Sound Off! Are You Spending More or Less on Your Children This Year?

12/02/2008 at 10:00 AM ET
Richard Kolker/Photonica/Getty

Recently, a story in the New York Times about a mother sacrificing items she wanted to provide her daughter with "hot" toys for Christmas drew much ire — as well as applause.

We know that mothers and fathers make sacrifices for their children every day — mostly non-material — so in retrospect, going without this season’s designer jeans so your child can have a cherished toy isn’t necessarily newsworthy. Then again, a lot of families are probably reconsidering their finances this year, especially when it comes to shopping for themselves and making sure there will be gifts to open this holiday season.

So here’s your chance to sound off! In this faltering economy, how are you changing your spending habits for the holidays?


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Showing 31 comments

finnaryn on

We are spending much less (last year, $100 for each of the 3 kids, this year, $10-$20 each, maybe) for two reasons. First, we are currently paying a mortgage and rent. My husband was promoted out of state and our house hasnโ€™t sold. We have to sacrifice Christmas presents so we can all be under the same roof in a rental house. Trust me. This means much more to the kids!!

Second, after spending a lot last year, those toys sat after a week. The Knows Your Name Elmo was tossed aside right after it was opened and was never played with again. What a waste. Not a one of my kids could tell you what they got last year. We could have sent that money to a charity.

So even without โ€havingโ€ to spend less, we have been planning since last year to spend less. My daughter will get books, my oldest son will get art supplies and my youngest son will get building blocks or dinosaur figures. All things that they already play with for hours and hours. Just new and shiny ones.

Diane on

We actually didn’t change our patterns much. I am a frugal shopper and start holiday and other gift shopping pretty much in January. I continually watch for great online and in store deals and have no problem picking up gently used items on EBay, garage sales and other thrifty sources.

I am usually all done long before Thanksgiving when the “insanity” begins for many people. I probably spent $250 on each child this year but the total original retail value was probably close to $1100 before the great bargains I found.

Artemis on

I don’t have kids but I’ve already cut my own shopping to be able to get gifts for the people I love. So I might as well have done that for the kids.
Although I believed kids should be understanding of difficulties of life, X-mas is once a year so I wouldn’t ruin that for them. Maybe cut off others costs during the year though.

Courtney on

We are very fortunate that the downturn in the economy has not affected us. However, that does not mean we are going to spend, spend, spend this Christmas for our 18-month old daughter. My husband and I live a comfortable life because we live frugally and within our means. Our daughter will be getting one American Girl Itty Bitty Baby doll and a personalized ornament. I may pick up some little toys here or there at a consignment store, but nothing new. My in-laws bought her a play kitchen and my parents are buying her a Tots Power Wheels. I had to reel my mother-in-law in since she wanted to spend more $$$ on my child. We told her the kitchen ($130) was more than plenty and we do not need more stuff to fill the house.

Reading the article on NYT, it saddens me that this mom is giving up “designer jeans” for more useless toys (did anyone else notice the two bins of old toys in the background of the photo in plastic boxes). How about take that money and put it in a college fund or get her daughter something that will last more than a couple months. I think part of the reason children want “more, more, more” is because parents throw gifts at them to please them. And we wonder why our economy is in the crapper… personal responsibility!

Dana on

We are sitting pretty in our financial situation for the first time in years. I did go a little overboard last year, because we had the money. And it wasn’t just for my kids. I went overboard for everyone! This year, we have decided that we are going to either make gifts this year (which I have done in the past and everybody loved) or have a $10 cap.

Something that my parents did when we were kids was to buy us 3 presents, based on the 3 gifts that the wisemen brought. The gifts would range from the inexpensive to the moderately expensive, but we knew there were just 3 gifts coming and did not get greedy searching under the tree for what was next. We are going to employ that this year. I have gotten very competitive with the grandparents over the years, having to best their presents since we are the parents and I feel that we should give them the better presents. I have finally come to realize that they don’t care about that at the end of the day. They have us every day and the time we spend together is worth so much more than what we buy them.

