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Christmas Gifts: How Much is Too Much?

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Christmas Gifts: How Much is Too Much?

I received this email from Hip2Save, reader, Lisa, and thought that it would make for a good discussion…

I was wondering if anyone else has this problem. How many gifts do you give your kids for Christmas? My husband thinks I give our kids too much. I give them about 15 each from us and they get big stuff from Santa. I also give about 6 gifts to the whole family like games. Do you think this is too much? I don’t want to spoil my kids with stuff, but I want them to have a great Christmas!

What are your thoughts on this topic? How much is too much when giving to children or adults for that matter?


Collin founded Hip2Save in 2008 and has over 10 years experience as a deals and lifestyle editor, strategist, and creative copywriter. She is debt-free and has been featured in Parents Magazine, Today.com and MSNBC. Connect with Collin on LinkedIn


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Comments 543

  1. Jennifer

    After overdoing it in the past, we’ve set a budget and a limit this year. Our two boys are giving each other gifts and my husband and I are giving each other gifts. I stuffed everyone’s stockings (except my own) and the kids are getting one thing from Santa, instead of separate things. My husband got them an inexpensive computer since they love to play on Starfall.com and they want to use Daddy’s computer to do it. He decided they needed one of their own to share.

    My MIL has dementia and I have zero retirement after YEARS of teaching part-time so we decided to put ourselves on a budget and start rebuilding our savings to have some padding in case a disaster happens with her or in case I never find a job that will have some sort of retirement plan. We decided to scale back Christmas because we already have more than we need. We’re trying to focus on giving the boys experiences rather than stuff. We’re going to make a bucket list for 2014 and see what we can give the boys in the next year.

    • Leane

      I think many times we give our children too much but the important thing is to instill in them that it is great to get a gift for someone that they will love and make that the focus. We want them to know that it does not have to cost a great deal but be thoughtful about what you give.

  2. Rachel

    I’m 20, and ever since I can remember my parents put a lot of emphasis on what I could give to the people I love rather than what I want for Christmas. These values have stuck with me and now, even though our Christmas is more than anyone could ask for, I never think of Christmas in terms of what I will get. The amount never mattered to me, so I think my parents did an awesome job!!

  3. Wendy R

    Let me tell you a story about my spoiled children who receive 15 plus gifts for Christmas. When I was very ill last December and not working, I was taking a medication that was making me very ill and wasn’t working well. The doctor phoned in a script for a new medication that was $3500 for a ten day supply. I was talking to my Mom and crying because I was so sick and was trying to figure out how to come up with the money. About an hour later my 11 year old daughter brought down a hand made four page card from her and my son. On the back was taped 4 or 5 one dollar bills and it said for your medicine Mommy. So it’s not about who is most religious or who buys the least or most presents it is about who you teach your children to be. The values and morals. I have good children, sweet, and giving. Personally I wouldn’t do it any differently, and they know the importance of giving and helping others.

    • iisllc

      Well said Wendy. I strive to raise my baby with Values and Morals. Good job with yours they sound like wonderful children.

      • Sarah

        I agree with Wendy R, and I want to add that I also think it’s important to bear in mind that for some people, giving gifts is a “love language”- and I think children learn a lot about being generous when they give gifts to others. They have to learn to pay attention to someone else’s needs and wants to find (or make) something that grandma will love, or a toy for a kid just like them who might not otherwise get a gift for Christmas. I grew up with a mother who may have gone a bit overboard on gifts at Christmas now and again, but she also taught by her example how to be generous and how to love God and our neighbor. For her, an overflow of Christmas gifts was merely a natural extension of her generosity in all faucets of her life. Plus, we had to write thank-you notes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Amanda

      Well said Wendy!

  4. rebecca

    I’m not going to wade through all the comments already posted (I’ll be #482) so forgive me if this has been said before, or even said to death. Christmas should be about giving to Christ foremost. Afterall, it is His birthday. I know that wasn’t your question but it sounds like you may possibly be missing the true meaning of Christmas which is it is about self sacrifice, love and giving of oneself, as our Savior did for us. I think you give very generously to those you love here on Earth but maybe you need to look at the first six letters of the holiday and refocus.

