4 Steps to Set Up a Christmas Budget with Family Members


Christmas is a time of joy, cookies, wrapping gifts and making memories. It’s a time to spend with family and friends! It’s also a time of chaos, spending, and stress. More often than not, we try to ignore the stress part of Christmas and enjoy the holiday to the best of our ability. The only way to reduce that stress is to address the problem and come up with solutions. My solution is a Family Christmas Budget.

Why You Should Have a Family Christmas Budget

Many people struggle financially over Christmas and/or have to pay their credit card bills for months after to make up for all the spending. We are also enticed by the deals in November-I think for some, this is when they buy “A-Gift-for-Me.” I want to challenge this way of thinking and encourage you all to think differently about Christmas spending and chaos.

Our country has become so incredibly materialistic and egocentric. Showering people with gifts just because it’s Christmas isn’t helping the situation. My mother would freak out and get my sister and I 15-20 gifts each year! She had to get us each the same number of gifts and then she would stress out if one of us was getting a more expensive gift than the other so she would even it out by buying the other one an equivalently expensive gift. Then she needed to even that out by giving us the same number of gifts! Oi! It doesn’t end!

Here’s some reasons why you should have a family Christmas budget

  • If you are just charging Christmas on a card, then paying it off later, you need to set up a Christmas Budget.
  • If you are going without certain things to be able to afford Christmas, you need to set up a Christmas Budget.
  • If you are stressing out about what to get everyone, you need to set up a Christmas Budget.
  • If you don’t have a Christmas budget, you need one. It’s so easy to overspend if you are not watching where that money is going.

So, are you ready to change the trend in your family?

Can you think of experiences to do instead of buying everyone gifts this season?

Do you need to buy gifts for everyone this year? That includes not only all family members, but co-workers, friends, and teachers. Could a simple card work for those outside your family?

If you aren’t tired of the materialism, the cost of Christmas, and the chaos of it all, you can just stop reading here. There isn’t anything for you to change then. If you’d like to change Christmas this year and need ideas or encouragement, please read on! I’ve implemented this mindset for the past 2 years and feel so much better about the season than I used to!


First of all, a change has to happen in you before you can expect anything else to change. So, here’s my initial challenge for you to think about:

  • What do you love most about Christmas?
  • What do you want your children to remember? The gifts they had or the experiences they shared?
  • What are your priorities for the holiday season?
  • Do you really want to change?
  • What can you really and actually afford WITHOUT using the credit card or savings?


The next step requires more thought and creativity. I will tell you what I am doing with my families and suggest a couple of things, but in the end, you and your family will need to come up with a game plan for your Christmas budget.

Think over what you have done in the past years for Christmas presents; did you all buy for each other, pick names out of a hat, cross people off your list because they didn’t get you anything last year, etc.

Determine what a good budget for your immediate family would be. Will you spend $100 each on the kids and spouse? Maybe buy your children 5 presents each within the budget of $300? Or, you buy your children any number of gifts within the budget of $300 each (I’m just throwing numbers out there, by the way, this is all based on your budget.)

Let’s say you have 3 children and decide to spend $100 on each family member (in this example, the kids will have to determine what they are spending on you and their siblings.) So, that means that between you, your spouse, and kids, you will spend $500 for Christmas.

This year we are spending Christmas with my family and will be flying to Michigan with the cat in tow! For gifts with my immediate family, we are buying a gift for each other. There’s only the five of us so it’s not quite as pricey as it could be. Matthew and I will be giving a joint gift to my mom, dad, and sister, rather than each of us giving them all a gift. We have a $50 limit for each gift.

We still plan on giving to Matthew’s family and will pick names. There are eight of us on his side. Last year we picked two names each and had a $50 limit. His parents cheated and spent way more-at least I benefited from it! 😉 This year we are picking one name and our limit is $100.

For both sides of the family we will be spending $350 total-not bad!

This may be weird to a lot of you, but Matthew and I decided to not give each other Christmas gifts this year. There are some items that we each need or could put on a list, but in reality, we can fit most of those things into our regular budget IF we HAVE to. Since we just moved to a state that neither of our families live, we will essentially be spending a lot of our budget on travel. Which stinks.  



Next step, determine a ballpark figure that you want to spend on other family members.

How many aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-kids, do you have in your family? Who are you expected to purchase a gift for? Is it absolutely necessary to purchase a gift for that person?

Now, you may be a little aghast for me suggesting such a thing, but you really don’t have to buy gifts for every member of the family. If you have done it in all the previous years, I understand that it might be difficult to bring this up within your own mind, much less, suggest it to your extended family. But, I highly encourage you to rethink this! Does your Uncle Steven really, actually, essentially need another tie or bottle opener from you? Does Aunt Susie really need another handmade scarf to add to her collection that she never wears? Do the nieces and nephews REALLY, ACTUALLY, ESSENTIALLY need yet another toy that will be forgotten in weeks, if not days???


Now here’s where it becomes difficult and time to take action!

You need to go talk to your family about setting up a Christmas budget

Of course, you could avoid it and decide to do this on your own, but I bet the nieces and nephews would start to wonder why you are punishing them. Your siblings would be slightly offended since they bought gifts for you and your kids and will feel a little bitter towards this change. While you are pleased with how much money you saved this year, the rest of your family will be jaded.

So, buck up and let’s talk to the family!

If you are going through the same experience as us, trying to get out of debt, living within a very strict budget, while trying to remain positive throughout the whole ordeal, then I think your family will understand.

Explain to everyone that you would like to change things up a bit this Christmas and focus on doing more experiences than gifts. Maybe that means that you get together for one extra meal throughout the Christmas season, attend the kids’ Christmas programs, a Christmas Cantata, or a community event. Let them know that you would like to discuss setting a budget and either picking names or deciding to only buy gifts for the kids-whatever idea you came up with in Step Two.

I do believe that most families will be on board with this idea. Most everyone is struggling just as you are. But if you have that one odd member that is totally opposed to this idea, here’s a couple of things you can do:

  • Concede and state that next year you are going to change things on your end. Sometimes change has to happen slowly.
  • Try to brainstorm with them and see if they have any other ideas that would work as well. They might be the type of person that needs to “think it up themselves.”
  • Give it time and bring it up again later. Sometimes people need to think it over before they agree to major change on a major holiday.
  • State that you are planning on implementing change with or without them. This is definitely the more challenging option. But honestly, it’s your money and you need to be in control of it, not a family member. Consequences are that this person will think it over and change their mind, be upset with you until the end of the season, spread nasty rumors about you to their kids or other family, or simply gift up and go with the flow.

I highly encourage you to NOT think for the other members of your family. What I mean is, you may think an aunt will be totally upset and challenge you on this. In reality, she may be as frustrated with the expense and chaos as you and find this a great idea. You might think your mom will support you with this idea! And she is completely opposed to being told what she can/cannot give her grand-babies.

Either way, go gently, graciously, and with a firm purpose.

Again, it’s your money. You get to tell it what to do and where it goes, not someone else.


I hope this was encouraging to you and I give you all a gold star for reading this much! Please let me know if this gave you any ideas. Share your ideas and plans about your family Christmas budget, and leave a comment below!


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