What Real Moms Spend on Gifts During the Holidays

Colleen Oakley

Deanna in Winston-Salem, NC

My holiday budget: $1,000

Who I buy for: My husband, two sons, my parents, my in-laws and one gift for someone on my husband’s side of the family (we draw names)

How I save: Each month this year I’ve set aside about $75 to put in my fund for Christmas. I also add in some money along the way, such as from a tax refund, a bonus check, etc. Then I start shopping the week after Thanksgiving (not Black Friday—I hate dealing with the crowds). I scour sales ads, and I’ll go to several stores if need be to get the best prices.

I also make presents, like knitting a scarf, because I enjoy putting my time and love into a present instead of a lot of money. Those presents have been more special for me to give than a store bought one.

Shannon in Atlanta, GA

My holiday budget: $400

Who I buy for: My two kids, my husband, my parents, two siblings, in-laws and a few other family members and friends

How I save: This year, I’m spending even less than most because my husband was out of work for about a month. Because of this, I started looking for deals earlier in the year. If I saw something that I knew I could use for a gift, and it was a good price, I bought it. I do lots of shopping at places like Marshalls and TJMaxx. It’s amazing how you can find the exact same stuff that is currently in other stores for less money.

Thrift stores are another good option. You can find some great things (vintage, antique or even brand new with tags) for just a few dollars. It’s almost like a game to see what you can find. My mom, my brother and I have no shame in giving each other thrift-store gifts. We’ve all gotten some nice presents that we couldn’t have found otherwise.

Erin in Sheridan, CO

My holiday budget: $700

Who I buy for: My husband, two daughters, parents, in-laws, four nieces and nephews, great grandparents, two to three close friends and approximately three gifts for holiday parties and colleagues

How I save: My husband and I sit down at the beginning of the holiday season and discuss realistically how much we think is appropriate to spend. However, even though we agree on a set amount, we tend to go over. Things come up, and the spirit of the season can take over. For example, my husband will go to Costco for groceries and come back with a $30 toy that was just “too cool” to pass up. I am known for buying gifts for people we didn’t really plan on, which can also impact our budget.

RELATED: Why I Withhold Gifts From My Kids

Fortunately, my kids are young enough that I don’t really have to worry about lowering their expectations. I can often tell my 2-year-old daughter that she “may” get that toy for Christmas, and then she quickly moves on. The hard part is meeting expectations for me and my husband. We always start off saying, “Let’s just get each other an ornament or something under $50.” However, we tend to feel like that isn’t enough and make last-second decisions to spend more. This year, we are really going to try and stick to the budget by using cash for holiday shopping. Once the cash is gone, we are done shopping. Using the card can be dangerous!

  • 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?