    If you are interested in finding a great church, you can check out our non-denomination church online during the service or download the app for Mecklenburg Community Church with our Pastor Jim White. The website is Mecklenburg.org

    God Bless and have a Very, Very Merry Christmas!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Amber

      Well said Rebecca! Couldn’t agree more!

  5. Seikojin

    If I could, I would spend every penny on gifting whatever to my kids. Not to spoil, but would a gift be spoiling?!

    Religion played a big part in my upbringing, and not in the really positive way. Eye opening, but not positive. I found out while young that my parents religion was to not celebrate Christmas. I did not know, but for years they provided (or the salvation army) provided gifts for a kid which essentially insulted my parents religion. So I asked them to stop doing it for me since it was against their beliefs. Sure I didn’t believe as they did, however, it was their choice and that was mine.

    However for my kids, we typically see how much we have after certain things are covered, and get whatever we can get. We leverage deals like Hip 2 Save and other deals out there to bring in what we can for a lower cost.

    The wife and I don’t typically get gifts for each other. We do a whole month of activities and then do stocking stuffers for each other as our gift.

  6. Andrea

    I’m 28 years old, and I have no children of my own, but my sister has 3 beautiful children, an 8 yr old girl, 5 yr old boy, and an almost 2 yr old girl. Because I can’t have a child I admit I spoil the kids, but that’s what aunties are supposed to do! Parents have to be the ones who provide discipline and the ones saying no. I went way over the budget and its all Colins fault! Just kidding, but seriously, all the great deals that she posts make me want to buy everything. Right now my sister and her husband aren’t getting along, and I’m hoping I can make them happy, even for a little while. I made sure I got everything they told me they wanted and much more. I have to admit though they are a little spoiled. The 5 year old told me the other today that the 8 year old’s toy was his because he liked it the most. He also always asks me for presents whenever I come over. He’s just not old enough to understand etiquette.But overall they’re great kids and I couldn’t be happier than to be their auntie

  7. Christmas Mama

    I was telling my husband a couple of weeks ago I would enjoy Christmas so much more if no one else was involved. If I talk to one person I go way overboard and do too much. Then in the same afternoon I talk to another and I can tell they think it is too little. Don’t get me wrong we are not comparing or anything. These people are close to me and we are happy for each other even if we have different opinions. Just funny how each of us are so different. So I decided I am very happy with what I am doing for Christmas. I decided I don’t care what anyone else thinks about what I do for my family except my family.

    One other note. My husband and I are both middle children and didn’t ever want to make anyone feel, for lack of a better word, like middle children. I use to be super intense about making sure I spent the same. The last two or three years I have relaxed and decided to take it case by case. For example this year my oldest daughter is getting an American Girl doll. My six year old is getting a Baby Alive burping doll (yup they really do make them =) ) Anyway I know they would both choose their doll. My six year old wouldn’t want the more expensive doll and this is the one year I am buying my other daughter a doll that expensive so I decided that was equal, even though they cost totally different. Coupons and sales brought the burping doll to my attention and I already regret buying her. I am pretty sure this is going to be one annoying doll but I can already hear the insane giggles she is going to bring. I can not wait to see each of them receive their new doll.

    Merry Christmas to everyone and may it be enjoyable for your family!

    • Becky

      Christmas is only one day out of the year. The example you set for your children the other 364 days out of the year is what matters most.

      • Heather C.

        EXACTLY!
        Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  8. rae

    How each family celebrates is their own conviction. If your kids can get piles of gifts and at the end of it be Thankful and understand the meaning of giving and receiving gifts then that is really all that matters.
    My Husband and I had a bit of a struggle when deciding if we would “celebrate” Christmas. There are so many religious, secular, and various cultural traditions with Christmas. Its difficult to explain them all to a toddler so we stick with what we feel is important and skim the rest to a minimum or don’t even venture into it at all. When I was a kid we got WAY more gifts on our birthday and it was a day just for us. Often times the things we got as gifts for both occasions were purchased second hand. Christmas was for being with family and making memories.

