Christmas Budget Reality Check

Christmas Budget Reality Check

I started the holiday shopping season with $1,000 in my pocket. I had $1,000 Christmas budget for the entirely of my shopping list, including:

  • 5 teachers
  • 4 grandparents
  • 3 coaches
  • 2 children
  • 1 partridge in a pear tree husband

When I first started out, I thought my Christmas budget was more than comfortable (I’d been setting aside $100 during each of the first 10 months of the year). $1,000 is a lot of money! I made sure to follow my 5 rules of holiday shopping: trimming my list, comparison shopping, and instituting a December 10th cut-off date, to ensure I didn’t have to pay trumped up shipping prices to get presents to out-of-town family.

So how do I do? Let’s do a holiday shopping reality check:

The Important People in my Kids’ Lives

This is the first year both of my kids are in school and partaking in extracurricular activities.

Between the 2 of them, I bought presents for 3 in-classroom teachers, my daughter’s dance teacher, her acting teacher, and their swim coaches/teachers. I know I didn’t have to buy presents for these people, but the fact is, they are important to my kids, which makes them important to me. After all, I’d budgeted with the intent to buy for them.

  • Classroom teachers (3) received a $10 Starbucks gift card and a full-sized Yankee candle that I got for 50% with a Buy 1, Get 1 coupon. Total per teacher: $23.50
  • My daughter’s dance and acting teachers each got the full-sized Yankee candle, purchased again with that coupon. Total per teacher: $13.50
  • Swim coaches each got a $10 Starbucks gift card; I loved the “monogrammed” cards Starbucks had this year, as it made the gift feel much more personal. Total per coach: $10

When all was said and done, I’d spent $100.50 for individuals in this category.

Family and “Like” Family

My husband and I always buy for his parents; it’s a group gift from his brothers and sisters, while for my parents, it’s just me (only child and all). In addition, we did a name swap for my nieces and nephews; instead of buying for all 7, we only bought gifts for the 2 whose names we drew. We also bought a gift for family friends, whom my kids consider to be their “3rd grandparents.”

  • My parents: My dad got a new yoga mat ($45) while my mom got a photo calendar ($16) and – don’t laugh – a pair of Maleficent ears that I bought using my Disney Movie Rewards points… in other words, free. Total for my parents: $61
  • We went in with my husband’s siblings on a firepit for my in-laws. Total for my in-laws: $50
  • We set a $20 per child limit for the niece/nephew gifts. I got a great deal on shirts from and was able to get both kids t-shirts for their favorite team with tax and shipping included. Total for BOTH nephews: $38
  • Our family friends always take pictures of our kids using an ancient film camera. Seriously? I had a friend who was selling a year-old digital camera she’d never even removed from its original packaging. Total: $45

When all was said and done, I’d spent $194 for individuals in this category.

My Husband and Kids

My husband never gives me a Christmas list, but I always work hard to buy him gifts he wants but wouldn’t expect. This year, I’m really pleased with what he ended up with. As for my kids, they are NOT toy people, so this is a category where I was really able to pare down.

  • My son needed a new bike (he’s still using a tricycle he’s long outgrown), but he wanted his “own big boy tools.” So when I found a new Huffy bike that came WITH a set of kid-friendly tools, I knew it was a must-buy. He also got a robe (his most bizarre request) and a mad scientist kit. Total for my son: $150
  • My daughter also wanted a robe (seriously, are my kids that weird?) and new clothes for her American Girl doll. Rather than spending $25 for a dress from AG – I don’t spend that much on clothes for my actual children, let alone their dolls – I shopped local and bought a whole bunch of clothes from a woman in town. I am most excited to give my daughter her very own mermaid tail – a gift I know will get a lot of use this summer. Total for my daughter: $235*
  • My husband is a police officer, so I used some store credit I had at our hometown jeweler (I’d traded in some gold necklaces I never word) to buy him a St. Michael medal, which I had turned into a pin for his uniform. He’s also getting an Amazon Fire Stick, which he’ll really like – and I got a great deal on, thanks to my Amazon Prime membership. He also asked for – and got – several kits to continue with his home brew hobby. Total for my husband: $128

When all was said and done, I’d spent $513 for people in this category.


It’s a sad, sad day when I can’t come up with a Christmas list for myself – and won’t let my husband shop for me (he LOVES to buy extravagant gifts, and never sticks to a budget; the result is I get expensive things I didn’t need – and don’t necessarily want). So I did my own shopping – new workout clothes for me. I thought about buying a higher-profile brand like Lululemon or Athleta, but at the end of the day, I went with the Champion line at Target because the brand really fits me well and I know from experience it’ll hold up.

Total spent on myself: $106.

The Grand Total

So was I able to stick to my Christmas budget? In all, I spent a grand total of $913.50. That left me $86.50 under budget. I used the extra money to buy gifts for our holiday giving tree at Church and donate to the food and clothing drives at my kids’ schools.

How did YOU do when it came to your holiday shopping budget? Did you stick to your budget?

Libby Balke

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

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