11 People On Exactly How Much They Budget For Holiday Gifting

A few days ago, I found myself ever-so-eloquently Google searching “How much to spend on Christmas gifts total.”

Weird that I’d even have to Google that, but I have my reasons. I moved out of my parents’ house on New Year’s Day 2017, which means that this holiday season is the very first I’ve spent On My Own as a certified grown-up who can afford to live her own life in her own home, and therefore, can afford to make the holidays special for other people rather than sitting back like the child she always was growing up and allowing the magic to happen around her.

This is not to say that I didn’t spend my entire life gifting my friends and family (or at least my parents, brother, grandparents, and immediate close friends). But the gifts I was able to give to my loved ones were small; I’d buy a t-shirt for my dad, a bottle of affordably-priced perfume for my mom, a candle for my grandparents, a sweater for my brother — nothing compared to what my parents were showering me with all my life (toys as a child, ~cool~ clothes from hip stores in my teenage years, etc).

I realize now that I’m earning full-time money (and subsequently feel able to participate full-time in the holiday gifting season) how expensive it all must have been. There is even some commercial floating around on TV (I can’t remember what for, but I’ve seen it more than once this season) where a woman is asked what her holiday budget is, and she says “$500,” which sounded to me at first like the most amount of money ever to spend on one holiday.

But after my Google search, that figure doesn’t seem crazy at all — in fact, it is definitely on the lower-end of what most Americans will spend on the holidays. This article from last year said that “In 2016, it is expected that the average American will be spending $929 on gifts for friends and loved ones — surpassing $900 for the first time since 2006.”

I haven’t stumbled upon any figures predicting what we’ll be spending this year, but I’m assuming it is the same, if not higher. Obviously, there are people who spend way more and way less than that, but the thought that the average last year was expected to be close to a thousand dollars got me wondering what actual people in my everyday life budgeted for their holiday gifting, and what they actually usually ended up spending. (I figure this information will be especially valuable to me as I create my budget this week, and approach black Friday this upcoming weekend — shopping season has commenced.)

I asked 11 people exactly how much they budget for holiday gifting — here is what they had to say.

1. “I spend well over a thousand. I don’t technically ‘budget,’ but I usually plan to spend about a thousand on Christmas gifts and almost always hit that or go even a tiny bit over. — Kendra

2. “My family consists of me, my brother and his wife, my parents, my grandparents, my boyfriend, his father, his grandma, and his sister. I try to keep it at a tight $500, but this year I budgeted $550 and I don’t plan to go a bit over it.” — Alex

3. “I have only three people to buy for, but I budgeted $1000. I just like to get really nice gifts for people; giving gifts is one of my favorite things, and I do alright with money so I’m incredibly lucky to be able to spoil the people I love. — Lizzie

4. “I have two parents, a significant other, a best friend, and a few not-as-close friends that I still want to get at least a small gift for. I’ll probably not spend more than $250 total. I like to spend about $100 on my friends, my boyfriend and best friend will probably get about $50 each worth of gifts in whatever form (my boyfriend and I just bought a condo and have decided not to go crazy on gifts for each other), and probably the other 50 will be split among a bunch of friends and I’ll get them all something small and cute, probably paired with some sort of Christmas-y baked good. — Allison

5. “I have a huge family — like 30 people huge — so instead of letting that blow my budget to a completely unaffordable one, I just keep it very small and simple. One gift per person, small — like $15-20 each. So no more than like $500-$600, max.” –– Isabel

6. “I don’t have a budget for Christmas — I should. It is terrible, I totally overspend. I just find stuff I want to buy and when I add it up in the end it is way too much.” — Anna

7. “My girlfriend and I live alone, far from family, and don’t go visit for the holidays because it is just incredibly difficult due to the circumstances of our jobs, but we will send each of our families a gift, probably a gift basket in the $80-100 range, then buy for each other, and I’d estimate we’ll spend about $300 each on our gifts for each other. We try to set a budget and then, unromantic as it sounds, kind of just send each other links to things we want to buy and get them for each other as gifts.” — Tyler

8. “There are five kids in my family — my son, who is an infant and won’t be receiving many gifts past a few festive onesies, my niece and nephew who are six-year-old twins, and two other nieces who are 9 and 10 years old, respectively. As my siblings and I have grown and started having families of our own, we don’t really buy for each other. We’ll all go in on one gift for my parents (probably $50 each), then probably for our spouses (my husband and I decided to go no-gift for each other because we’re planning a trip in February and wanted to save, but we’ll probably buy each other $20 worth of little stocking stuffers or candy), and then buy for the kids. We have a pretty good $50-75 limit per-kid in the family, which seems like a lot I guess but it feels budget-friendly enough. So I don’t know, $400 total?” — Maria