Mom of Boys on

I am doing much lighter this year. As Finnaryn stated, last years toys were tossed aside although they were begged for so I am going way lighter than I have in the past.

My 6year old actually had the nerve (like he knows any better, haha) to ask for a $150.00 lego star wars set. And he keeps asking everyone for it. I told him that Santa was on a budget this year, ha and he said ok.

My limit is about $125.00 per kid.And for my neices we put a cap of $20.00 each.It will all still be fun!

Allison on

We are cutting down this year, I’m spending about $80 per child (we have three). They always get way too much, and presents are not the actual reason for the season for us. It is about the birth of the Savior, and we commemorate that by giving gifts. But the commercialism of it all bothers me.

Moms who give up designer jeans to buy more presents for their kids are only teaching them to value “stuff.” Stuff gets old, it gets thrown away, and it doesn’t mean anything. I’ll never understand people’s obsession with spoiling their kids, or even themselves, with useless stuff. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t buy presents. Moderation is the key.

MizMolly on

We are spending the same amount, but we’ve never gone crazy in the past with elaborate Christmases. It seems to run counter to what the holiday is about and too much stuff creates too much stress.

I found the woman in that story to be truly appalling. The materialism is just horrendous but that would explain everything about our current economic crisis. I think most Americans think/act like her.

Jessica on

We’ve been very lucky this year, and the economic crisis hasn’t really touched us yet. My husband and Ihave been very good about staying out of debt,student loans are all we have. We don’t buy frivolous things throughout the year, so we can have a big christmas. My son is only 18 months old but I’m due with #2 on dec 29, so this is the last christmas it will be just him. I know he really doesn’t understand the whole concept, so we didn’t get too many gifts, I found some really good cheap toys at kohls and online.I do admit though, I have a thing about germs and I won’t take used clothing or toys. We’re definitely trying to get him excited about the traditions though, he was so excited to help daddy cut down a tree and decorate it. It’s not just christmas for us though, we aren’t close to out family, and I think I feel guilty about it and try to overcompensate.

Christine on

We are doing less gifts this year, but not due to the cost. Both boys are getting new bikes, so that is a big gift. Add in two t-shirts each and a few books, they’re done. This year I refused to buy toys because they have so many they don’t touch, and I hate the clutter. Plus, I know their grandparents are going to spoil them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cerise on

We have scaled way back in shopping period. Partly economic and partly because it really seems so ridiculous to make every occasion about spending. It sends the wrong message to the kids that it’s all about getting stuff. Most of the pricey items we’d bought for the kids in previous years (thinking they’d be major hits) have barely ever been played with, so it seems stupid to continue to do that. Finding out about the scary chemicals in a lot of toys, how much of it will end up in landfills and the people working in sweatshops to make them really isn’t worth it. I’m making the majority of the gifts this year and I think it’s much more enjoyable and means a lot more. Santa always brings just 1 present for my kids to share in addition to the couple of things we give and it’s never been “not enough”. Wow on the earlier mom’s “limit” of $125 per kid. Even when I can spend that much, I just can’t fathom doing that. I guess that’s scaling back to some people, but I’m trying to do under $50 total for both my kids.

Tara on

Im an aunt to 4 young ones and I have definitely decided to cut back on presents. Ive decided to limit the number of toys and buy books instead. Also, when it comes to clothes I prefer buying well-made clothes on sale from websites like gilt groupe. For example, right now they have a $150 lucy sykes cotton dress for $38. I know it will last a while (hopefully until I have kids of my own at which point it will be a great hand-me-down!)

