Elementary Age Kids - How Much Do You Spend?

Updated on November 23, 2015
C.T. asks from Red River, NM
20 answers

Hello all, I always wonder each year what other people do for Christmas. If you have elementary aged kids how much do you spend per kid on Christmas presents. I have one kindergarten age girl and one 6th grade boy. So, one wants little kid gifts and one wishes for electronics and video games. I'm just curious what other families budget per child. And how many gifts your children open Christmas morning? Our kids usually get a stocking, a couple santa gifts, and 3-4 gifts from us parents. They always get a book and some clothing item they need. This year they are both asking for something big (as in the $70 range). I see some friends buying their kids ipads, tablets, and even a laptop. I see some friends who buy their kindergartener those $200 American Girl dolls. We don't do this kind of extravagance...we pretty much live off one income also so I try to be a bit frugal. Also, I don't want our kids to expect piles of gifts and get greedy about it. I try to get them into the spirit of giving every year and make sure they have something they made to give to each person. Anyway...I'd love to hear how you budget for Christmas gifts for your kids. I'm just interested in what "normal" is. Thanks!

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So What Happened?

I ask because my husband's family is not into the gift thing. His dad is super super frugal. So he grew up getting one or two small gifts. Really small. So I wonder each year if I'm being too extravagant. I don't think so...I think my husband's family is outside the norm. Then I wonder if I'm holding back too much. ha. I just do what feels right to me, but I always wonder. We do have a BIG family gift some years...like getting the XBox or another year the ipad. This year we don't really need something that big. The kids also get gifts from grandparents and other family...they are always very happy so really that is what counts.

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answers from Amarillo on

ETA: When my kids were little, the department stores would have "wishlist" books for kids with the toys. I would give each child a colored crayon and let them have at it. They would mark the items they wanted and we would go through the books and make up a list of what we could afford to get them. They were very happy with what they got as they didn't know what it would be.

Original: When my kids were little we would come up with a budget for Christmas. Sometimes one got more gifts than the other but the end amount was the same. The older one would complain that the younger "got" more gifts than the other. We would explain that the older one wanted something that was big and the other didn't care what they got. So it was usually settled. Sometimes we would get a few smaller things for him to fill in a few holes.

Its just the way it is. Go with what you can afford and be done. Don't go into debt over the holidays just to keep up appearances. Only you know what you can get.

Have a good holiday season.

the other S.

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answers from Atlanta on

We are fortunate enough to not need a strict budget. So instead of dollar amounts, I tend to budget in quantity. They each get 1 gift from Santa, 1 gift from mom and dad, and 1 gift from each of their 3 siblings - total of 5 gifts. Plus 2-3 small things (candy, pokemon cards, shopkins, etc) in a stocking. In addition, they each get 1 gift from my parents and 1 gift from my brother. My husbands mother does more than 1 (but she works off more of a budget than quantity). I also help them revise wish lists - for example DS 8 is not getting the $350 power wheels he wanted, mainly because we have no where to store it and don't have the yard for it. One year, the oldest wanted an ipod and the youngest wanted a Duplo set. Monetarily, it was very skewed. But everyone was happy because they each got the 5 gifts they had hoped for.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

What we do is a little unusual. My kids love Lego. Really expensive, complex, takes-six-weeks-to-build Lego sets. For the last couple of years, they have come to me with a proposal. They choose one huge, pricey set, agree on a division of minifigures and a building plan, and ask for it for Christmas. It is the only present they will get. So I spend about $350 for both kids together, and they get the mammoth set that they would have trouble ever affording on their own.

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answers from Norfolk on

With one son, two working parents and one doting grandparent - our son does fairly well at birthday and Christmas time.
He gets $200 for books and archery supplies/equipment.
He usually gets an expensive Lego set, clothes, a little candy, small tools, flash lights (some for reading), some science kits, etc.
Some years he needs taekwondo equipment (weapons (staff, kendo stick, sword, nunchucks) and/or sparring gear).

