What Real Moms Spend on Gifts During the Holidays

Colleen Oakley

The most wonderful time of the year? Not for your checking account.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average holiday shopper spends $750 on gifts and décor at Christmas time. But where do they get the extra dough? And how do they make it a Merry Christmas for everyone on their nice list, while also sticking to a budget?

We asked five real moms to dish about how they get the biggest bang for their buck during the holidays–without breaking the bank.

Maureen in New York, NY

My holiday budget: $800

Who I buy for: My husband, daughter, father, sister, four brothers and their families

How I save: This year, on top of my full-time job as a magazine editor, I took a side gig teaching a 6-week writing class specifically to cover holiday expenses. I really don’t like teaching, but the fee made the effort worth it.

My daughter is 5, and her list is very specific—she wants every Lalaloopsy doll ever made. The dolls are available in limited batches (not to be produced again), which has actually been helpful with budgeting–I’ve been picking up a doll or accessory once per month for the last couple of months. She’ll probably get five of them at about $25 each, plus some roller skates. My husband wants the iPad mini.

For the remainder of my family, I’ll probably send gift baskets: cookies, coffee, etc. The only part that’s been tough is that my daughter still believes in Santa Claus (who does not have to worry about a budget apparently), so she has filled her list all the way down the page. I told her Santa only has so much room in his bag, so he can’t bring her everything she asks for. The lies!

RELATED: Money Mic – Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Believe in Santa

Trina in San Francisco, CA

My holiday budget: $500

Who I buy for: My two kids, my husband, my entire family on my in-laws’ side (from grandparents down to cousins), my parents and one out of my six siblings (we draw names)

How I save: Each year, I make a list of people we need to buy for with an estimate of the amount I’d like to spend. At night, after the kids are in bed, I shop Etsy.com and online sales—I won’t even open an e-mail from a big brand store unless it’s 30% off or more.

RELATED: How Much Should You Spend on Holiday Gifts for Kids?

Pinterest has been an amazing inspiration for DIY gifts, which I think are the best (also check out 20 Cheap and Easy DIY Holiday Gifts). The kids and I have craft day every Saturday–we paint mattes for photo frames, craft necklaces and make holiday cards. They feel so proud to give something they made, and everyone loves it! But my big trick for saving money is buying before mid-December. It’s always in the last minute panic that I overspend.

  • Lchristner

    Budget: $600.  I buy for my husband and 2 kids.  We draw names for my family (4 gifts total) and my husband’s family (4 gifts total).  Limits are set at $25 per person, so it helps with everyone’s budgets and makes you become very creative on that budget.  We draw names early in the year so i have all year to look for gifts for people. I find it easier to buy throughout the year rather than panic at the last minute.  We also like to make gifts.  Para cord bracelet, anyone?