5 Ways to Keep Christmas Gift Spending Under $250 for a Family of Four

The holidays are such a fun time…twinkling Christmas lights, festive holiday music, beautiful decorations, the excitement of gifts being given and received.  I love the Christmas season!  But I don’t love the feeling of spending more than we can afford to make the holidays a fun time.  Christmas gifts are one of the easiest holiday things to blow money on and we realized that soon after we were married 6 years ago.  We were torn between giving nice, expensive gifts that we really couldn’t afford and smaller, less flashy gifts that fit our meager budget.   Thankfully, the last several years we’ve come up with several ways to give gifts that are both meaningful and yet easy on our pocketbook.

(There have been a year or two where we’ve spent more on a gift for each other such as the year we decided to buy our son a very sturdy handmade tricycle to ride around town here.  But that is the exception, however I thought I should clarify it!)

5 Ways to Save on Christmas Gift Spending

 1.  Set a budget ahead of time
I’ve found that I can keep my cost down significantly by deciding ahead of time how much I’m going to spend on each person we are buying for.  It’s just way too easy to get sucked into all the great advertising schemes and before you know it you’ve spent $75 for each person on your list when you could really only afford $25.  Set your budget and then stick to it.  If you spend less on one person, have fun spending a bit more on another.

(And just in case you are wondering, we typically try to spend about $20 per person.  And honestly, I’ve been amazed at some of the things that we’ve been able to give spending that amount!)

2.  Shop all year long
This is one of my favorite ways to save.  By shopping year round for Christmas gifts you have more opportunity to get great bargains.  Watch for online deals on sites like Living Social and Groupon, check clearance racks, flip through sales flyers and anytime you see an item for a great price ask yourself if it would work as a Christmas gift for someone on your list.

(I try to post some of the best of those deals on my blog, so subscribe via Email, Facebook or Twitter!)

3.  Exchange names
I know that some of you might balk at this idea but both my husband’s family and my family have chosen to exchange names for Christmas gifts.  Each person gets the name of one other person, meaning that our family only buys 8 gifts total for extended family unless we choose to do something special for our parents too.   We all love it because we get to experience the joy of giving and receiving gifts while keeping costs down.  As Christians, to us Christmas is about Christ’s birth and so by keeping things simple we’ve found it easier to also keep the real meaning of Christmas in perspective.

And actually both of our families take it a step further and say that it’s okay to buy used items to give as gifts.  This allows us the freedom to buy things at yard sales, thrift stores and Craigslist, saving even more money.  It is especially easy to find great toys for cheap this way!  Give them a good bath and they are good to go!

4.  Get creative
Some of the best gifts don’t cost a lot, if any money and often are more meaningful than huge, expensive gifts.

Give the gift of time.  Make coupons or a coupon booklet for things like this: 1 breakfast in bed; a 20 minute back rub; 1 prepared meal; an afternoon of helping you with anything you want; an evening of babysitting.  Last year my sister-in-law gave me five such coupons and I think everyone else was feeling a tad jealous!  I know that as a busy mom I’ve loved being able to redeem those coupons to give me a lift whenever I need it!

Use your talents and things you enjoy doing to give homemade, personal gifts.  Do you enjoy baking?  Give homemade bread, cookies or cupcakes.  Love to craft?  Make some fun items such as sweater pillows, homemade soap or wall decor.  A fan of knitting?  Give some handmade mittens, scarves or socks.  Good at changing oil?  Give a free oil change or two.

Not sure what to get that hard-to-buy-for person?  Think about what they enjoy or the things that they do.  Do they love to read?  Give them a book or a magazine subscription.  Do they enjoy golfing?  Why not give some golf balls.  Are they an avid gardener?  Plants or gardening supplies are a great idea.  They don’t have any hobbies?  Anyone can use stamps, food or toiletries!

Want more simple gift ideas?  Check out my 20 Inexpensive Homemade Gift Ideas!

5.  Inexpensive Gift wrap
I don’t know about you, but I hate spending lots of money on gift wrap.  But at the same time I really like for gifts that I give to be attractive and beautiful too.  I’ve found a couple of ways to accomplish both things.

Use brown craft paper or if your gift is small enough, cut open brown paper bags, wrap your gift, then decorate it with whatever your heart desires.  I’ve also wrapped gifts in newspaper before.  This looks especially lovely when you wrap a nice red ribbon around it.  Instead of bows, be creative and use things like twine, lace, scrap fabric, buttons, yarn, holly or even a hair bow or flower pin.