We try not to spoil but it's tough not to - he's a good kid, keeps up with his chores and grades (straight A's all the way) - we feel his good behavior has earned him some spoiling.
We don't get him ATVs, go carts, dirt bikes, etc - and some parents do give things like that.

My niece on the other hand traditionally gets an entire toy store every year (I'm serious - they take DAYS to open everything) and her behavior is less than thrilling.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I don't really have a set limit on what we spend. There is usually one bigger gift, and sometimes it is a shared gift, such as a game system. They get stockings with lots of practical things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, chapstick, as well as a few treats like a Lego Minifigure, small gift cards, earbuds and some candy.. They get lots of gifts to open, usually a video game, a book, pj's, some clothes they might need, socks, underwear, mitts/gloves etc. I buy things all year to save a Christmas gifts. Most of what they do get for Christmas are things they need and we would have bought anyway, we just save them for Christmas presents because it is more fun opening a gift. I think they appreciate things like a brand new pack of socks more when they are presented as a gift than if they just appear in the sock drawer one day.

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answers from Chicago on

It really depends. This year I'm buying my son the lego's WeDo kit. It costs over 200. Since we homeschool, I see this as his curriculum. He also wants the lego's imaginic game for PlayStation. I haven't decided yet if Santa will be bringing it. In contrast, I doubt I'll even spend 50 on my toddler, and my oldest is getting a video game and a kids pottery wheel-again, an item I see as part of her curriculum. So I might blow 300 on my son, 125 on my oldest and 50 on my toddler. In my head, I budget about 200 per kid, but it's really about providing for each in a manner that makes them happy. So i do equal numbers of gifts, not amounts.

For me, though, Xmas morning is about piles of presents and the magic and wonder of the gift giving and receiving.

My children will each pick 3-5 toys to donate, and we've already taken a giant load of food to the pantry-and I wrote a big check too. We also trick or treated for unisef. We spend a lot of time talking about how privileged they are living in such a wealthy country. My oldest and her dad were talking about cheap Chinese labor last night and how their daily pay compares to her weekly allowance. It's this stuff that matters, not Xmas presents. We live in a small house, hubby and I rarely hire out labor for things. We live simply.

I'm with J. s on this. Xmas doesn't matter. It's how you live daily that shapes and models attitudes towards the world. Since the Lego WeDo kit is expensive, I insist that it's a special gift, not just something purchased as curriculum. This is way more frugal than me signing him up for classes, btw. I'd rather buy the materials for our home then spend 100 a month on a class.

I don't think there is a normal on this one. Different families, different incomes and needs. I grew up getting about 200 worth of stuff. To me, this is normal. I didn't get stuff the rest of the year, so Christmas was when my wishes I came true, and I want my kids to experience the same thing. So they get socks and undies, alarm clocks, and then one big item.

I love Christmas morning. I love seeing piles of presents and big smiles as people unwrap gifts. We also make a lot of gifts. My kid LOVE gift giving, just as much as they love receiving.

But yes, 3 gifts from Santa, and 3-5 from us. I then do 2-3 family games from Santa. That's what I usually aim for, and cost depends on what they want. That's my formula.

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answers from Detroit on

my husband is jewish and i have an only child that gets both chanukah and christmas. i limit the chanukah gifts to 4, even though there are 8 nights he opens one every other one. as for christmas? it depends.....we have a small family and decided some years ago to no longer buy for the adults so i have a little more leeway (sp) for that one. maybe 3-4 gifts. he always gets a book and every year i get him special chanukah socks because everyone needs new socks....he hates it and i just laugh and laugh....okay so he doesn't hate it but he's never as amused as i am. happy holidays........chanukah starts on 12/6. not sure if it easier when they overlap or when they don't.......... S

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answers from Washington DC on

My budget depends on what I've spent that year on whatever, what my income has been and what deals I've been able to get. Some years have been very lean. This one will probably be better BUT I've also decided that too many things means she doesn't appreciate what she gets/is overwhelmed, so we have pared down since she was a toddler. My DD's ipad for her birthday was purchased used off a friend who was upgrading. I got it super cheap or she wouldn't have one. I already told people not to buy DD an AG doll she will not play with.

