Ask your kids what they are looking forward to for the holidays, and you’re likely to hear an answer that revolves around getting everything on their wish list. That may be why nearly half of Americans feel pressured to overspend on gifts, according to the 2018 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey.

As parents, however, you know that what makes holidays special are the good food, memorable experiences and time spent with family — it's just that the “less is more” mentality may be a tough sell to kids who’ve spent all year trying to stay on the nice list.

But it is possible to create budget-friendly holidays that are more meaningful, rather than just “more.” If you’re looking to avoid holiday overspending without sacrificing the magic of the holidays, these tips can help.


A teen with her heart set on an iPhone upgrade is sure to be disappointed if she gets some new outfits instead (even if they are exactly her style). So request your kids’ wish lists early even before you’re finishing off the Thanksgiving leftovers — that way, you still have time to work out a budget or reframe their expectations if, say, you know a particularly pricey gift won’t make it under the tree in time.

If your children’s lists include several of the same types of items, suggest that they prioritize what they consider the top gift. It’s also wise to discuss quality versus quantity: Some kids would prefer to open one big gift, while others favor the fun of diving into several boxes, even if those items are not as expensive. Setting the scene in advance can help ensure that everyone enjoys a shared holiday vision.


It’s easy to feel financially drained in December because all your spending is being concentrated. So why not try spreading out the love over all 12 months? Not only will it ease end-of-year wallet worries, it will also keep the merriment flowing all year long. Here are some ways to do that.

  • If your children are the type who can appreciate the anticipation, provide them with IOUs for what you plan to gift in the future, and schedule when you plan to give them.
  • If you have a kid who is a collector, spreading the love is easy. If they collect something that comes out regularly, such as Funko Pops or Lego sets, get them one for the holidays and then find the production schedule for future collectibles. Mark your calendar to preorder those items when they are available.
  • Plan an entire year of fun activities and wrap up a memento that signifies each of the places you might go, such as a brochure to the children’s museum or a napkin from your favorite ice cream place.
  • Choose 12 clothing retailers your teen loves and wrap up a box from each. Each month, he or she can pick a spot for the two of you to browse together to make a purchase. It’s a great way to ensure a little monthly together time while you’re stretching out their clothing budget.


You may have seen this idea floating around social media for the past few years. Its genius is in its simplicity: Tell your kids to list four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read, and commit to giving them just those four gifts. The “want,” “need” and “wear” categories can be as extravagant or moderate as your budget commands.

It’s easy to feel financially drained in December. So why not try spreading out the love over all 12 months?


Stocking stuffers may be small, but they tend to add up fast. Often you find yourself buying small novelty items that aren’t meaningful and eventually contribute to household clutter.

But if forgoing the stockings simply isn’t an option, explore some creative yet inexpensive ways to fill them with. For example, assign a theme to each child’s stocking based on their favorite hobbies; maybe your artist child will appreciate sidewalk chalk, paints and crayons, while your sporty child will be happy with a new water bottle, jump rope or sweatband.

You could also fill everyone's stocking with their favorite snacks — things that are fun to eat, affordable and, best of all, gone by New Year’s. (Also, here’s a simple hack: Get smaller stockings this year — they’ll still look full with fewer items.)


If your family typically takes a spring break or summer vacation, consider using the holiday to "gift” the big reveal. Drop some breadcrumbs first to make it into a guessing game. Kids will have the anticipation of looking forward to your getaway and you can do some group planning together over the next several months. Think of it as the biggest and most exciting gift you’ll give them, as well as a new family tradition they can look forward to for future holidays.

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