was the same. But the brownish one was much more practical, b/c even though I loved the white one, it would be stained and look yucky after just a short time (kids and a dog, need I say more?). So over their lifetimes they are learning to process "value".

I don't have to put limits on their wishlists.. they know they aren't getting a car. Or a pony. Or a treehouse. Or a cellphone. An electric scooter? Yeah... Dad made a bargain if you do "x", you'd get one for Xmas. Done. An ipod? Hmmm.. they're pricey and something that has to be taken care of. You wouldn't get both an iPod AND a PSP..... etc.

Here are what my kids have been clamoring for so far the past few months: new bathrobes (they have both outgrown theirs), a snuggie (!! eyeroll) and my 10 yr old REALLLLLLLLY wants a Kindle. She also wants a BB gun, and a red gi (karate uniform).

I think that a few comments here or there should be all that is necessary to let in a little slice of reality for your SD. "Wow, all that, huh? Well, that is a lot of expensive stuff.... what if you were only able to choose ONE of those?" You don't have to say "You will only get one." You can just throw out some 'what if' scenarios to get her thinking....
She may also not have a good grasp on reality b/c of being in a split family. Have her mom and dad or grands ever played the "I'll be the favorite by buying _____ for her"?



answers from Amarillo on

Wishlists are wishlists. When you were able to have Christmas catalogs I would give each kid a different colored crayon and let them go to town and mark what they thought they wanted.

A day or two later with dad's help we would go over the list and pick items we thought would be a good fit for them. We had a limit of x dollar per child and we would try to give them one of the expenisve items listed. My son always wanted to biggest and most costliest and would get upset that sister had "more" gifts even though it was the same amount of money.

Let your daughter know that you are looking into the items requested but get her one of the larger items. She is going to have to learn that we can't always get what we want. Because if you give her these items now she may want a Ferrari later and I know that is not going to happen. Don't set her up in the world to "expect" the most expensive of everything. Let he know that we are appreciative of what we do get. There were things I wanted as a child that I never got and I asked for them for several years in a way to no avail. I can get them now but they take up too much space (a trainset).

Put some of that money away toward a trip or a special present for being a good student with good grades a good incentive other than just wanting.

Good luck and have a happy holiday.

The other S.

PS Whatever you do, don't go into debt over the gifts. We Americans tend to have too much stuff that we have to put up.



answers from Atlanta on

My kids start makeing their christmas lists in the summer. lol. Christmas is the time of year that every kid look forward to. I agree with your hubby, let her dream! Youre only a kid once. Ask her which ones she want the most and then just get her what you can. She will be happy regardless. The older they get, the more expensive they get. When my kids give me a list full of expensive stuff I say something like, "Wow, you have alot of high priced things on here this year., Well we'lll see"


answers from Orlando on

We try to but go over it. Especilly this year we have decided to get him whatever his little heart desires! This will be his last christmas as an only child so we know after this he won't get all he wants. Luckily for us he doest want to many super expensive things, other then a scooter.



answers from Washington DC on

Wish lists are that - WISH lists. They are not gimme lists or demand lists. They can put the moon on the list and I'll buy what I feel is appropriate or what we can afford. You can still tell her that the $250 items are unlikely (my SD was putting "laptop" on her lists since she was 12) but I'd let her dream, as long as she knows it's a WISH/dream list. You can ask her to prioritize the list. One year for SD's birthday, we got her ONE big thing and that was about all she got. She understood that the one thing = about 15 small things.

My SS will give us ideas, but he's said he doesn't want just what's on the list. So that makes it even harder in some ways because he's so hard to shop for as it is!



answers from Dallas on

I've always let my kids put whatever they want on the list - but then will ask them to mark their top 5 or 10 - or something like that. To me, that is a good life lesson that you don't always get what you want, and gives them something to work toward with chores/allowance/gift money.



answers from Philadelphia on

I think it is fine to let her dream. She can number everything in the order of how bad she wants it. Then you can tell her that she is not going to get everything. Let her know that you still want her to fill her list. I let my kids go crazy on their list. The older two know that we have a 500.00 a kid budget. The younger two think that Santa only picks the things that he can make or wants them to have. My husband and i choose to spend this much at christmas. We dont buy them much during the year. We wanted them to get most of what they needed with some fun items from santa. Not saying that this is right or wrong. Just us. Merry Christmas :)

Jo W. I dont agree with you. My 3rd child will be ten and she still believes in Santa. My oldest found out when she was 12 on christmas eve. She was devastated. There is nothing wrong with letting them believe. Children are forced to grow up so fast these days. I would never want to ruin the magic/innocence (forgive my spelling) for them :(



answers from New York on

I always have my kids (teens) write their letter to Santa including a long list of what they would like, indicating what they would like the most. They know they will not get everything on the list. However, this gives me and others shopping for them ideas. A few years ago the girls got laptops. It was a gift from parents and grandparents. Another year it was ipods, the ipods were from us and the accessories from their aunt.

Let her make her list regardless of the prices. She's still a little young to fully understand the price and value of an item.

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