I think you should not let other people define your "normal" and buy what you can/want/think is appropriate for your child. I grew up with very little. We appreciated what we got, and some years we only had "Christmas" due to the generosity of my grandmother's friends.

FWIW, I already just gave DD the "it's been a tough year - don't expect or ask for really big things from people" without getting into how so and so was laid off.

Something we do is we put the gifts to OTHERS under the tree so she sees the spirit of giving. She sees very little of her own presents til Christmas morning.

If they are both asking for something big, do they understand that big ticket items means fewer individual items? My SS was into video games when his sister was into Barbie. He understood that his games cost more so he opened fewer individual items.

ETA: If you think you are holding back too much and your DH thinks 4 gifts is too many, have more discussions between you. IMO, it sounds like you have a good compromise there between a mountain and an empty stocking. It sounds like it's not about money but meaning, and there are a lot of ways to apply meaning to the holidays.

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answers from Phoenix on

I focus more on equal numbers of gifts than equal dollar amounts spent. Usually, everyone gets one larger, more expensive gift (around $75-$100) and about 6 or so smaller items, plus stocking stuffers. I aim for about $200-$250 per, but that's just ballpark. One kid goes over, others are under.
This year, we just got back from Disneyland 2 weeks ago. The big kids (6.5 & 4.5) knew that we decided to go ahead with the trip despite a large work job not paying out as planned, in lieu of a big Christmas. They each got souveniers, a Disney shirt, new ears, and all the usual splurges in the parks. They understand that the trip was their big present this year and that Hanukkah and Christmas will smaller and fewer gifts than previous years.

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answers from Washington DC on

our normal was much like yours. a big ol' stocking, a big santa gift (or a couple of smaller ones) and a couple of gifts from us. books and clothing were generally part of it.
my kids were little a couple of decades ago so the dollar amounts aren't really applicable. by today's dollars we'd spend about $200 total on their wrapped gifts, but the stockings would push that total higher.

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answers from Lakeland on

This is never easy in our home since the kids are 8 years apart and my husband and I never seem to agree. In the past we usually get each kid one large gift that they have asked for and we have never spent the same for each one.

I wouldn't change what you are doing, just ask the kids for a list and go from there.

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answers from Springfield on

My boys are 6 and 9, and they are usually so focused on their own presents that they don't notice what the other one got. They don't compare.

I do try to keep so that neither one could look at their brother's presents and say it wasn't fair. But the amount of money spent on each shows how an adult would compare, not how a child would compare.

My brother has 2 girls who both have American Girl Dolls. Both girls received it for a birthday. They were given a choice. They could have a birthday party with their friends, or they could spend a day in St. Louis or Chicago and buy a doll.

So, if your child is asking for something that you consider to be very pricey, maybe make it clear to them that this is an option but it would be the only present or they would receive less presents or something like that.

You have to do what you are comfortable with. I know my oldest will probably get some clothes this year, but that's because he's starting to want Columbia and Under Armor and that stuff is not cheap!

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answers from Jacksonville on

Wow..we have one child. This year we're spending around $500. She doesn't get toys and stuff throughout the year, so I don't think this is excessive. I pay cash and it's within our means, so I don't feel bad. She's getting a bike, an iPhone that is a hand me down, but it's in perfect condition, an otter box case for it, clothes, a racetrack car thing that she wants, and a few other small things. If she wasn't an only child, she'd definitely get least!


Wow..we have one child. This year we're spending around $500. She doesn't get toys and stuff throughout the year, so I don't think this is excessive. I pay cash and it's within our means, so I don't feel bad. She's getting a bike, an iPhone that is a hand me down, but it's in perfect condition, an otter box case for it, clothes, a racetrack car thing that she wants, and a few other small things. If she wasn't an only child, she'd definitely get less!