This is the invitation for anyone that isnt a member-

Twyla on

To be totally honest we usually blow out the Holiday’s, for both ourselves and family. We buy gift’s that we would normally think too expensive, we buy the children way too many toys and we shower family members with gift certificates.
We have not yet (cross my fingers) been affected by the downturn of the economy.
This year however we see the strain that our family members, not to mention close friends are feeling. We,in turn, feel an obligation to really scale back this year and only do children. My husband and I are both more excited about providing them with their special Christmas, than to be recieving gifts. It’s more important to us to give them memories at Christmas, like a trip to the tree farm, Light Up Night in the city and trips to visit family out of state. These things we won’t skimp on.

jacqui on

To be honest I have no idea. My daugther is three and this is the first yr that she really gets the idea of santa leaving presents. I tend to be fairly modest in the gift giving – one great gift and a stocking full of stuff, but then I don’t want her to be disappointed either, and to add to that, I feel I’m in competition with my mother-in-law – who is shopping like crazy, with no input from us, is marking everything from “santa” and is even buying stocking stuffers. I don’t believe in excess, or the idea of christmas being all about the presents but I feel backed into a corner and am terribly stressed out about the whole thing. Any advice / suggestions?

alabama on

We have two children – a 4 year old boy and 11 month old girl. We ususally spend $100 per child (we put money aside from each paycheck throughout the year to pay for Xmas expenses). This will mean around 5 gifts per child because I prefer well made, European toys which cost more, but last longer (though that’s not to say there won’t be any Hot Wheels cars in our son’s stocking). I wanted to limit the number of gifts whilst our children are young, so they don’t expect piles of gifts under the tree each year. Some years that might mean we spend less than $100 per child. At Thanksgiving, I could not believe the sheer number of toys the cousins will be getting this year, especially as there are 4 children in a house already full of toys. Quality, not quantity in my house.

Suex18 on

I am one in seven children, and this year my parents have decided that on the younger ones, like me who are still in the house will be getting $150 worth of gifts. There are five altogether still in the house. 15, 13, 11, 11, and 5. We are all adopted. The two eldest are from previous marriages of my parents and are married. The 2nd oldest, Chris (31) just got married and my parents put in a lot of money for that, so they are scaling back on him and his wife this year. James and Jenifer have been married for a while, so my parents don’t see the need to buy them anything extravagant this year either.

Although we might not all get what we want, it will be a good Christmas. Plus all of the aunts and extended family we have, it’ll surely be enough.

ashley on

Jacqui, I’d like to know what quality toys you’re buying that cost 20 dollars a piece?

HeatherR on

Ya know, the current economic situation has really been a good opportunity for me to think about what is really important to my family during the Holidays. I am actually excited about scaling back this year! We usually go way over the top on gifts, decorations and food. This year, my motto is: less is more. I have been talking to my children about the value of tradtions, memories, friends and family. We are going to focus on those things even though we have not been greatly affected by the economy. I have spent 1/3 of what I normally spend and still feel like I am giving enough wonderful presents to my family members and children. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think in some ways, this may be our best Christmas yet!

oao15 on

We are fortunate to not be affected, but in January, I had told my mother that the next Christmas (Xmas 2008), I was going to start to teach my girls (ages 7 and 6), that Christmas was not about toys, and begin to have them focus on the spirit of Xmas (love, family, giving, cookie baking, etc.). The idea was not to have tons of gifts from the “Christmas Angel”, but to get 1 or 2 special gifts and have them shop for 1 or 2 gifts to wrap and give to a child less fortunate. I figured that they had had 5/6 years of tons of toys (I usually went overboard, spending roughly $700 per child – I do not buy my girls toys made of plastic and prefer most European made toys), and it was now time that they begin to learn the true meaning of Christmas (especially when they got so many toys and really did not notice most of them – I think the thrill for a child is just the actual unwrapping and then going onto the next gift to unwrap, and then the next, and then the next, and in the process, they find 1 or 2 toys that they really like, and forget the rest). The economic crisis that most of the world is in, is the perfect opportunity to teach children about the real meaning of Christmas (and in general that material items are not important), no matter what your financial situation is.

Jasmine C. on

Definatley less this year!

Kait on

We’re going light this year because it’s the first year we have our daughters (2.5 and 11 months) home with us and we don’t want to overwhelm them. The economy is playing a very small role in that decision.

I’m amazed no one has commented on the fact that this woman is sacrificing designer denims to purchase more “stuff” for her children and she gets an article in a huge newspaper when all over our country kids aren’t getting ANY presents because Mom and Dad decided paying the heating or housing bill or buying groceries are more important. The greed that they are teaching those girls is ridiculous. How about showing your children you love them and the spirit of the holidays by DOING things instead of BUYING things?