  9. T.S.

    My husband gets mad just for me talking about wanting to get our son a lot for Christmas! We can’t even afford more than $20 for Christmas and my son’s birthday combined (which is the same week) but the want to buy more is always there. I think that is true for most parents. But even if I had the money to do it I wouldn’t because then they expect it and I think kids should be happy with what they get. I didn’t grow up with a lot for Christmas and Christmas is just as exciting for me if I get 10 things or 1! Just my opinion ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Susan

    The first several years after having children, Christmas was big. Lots of presents, but I would also wrap up a lot of “needed” items, like socks, undies, warm jacket, clothes, etc., along with a lot of junky “it” toys of the season (stompeez, lol). This year, I told my girls to limit their list to 3 things they would like Santa to bring – they both chose a furby, nerf rebelle, and password journal. I filled in with a few cute items I felt they would really enjoy, and a new pair of shoes. I sent a secret note to Santa via our elf on the shelf asking for a trip to a local theme park for our family (wink,wink) and that will be our big special gift. But, that is only because this year our girls hadn’t outgrown bikes, and did not need something specific that was pricey.

    We give generously as a family to charity.

  11. jamesie

    I would if I could! I say go for it if you can… I some times feel badly about not being able to give a lot, especially when my other family members give their children so much (I hate the showing off and the other kids comparing)… But as long as kids feel the meaning behind your heart, you are not spoiling them.. My kids love to see me and my husband get gifts too, I just think presents bring all kids joy, and for my kids they truly rejoice seeing others happy too.
    Merry Christmas!

  12. mia

    So many comments ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have given my children 1 big gift from Santa for years. In the past its been Kindles, ipods, electric scooters, UGG’s, bikes, AG Dolls etc. One gift under their stocking. On top of that they get gifts from aunts & uncles and a few from us. My daughter(7) was telling her friend and her friend said to her “you must have been a bad girl because Santa brought you just one present.” It broke my daughter’s heart. I have remained strong with my 1 present rule. My kids have SO much stuff. This year they’re getting an expensive basketball hoop. Can I afford to buy more? Absolutely! Do they need it? NO!
    I remember the first year I met my SIL she was getting so many presents. After they opened tons of gifts she turned to her sister and said “this is it? There has to be more!” Be careful about buying too much because as they get older it will never be enough!
    Just have a wonderful Christmas & enjoy them with all you heart. They grow up so fast ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Jenny

    I have three children and have never overindulged in Christmas. Once my oldest started middle school I started to see the “competition” on expensive gifts and the kids talking about it at school. One girl got a fancy new camera, new cell phone and TV for her room and and lot of other gifts. It saddens me that Christmas becomes more of a one up holiday than the true meaning behind it. I have traditions for my family and I do spoil them with TONS of food and homemade cookies, candies and treats. My Christmas memories as a child was with family. I loved gathering around my Grandmother’s huge dining room table and saying grace and enjoying all her hard efforts of a yummy meal. While at the same time celebrating the birth of Jesus. I really don’t remember any of the gifts. Do what makes you happy with you family because they grow up so fast. In my opinion, giving your children your time is what is most important, because that is all they truly need. Take the time to go to their school parties, make homemade cookies (even if they have sugar everywhere), have hot cocoa, play games, watch movies and give thanks! Merry Christmas everyone!

  14. Wendi

    Wow, 15 gifts in my opinion is way to many. I give 3 gifts under the tree to represent the 3 gifts the wise men brought baby Jesus. They also get presents from Santa.

  15. Janie

    I grew up in a family that did not have much money, my parents were very smart with what they had and NEVER over spent. We would get one maybe two presents, and they were never what we had asked Santa for. As a child it was hard to understand how some of the naughtiest kids in school got everything they wanted (and more) and we never did. It made me wonder sometimes if Santa just knew our family was not good enough. I know it sounds hokey, but now I tend to buy my kids too much. There is a reason why people over spend.