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answers from Washington DC on

DS (9) is an only child which I think makes a difference. If we had more kids, we might spend less per kid than we do on just one.
Anyway: he gets a stocking with one large-ish thing from Santa, 1 primary gift from us or 1 from each of us depending on the year, plus a couple of clothes type things he needs. Total is probably $200-ish depending on the year. Last year he got a mountain bike as his one big gift so that was pricier. Year before he got all new snow stuff (coat, hat, gloves, boots) and Santa brought a new plastic sled... slightly expensive but not super indulgent because he needed them. Before that SO got him a character alarm clock and I got him a board game he wanted, Santa gift was a yoyo... so total was around $100. He hasn't asked for anything yet this year, so who knows.

It doesn't matter what's normal. Decide what is comfortable to you and your DH and then stick to that. The only thing that is "typical" is trying to make it a happy time for kids... in whatever way feels right to you.

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answers from Portland on

What matters to me is that it fits into our budget and is something our son will use. He's 8 right now. I don't think we've ever gone over $100 for gifts for him (this includes stocking stuffers). Usually one 'bigger' gift (snap circuit set or a scooter, for example) and some smaller ones (there's a set of books he wants this year; maybe a smaller Lego set, and he's asked for a wall clock)..... We aren't extravagant at our house. And we both (husband and self) include him in choosing presents for the other parent; this year we'll also have him pick out a gift to donate, too. I think involving him in the purchasing for others provides some balance.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I never had a specific amount, nor did I try to make sure I spent the same amount on each kid. I went according to what I could afford.
My stepkids' and my kid's ages ranged across ten years. they didn't want the same things and the things they wanted didn't all cost the same. While I didn't spend $5 on one and $500 on another, but if I spent $20-50 more or less on one than the other, I didn't sweat it.


answers from St. Louis on

I don't understand when people analyze Christmas to this level. You cannot make or guide your child's morality or self esteem via Christmas gifts. Kids live in the moment and take their gifts that way. They don't think globally like I got more or less than Jimmy down the street. They don't worry that Jimmy got less than them. They take their toys and play. So not really sure why you wrap up some clothes just to increase the volume of gifts under the tree unless you are especially concerned with honing your child's acting skills. "Oh my god mom!! thanks for the new jeans!!"

So to the question there have been Christmases where they have come to find one box for two kids with two really small boxes one each. You want a video game system you are done, be happy with a game for each of you! Ya know what? They were completely thrilled on those years because they got what they really wanted more than anything else in the world.

Some years I had extra money in the budget so I bought filler, what a waste! Meant nothing to them, it was me over thinking Christmas. It isn't the unwrapping that is fun, it is the end result. Normal is what you can afford and what they want and trying to find a meeting of the minds. Normal has nothing to do with anyone else.

Oh and also don't get the some gifts from Santa, some from parents. I am willing to bet the house that if Pew did a survey of kids Christmas morning not one would be able to them how many of what gifts were from who. They could only say they got this, and perhaps that, and that filler they don't recall. My oldest is 27, I still give him 200 dollars cash in a card signed Santa. When he has kids that will stop but for now he still gets the fun.


answers from Washington DC on

On this site, my husband and I are ridiculous because we spend way more. In our neighborhood and with friends we have, we spend WAY less. So I don't get the disconnect, but every year when this question comes out I'm always confused.

We spend a lot more than what I'm seeing on here, always have an always will. I don't understand how kids today are walking around with things like the newest iPhones, name brand clothing/shoes, driving cars, nicest technology and gaming systems, etc if they don't get them as gifts.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Last year we didn't spend anything. My granddaughter wanted a computer and my father in law had just bought a new one so he removed all his programs and personal stuff and we gave it to her.

This year we spent maybe $50 on each kiddo.


answers from Seattle on

I make sure that we can pay our bills first.
I do NOT use a credit card....in fact we don't even own one. So everything is paid in cash.
Which sometimes means ..... ok...ALWAYS means....that my kids get less then a lot of kids out there!
I think that I average about $150 per kid. I have 3 kids. BUT, every other year before we have purchased gifts for each of my siblings AND their spouses and my parents and we send $$ to my husband's family. THIS year....no buying gifts for the siblings...hallelujiah. They all have more money then us and it has always been VERY hard for us. My husband and I never get each other anything more then $50 at Christmas. So...maybe this year the kids will get more!

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