Christmas for the Kids: How We’ve Kept Costs Down

Christmas is just 10 short days away and for once it my life it appears that I won’t be out fighting the crowds on December 23rd and 24th in a desperate attempt to find a last-minute gift.

Free time is in short supply with two kids in our lives, so FM made sure we got started with our holiday shopping nice and early this year. And when I say early, I mean a few months worth of a head start.

The early start meant an early finish, which is making for a relaxing lead-up to what becomes a hectic time of year for our family.

Adding to the relaxation is the knowledge that a pretty simple approach to our gift shopping also mitigated the impact to our bank account.

As parents, it can be easy to go overboard on spending for your kids at Christmas. No matter your financial means, we all want our kids to have the most enjoyable holiday we can provide them with. All too often, that results in buying more than is necessary, more than we ought to, and more than we can afford.

It doesn’t have to be that way. By sticking to some pretty basic principles things, we still managed to get our kids things they’re going to get use out of, enjoy, and make memories with this holiday season.

Here are four things we did that can help you keep costs down too!


1. Set a limit and stick to it.


This is by far the most important element of keeping costs down on your gift shopping. Years of monitoring our income and expenses through the cash-flow forecast spreadsheets that I develop for our finances each year has given me a very good idea of what we can realistically afford as the holidays approach.

Using that information, FM and I arrive at a number that we’re comfortable with spending and stick to it without compromise. If it can’t fit within the number, it doesn’t get bought. End of story.


2. Buy gifts well in advance of the holidays.


With our hard-cap spending number set, it’s time to go bargain hunting. As semi-savvy shoppers (by our standards), we’ve come to realize that the best sales aren’t exclusively available around the holiday season. Not only that, but the items we think would make good gifts for the kids might not be available as the hoards rush out and clear the shelves.

So rather than cramming all of our shopping into a small window of time and potentially ending up disappointed and frustrated, we keep an eye out for sales and special things that can be given as Christmas gifts from late-summer through early-winter and stash those items away for the holidays.

The key is to diligently keep track of what you’ve spent, remember everything that’s been tucked away, and remember where exactly it’s been tucked so you can find it for Christmas!


3. Realize that new to them is as good as brand new.


One of the big things I’ve noticed in my early years of parenthood is that kids really couldn’t care less about where things come from.

Our son is just as happy to put on a Paw Patrol t-shirt that’s a hand-me-down from a cousin as he is to wear the brand new one he got from a grandparent for his birthday. Same goes for things we find at the local “second hand” store (I used quotes on “second-hand” because we frequently find previously-owned, but never used toys and clothing at the store we usually go to).

Just because it may have been owned by someone else doesn’t mean it won’t get plenty of more use and love from our kids, so why not re-purpose some of it as a special gift?


4. Buy at dollar stores – a goldmine of cheap finds!


Once a wasteland of cheap junk, dollar stores can now be a fantastic source of quality items at deeply discounted prices. We find this to be especially true for the activities our toddler currently loves, namely colouring books, sticker albums, and painting sets.

We spend hours and hours each week on these type of items and have found the best source of them to be the two dollar stores in close proximity to our homes. They tend to have a massive selection that almost always features our kids’ favourite animals, interests, and cartoon characters. We often discover the exact same products at bigger name stores for 100%-400% more money. Craziness!


Despite having a second child in the mix this holiday season, keeping the things listed above top-of-mind while getting gifts for the kids has helped keep our costs down and allowed us to complete our shopping weeks ahead of the big day.  

There will be no debt hangover in the New Year, no buyer’s remorse, no second-guessing if we could really afford it. We found our comfortable number, stuck to it, and are all set for a fantastic Christmas with our kids!

How do you keep your costs down with your holiday gift-giving? Do you use any of the four things I outlined? Do you have other methods that keep you on track? Let me know your approach by emailing, leaving a comment, or by getting in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Until next week, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

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