9. “I’ve never set a ‘budget’ for Christmas, but I know I don’t typically spend more than $50 on any single person, and usually that number is closer to $20.” — Josh

10. “I’m a homemade-gifts person. I bake a few types of cookies in huge batches, buy cute boxes and ribbons (probably $20 total for all the packaging) and write cards and send them out to everyone. For the more-special people (parents, grandparents, in-laws) I’ll add a bottle of wine in the $15-20 range to the cookie package. Money is tight and I see nothing wrong with homemade gifts, especially because we’re not kids who want toys any more; we’re grown-ups who can buy the stuff we want/need as they come up.” — Kayla

11. “I won’t spend more than $200 for sure. I never have. However, not making excuses, but I’m in college and don’t even work full-time yet, so I don’t think my friends/family expect any lavish gifts from me. Something simple that I can buy at the mall on black Friday will probably end up under the tree for each of my loved ones, but I won’t spend a fortune.” — Victoria

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Mary Harman

    My usual breakdown is ~$50/person in mine and my husband’s immediate families. I will usually spend about $30 making edible treats for my coworkers. Besides that, maybe a couple gifts for friends. That comes out to about $500-600. This doesn’t include Christmas-time donations such as toy drives or food pantry, etc.

  • Jay0623

    Luckily my friends and I all bake or cook, so we agreed to exchange baskets of holiday foods with a small gift (a candle, mittens, hand poured soaps, a book, etc) inside, and that will come out to less than $15/person. We’re all budget-conscious this year, which helps. For immediate family, I’m spending $50 per parent and $65 on my sister (she told me in advance what she wants). Grandparents on my mother’s side will get a $30 set of paints as a shared gift, as that’s a hobby they both enjoy; on my father’s side, I got my grandmother a pair of $20 slippers. And because it’s my first year living on my own, I borrowed decorations from my mother and spent an additional $80 between HomeSense and Jysk to pick up a wreath, a tabletop tree, a stocking for my kitten to hang above the fireplace, and some festive candles — this means I can host at least one of our holiday traditions this year, and my condo will look the part. Which means, all told, I’m expecting to spend around $350, counting wrapping paper and gift bags.

  • Rachel_PNW

    This year I’m spending nothing! My immediate loved ones understand the need for strict budgeting right now (I’m in my early twenties and paying gigantic student loans) so we are going gift-free this year. However, in comparison, in past years I budgeted about $50 per parent. And last year, I spent close to $100 on my SO because I was REALLY excited about our first Christmas together.

    • Magda

      I like this idea. The first Christmas together should be special. But instead of doing something mediocre every year, just for the sake of doing it, it’s better to save up, pay up the loans and then, once again – have a Christmas to remember! Good luck with your goals 🙂

  • Ros

    The number that always shocks me is the total. Because individually, all of the gifts seem reasonable/frugal –
    – under 50$ for parents and in laws and siblings and spouse (and about that from him to me), under 100$ total for each of our kids (divided about evenly between clothes, books, an indoor toy, and an outdoor toy), 20$ each for our nieces (a playdoh set, or a well-illustrated book…), and then our close friends get things like a jar of special honey from the local beekeeper (7$) or maple from the sugar production next door (also 7$). Basically: individually, it all seems fine.

    And then you add it up and wtf that’s like 800$.

    And the problem isn’t the amount per gift, it’s the total.

    • This is the same thing that happens to me, when its December 24th and I add up how much I spent total on gifts–plus decorating and ~special~ food/events. This year, my siblings and their spouses and my boyfriend and I are doing a “Secret Santa” so the six of us only have to buy one gift each. But then we still have to buy for his parents and sister and my parents (which consist of dad/stepmom and mom/stepdad).

  • Keisha

    This is why I start collecting gifts in August 😂😂😂

  • LynnP2

    Wow I didn’t realize people spent so much on gift giving! My husband and I don’t exchange holiday gifts (we give each other birthday gifts and then go on a trip together on our anniversary). We just give gifts to our parents and my niece and nephew – we spend less than $150 total for everyone.

  • alyjarrett

    I budget $100/month for Xmas, or about $1,000: $200 for BF, $100 for brother and his wife, $200 for my parents, $100 for BF’s family, $100 for cards/wrapping/decorations, $200 for close friends/coworkers, with some extra leftover just in case. But what I love doing for friends is making mason jar gifts: this year I’m making my own peppermint sugar scrubs. Throw in some mini candles, bath bombs and fuzzy socks, and I’ve got a nice spa kit for a dozen people for about $10/person!