  16. Denise

    That is way too much, Xmas is about family spending time together not about material stuff that does not hold memories in the long run. Baking cookies, making craft, playing games,
    Opening 2/3 gifts per child and couple family games is more then enough. Ask your self why you think that Xmas has to be with so many presents. I bet your kids are going to be happy and have a great Xmas as long as Santa don’t pass their house.
    I have done the Many presents as well but the kids get used to this and don’t appreciate the presents , get spoiled and bored after opening to many present. Most of the presents ended up at donation store because we had a toy and electronics storage in the house that no one plays with. But really wanted to have for Xmas . I try to donate as much as we can to food drive, charity, animal shelter, Xmas angels instead with the kids to show them that there are less fortuned people out there that need our help and Santa is very busy and we can be Santa helpers in our community and help someone in need. It gives the kids a good feeling and me too and that’s how I want my family to spend Xmas together. Less wanting more giving . Merry Christmas and happy new year

  17. Elizabeth

    I think you should have a kid’s opinion so here it goes. I think 15 could be too many gifts if you are buying them iPads, iPhones, TV, etc. I think if you are buying them gifts that are all under $5 then 15 is an appropriate amount of gifts, but it does depend on your budget! My parents stick to a budget! Like my biggest gift I am getting this Christmas is $50 but it was snow boots something that I need! Like if their biggest gift is something stupid like an iPod then 15 gifts is to much!

  18. rpearson

    We are giving our 9 year old daughter about 20 gifts but they are not all big. About 10 of them are $2 and $4 movies bought on Black Friday. There is also a jacket and clothes in there. She gets “cool” stuff only twice a year: her birthday(in July) and Christmas. She gets many gifts then and she knows not to ask during the rest of the year. She has time to make a list and think about what she really wants. Also, since she was 2, for everything one thing that she gets for either occasion, she must put something that is hers in a box to donate to the local church ran thrift store, benefiting the less fortunate (get a jacket – donate a jacket, get a toy – donate a toy). She knows the importance of giving and last night, with no prompting from anyone, she expressed that she would like to volunteer at the local humane society in the coming year. I am very proud to be the mother of such a wonderful child. So, no, if you teach your child the importance of giving to others, giving a pile of gifts is not too much. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Stephanie

    I have 5 boys (ages 12, 10, 8, 6, & 2). We usually give our kiddos one “big gift” (the thing they want more than anything, within reason), 4-5 small gifts, and usually a couple of “family” gifts. One of those gifts is something they pick out for each other. They usually have 5-6 things to open, but it lasts a while because we take turns watching each other open a gift. It seems to help us remember that it’s not all about us getting what we want, but how important it is for us to focus on others. They seem to get really excited to see the reaction when watching others open their gifts. I’ll wrap a few things for in their stockings (toothbrush, matchbox car, small pack of Lego men). We also sponsor a child for Christmas every year. The kids love helping chose gifts for this child.

  20. Amanda

    I grew up in a family that was fortunate enough to have the money to give the quantity of gifts that Lisa gives her children. My parents didn’t grow up with a lot so they wanted to give us things that they never had but they made sure to make it clear that Christmas was really about family, giving and Jesus. Now that I have my own child I strive to do the same thing. Before Christmas, my daughter and I sort through and donate many of her gently used toys and we also ‘adopt’ a child or family and buy them a new gift. As far as the gifts I get her, I set a budget and stick to it. Sometimes that means 5 presents, sometimes 20 and I try to make the gifts a mix of needs and wants. But after the presents are open, we spend the day cooking, laughing and playing games because that is what it’s all about!

  21. Sarah. G

    I say if you can afford 30t gifts then why not go for it?? I personally like to give one major gift from mom & dad, and the stocking stuffers from Santa. This year we bought our dd a baby grand piano, and the stocking stuffers will be from Santa. I’m pretty sure she will be content with that, as she also has a lot more coming from grandparents, and aunts & uncles.

  22. Becky

    Some of the best gifts I have for my kids cost me little to nothing. One of my children love Starbucks, and I saved points from Disney Rewards and Recyclebank to cash out a total of $25 in Starbucks giftcards. She will flip when she finds out.