If you’d still rather go the route of using traditional wrapping paper, watch for coupons for stores like Hallmark or Michael’s and buy it for less than full price.  Or better yet, buy it on clearance after Christmas and save it for the following year.

My post on 10 Inexpensive Ideas for Christmas Gift Wrap might give you more inspiration if you are needing it!

What things do you do to cut Christmas gift costs?  I’d love to hear about them!

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  1. by Monica

    On October 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Love this post! Especially the endorsement of craft paper which, in my humble opinion, makes some really nice looking wrapping paper once you decorate it. In our family we decided to only give gifts to the children, and then set a small dollar limit. We usually do a fruit basket for our parents, with a few special food items. After all, I think it’s really hard to buy for older folks who seem to have everything.

    Also, I think a great gift for new parents and young families is an offer to babysit! :)

  2. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Monica- the thing of just giving gifts to the kiddos is a great way to save! We’ve discussed that as well but for now have decided to stick with leaving it the way it is. And I love the fruit basket idea….you are so right that it is hard to know what to buy for people that have most of what they need. And the babysitting offer? Well, I can tell that you are a mom with a young child. :) It’s an excellent idea and I can’t think of any parent that wouldn’t love that gift!

  3. by Sandy

    On October 23, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    After the holidays, we buy the really ugly (but huge, sometimes 100 ft) rolls of wrapping paper for usually around $1 or less. Then all year, but especially at Christmas, we wrap gifts in it inside out (so the white on the back shows) and let our son decorate it any way he wishes. It`s like an extra gift for his relatives, and his Nana has even kept some of the wrapping creations and hung them up! It`s a huge cost saver, gives us a free craft to occupy our son, and adds a punch to all the gifts we give.

  4. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 24, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Sandy- LOVE your creativity! That’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  5. by Lisa Lanford

    On November 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

    To save Monet on boxes, I save kitchen food boxes. When I empty a box from my kitchen, I break it apart flat and store it until Christmas. Every present I wrap is in something from my kitchen.

  6. by Nick

    On November 26, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I agree, we do the after Christmas clearance wrap as well. Wait until it’s 75% off or 90% off the first or second week of January. Then you get nice paper for 30 or 40 cents, can’t beat it. We buy about 4 or 5 rolls and then get a couple years’ use out of them. Also I agree with shopping year round. Just clear a little space on a shelf or a closet, or an empty suitcase in the attic, and store those gifts you buy throughout the year, always in the same place. Then in early October we take a look and see what we need to get. We do the same for birthdays too. It just takes a little planning but relieves a lot of stress (and $)! Finally, we also drew names for the adults, so everyone still gets at least one surprise (and set a limit of $40-50 so it’s a little nicer gift). Then we all usually get the kids one outfit and one toy, and finally we still buy for our grandparents, but it’s easy and cheap – they always want pictures, or a DVD of the kids laughing and playing, or telling them reasons why they love them. We also put the kids’ handprints (using fingerpaint) on homemade cards for all grandparents’ gifts, which is a big hit, and since they keep their cards, we have a little history to go by for the kids’ hand sizes!

  7. by Lydia Beiler

    On November 27, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Lisa- What a creative, inexpensive idea! Thanks for taking the time to share.

    Nick- Sounds like we think a lot alike on Christmas spending. :) Love your idea of storing gifts in suitcases. We live in a house with little storage space so that is one of things I don’t like about shopping year round. Your handprints card idea is awesome! Thinking we need to start doing that.

  8. by Corita

    On November 27, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Don’t forget reusing gift bags. We have a drawer full of nice gift bags for year-round gifts. We keep a separate collection of Christmassy gift bags we pull out for the Christmas season.
    If you cut a little rectangle of pretty (or in my preference color-coordinated) wrapping paper, you can make a nice gift tag to accompany either your gift bag or a wrapped gift.
    For decorating plain paper, try potato prints. Draw a simple shape like a tree or a star onto a potato half. Cut away the negative space, then dip the potato into tempera paints and print the designs all over your paper. You can make nice patterns, ex: tree, star, candy cane.

  9. by Lydia Beiler

    On November 28, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Corita, sounds like you are a pro at inexpensive gift wrap ideas! :) Yes, reusing gift bags is an easy way to save a few bucks- and an easy way to package gifts too. Like your gift tag idea. I’ve done something similar by cutting out pictures or words on old Christmas cards and then attaching them to my gift. I’ve gotten quite a few compliments on that idea. The potato prints thing sound interesting too. I’m sure my son would be more than thrilled to help!

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