Kat on

we spent about the same, but the kids ended up with more… because I started even earlier than usual (the end of september) and got what I could on ebay, craigslist, etc.

a 4.5yr old doesn’t care if the Polly Pockets she gets are brand new (though they look like they are)… she just cares she has gotten the toys she wants.

I got her a kitchen (new in open box) without the accessories (which I bought in lots on ebay separately for cheap) for FIVE DOLLARS.

But my boys didn’t get more bakugans because you can’t find them unless they are triple the regular price.

THey already have a bunch, and I’ve explained the reasoning… and that I’ll do those for their birthdays instead.

But my 8.5yr old is going to go nuts this year… he asked for ONE ninja turtle action figure – I got him 10 with a sewer “dollhouse”, the turtle van… all for under 20 bucks on ebay.

The boys wanted new Lincoln logs… I got them on ebay for less than half the price.

At the end of the day, i probably spent about 150-200 per kid, which is the usual amount, but they have more than they did last year.

lissalou on

We had to sign up for toys for tots this year just so our children will have presents to wake up to. I explained to my oldest two, 13 and 9 that they would only be getting presents from the program and not to expect anything fancy. My 9 year old actually told me, “Mom, since when is Christmas about what kind of presents we get? Christmas is good because it’s Christmas and we are together.” I had to go hide because he had me crying. They trully appreciate what they have. I would spend a ton on them if I could just because I know that they will appreciate it.

dawn on

In the state of this economy, we’ve cut down drastically. we don’t eat out much anymore, we use to eat out maybe every other day.Now it’s once of twice a month. we fill our gas tanks and it lasts us for the week. and we grocery shop during sales. this years christmas will be a little tough,but each child will get 3 gifts each. we have 6 !!! my husbands bonus should help out alot.

alabama on

Ashley – I think your question was meant for me. Check out HABA toys available at or Some of their toys can be around $20 or higher and are great quality.

alabama on

I should also have mentioned that our family will be spending roughly the same amount on a child from the Angel tree program, as purchasing books through Toys for Tots. As our children get older, we aim to teach them more about the spirit of giving at Christmas, and also to help others throughout the year, not just during the Holidays.

Lisa on

We have four children, and we are spending approximately $50-75 LESS per child this year, and we are not getting our traditional “family” gift. Last year, it was a Wii System, and we have gotten other large things, like a trampoline before. My husband and I are also spending only $50 each on each other where we would typically spend at least twice that much, or more.

Lisa on

I also forgot to mention that this year, we are not exchanging gifts with any of the nieces and nephews. We have 9 to buy for, times $20 each, so this is a substantial savings as well. I suggested that if they wanted to, they could purchase a gift that would have come to us, but to give it to a child in need instead. We did fill a shoebox for a needy child a couple of weeks ago, and the kids had a great time with that.

dawn on

OMG! i just realized for my post i put we have 6 kids ::::faints::::: Oh no!!! LOL! we only have 4. 6 in our house hold altogether….

TracyG on

We spent less too this year. Only because we decided to cut out adults and just buy for kids. We buy for nieces and nephews that we see maybe four times a year and this year, I cut WAY back…

I usually get my son something he wants, something he needs, something practical and something to read. Of course I get him a few other things and stocking stuffers (which ADD up), but this year I went to a discount toy warehouse and got almost everything he asked “Santa” for at over 75% off!!!!!

He never “wants” for anything anyway, his Grandfathers spoil him rotten and so does his Grandma.

One thing we do that works every year is to go through his toys and books and the ones he hasn’t played with or read within three months, we give to a shelter or to a charity. Makes room for new things and also gets him to understand about giving…I like that! ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Holidays everyone!

Jennifer on

Wow, reading a lot of these comments has made me realize how ridiculous we are in my house…I almost feel embarrassed. We do give a lot to charities, but it doesn’t justify the crazy spending we typically do.