Christmas Gift Rules from a Financial Planner

Christmas gift shopping can be a lot of fun but it can also lead to stress and debt if you aren’t careful.  The average person spends $1000 during the holiday season.  If you don’t have that set aside there is a good chance you will be charging it to a credit card or taking money out of an account that was meant for something else. 

I believe the best gift a child can have is a financially stable and peaceful home.  My toddlers don’t seem to get that and they have lists to Santa a mile long.  To compromise I am implementing 3 rules this year when it comes to their Christmas gift (and ours too).  I’m hoping it will make everyone happy and keep us from breaking the bank. 

Christmas Gift #1: Something They Want 


Some of the toys my children want make me cringe.  I just think about the pile of LOL dolls that will end up in a landfill someday.  Regardless of that fact my 4 year old is absolutely crazy about them.  They aren’t that expensive either.  My son has champagne taste and wants a Fisher-Price Imaginext Jurassic World, T-Rex Dinosaur that is advertised heavily on Nick Jr. and will take up a good portion of my basement.  

Get your loved ones something they really want for Christmas.  You are not obligated to get them EVERYTHING they want.  One great gift is better than a lot of cheap ones. 

Now I know these price points are different but unlike most parents (including my own) I don’t think the spend has to be even for all children.  If my daughter wants something that is less expensive than my son I don’t think I need to buy her 10 dolls to make up for it.  I’m happy just getting them both what they want.  Being “fair” is not something you need to think about when kids are young.  If you can make them happy for less – do it. 

Christmas Gift #2: Something They Need

This one doesn’t have to be boring!  If you listen to people sometimes you will hear them talk about something they need but don’t want to buy for themselves.  After not shopping this entire year  I need so many things that aren’t the most fun items to buy.  My gym clothes and sneakers are falling apart and so are other items that I wear and wash frequently.  I would not want to get hit by a bus right now.  

For my kids there are some things that they need that are useful and can also be fun to return to school with like a new Jurassic World 5-Piece Backpack Set With Lunch Bag or a beautiful fluffy pink jacket.  For adults remember that not everyone loves to shop.  Buying them gifts that they need can help save them a trip to the mall that they might actually dread.  

Christmas Gift #3: Something to Read 

A good book can change your life.  Think about the people on your list and with a little research you can easily find a book that they will enjoy.  I’ve bought books for my family, my children, and coworkers.  People tend to hold on to books or share them.  They are also easy to donate if you want to help out others.  In my mind they are the perfect gift.  Here are a few great ideas for different readers in your life :

Just 3 Gifts – Can it work? 

As a Financial Planner I talk to people about their money habits and behavior.  Most people shop for reasons that don’t align with their goals and priorities.  Try to do this – think about what is most important to you and how it relates to the people you are buying for.  If you care about financial security avoid going into debt over the holidays and look for deals or use cash to avoid overspending.  When education matters to you, buying books or contributing to a college savings account for your family will feel good. 

People with strong religious beliefs need to make sure they honor that and avoid getting too caught up in the commercial side of this holiday.  Love travel but overspending during the holidays impacts your ability to do so? You might want to forgo presents and plan a getaway with friends or family instead. It isn’t hard to think this way but it does require that you pause and reflect when it comes to your spending.  Sometimes that is just enough to keep you on track. 

To avoid holiday burnout do not put your values aside to keep up with other people.  It will not make you happy.  Three gifts is plenty to show the people you love the most how much they mean to you.  In my house everyone will get something they want, need and can read this year. Do you have any tips for Christmas shopping?  Do you think this is a good rule to limit over spending?  Let me know in the comments!

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  • I think you may have touched on this in a previous post, but I am a notorious eBates user especially during this time of year. I don’t care if my cashback is $0.20 or $20.00 -money back is money back.

    • That is so true! As long as people don’t overspend TO get points or cash back I am all for it! May experiment with that and other ways to save on the things we buy next year.

  • Thank you so much for this. What a great read- especially point #1 that it doesn’t need to be fair necessarily! We all need to keep our priorities in check for the season. As kids get older it certainly gets harder when their classmates all have expensive electronics, especially when they still think they came from santa and wonder why they didn’t get it too…. but for young kids and adults particularly this makes sooo much sense.

    • Thank you – my parents used to try to be “even” all the time but my sister and I never cared. We liked completely different things growing up. Santa can bring the fun gifts but its never too early to put some boundaries in place. Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. Mine know the difference between movies that are “free” or “rent/buy” at 4 and 6! Talking about money is helpful 🙂

  • Whenever I am thinking about getting someone something, I always think about something they may need; a pair of socks, gloves, a wine bottle opener. Sometimes those are the best gifts.

    Thanks for sharing! x


    • I love getting things I need! I’d rather someone spend money on a pound of coffee than a lotion set near a register. If people tell you what they want its not lazy to go get that exact thing – its nice!

  • Such a great reminder as we all tend to go nuts for our loved ones during this season!

    • You’ve got that right Jane! They will still love you in January no matter what


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