    I try to instill to all of my children a smart value of money. My 15 & 16 year-olds get this. The younger two are on their way. This is an everyday thing – not just Christmas time. We have a budget, and we don’t live over our means. We don’t use credit cards because you don’t spend money you don’t have. My older children are at the point now that they can see their friends parents overindulge. Like the kid’s parents who bought a new car but couldn’t pay the utility bill for heat so they were freezing and had no money for food either. I keep telling them you can’t go by how people dress, what cars they drive, and what houses they live in to tell how much money they have. My kids know our budget and know we are not rich, but save with coupons and sales. They are always well dressed and have nice things and their friends are none-the-wiser.

    • Nicole Z.

      Ditto!

  23. Amber

    We set a budget for every person we buy for every year and don’t go over it. We have done this since they were born. This is mostly thanks to Dave Ramsey!! My children have never known anything different they have the same expectations every year. We also make sure to set money aside to help others (like adopt a family) and our children are SO excited when we go shopping for that family. For our family, the most important thing we focus on is Jesus and family that day, and not a wealth of presents.

  24. Pamela

    So, I am curious. Will the reader who emailed Collin this question share these thoughts with her husband…..

    and ….. I am curious if any of the suggestions/ thoughts/opinions CHANGED her mind?

    Would LOVE to hear!

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Sarah

    We are giving our son 5 presents and filling up his stocking too. I feel like that is a lot of presents for him, but every family is different! We are a military family that moves around A LOT so we try to live minimally. Thay being said, gift giving is all relative and there isn’t a set in stone rule as to how much we should be giving to our kids. One family’s budget is different from the next family.

  26. n1njamom

    I give my kids what I can. Our den used to look like Toys R Us threw up in there on Christmas morning. This year, we’ve had to scale back a bit, and then I found out that one of my best friends was not going to be able to give her kids but one present each this year. So hubby and I decided that instead of buying a lot more little junk to fill “the void” that we imagine is there, we used that money instead to buy 2 more decent things for each of her three beautiful girls. Plus, we’re spending more time WITH the kids DOING things. Some of them cost money, so we count that as part of their Christmas present, it’s the experiences of the season. I remember those so much from my childhood. But the bottom line is, it doesn’t really matter how many presents you buy for your kids, or how much you spend. If you give them things and only things, you are spoiling them. If you raise them right, it doesn’t matter how many things they get or do not get.

  27. Britt

    15 each plus MORE from Santa!? Wow. I’m nearly speechless. I’m completely and utterly blown away by this (not that the questioner will even get to my comments). Whether money is an issue or not, that is just unthinkable. Although, sadly, in today’s “give me more and now” society, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve always been taught this: “something they want, something they need, something from Santa and something to read.” Throw in sibling gifts, gifts from grandparents and others and that is all they need and then some. In fact, I’d say the only way 15 gifts would maybe be okay is if you make them give 15 of their old things away to charity beforehand.

    • RB

      (I think that Collin is amazing, but) I reacted likewise: I see too many kids (and young adults) who feel entitled. It seems to me that they don’t learn to deprive themselves of anything they want– then consequently as adults they don’t prioritize their spending sensibly. For instance, when someone doesn’t have gas money to get to work, what is he doing spending over $100-$200 a month on a cell phone and cable t.v.??

    • Holly

      You would hate to know how many my kids get if 15 is an issue. It’s all in how you raise them. If you raise them to expect everything handed to them, then shame on you. If you instill values in them, then why not.

  28. SC

    I have a question for Collin. I have always wondered if you snag a ton or most of these deals through the year for gifts, and if so how much do you give and do you think is too much for Christmas and other holidays? I know just from myself snagging hot deals from your site that I get more for less and that helps to influence how much I give for gifts.

  29. luckysgirl06

    While I agree with what some people said about Christmas being about Jesus, it does sound like some those people are trying to make others feel bad about giving gifts. My son gets a lot of Christmas gifts each year, but he also gives a lot to other children as well. He knows what Christmas is about, Jesus and giving to others. He alos knows he will get thigs to, he is always grateful for what he gets, my husband and I don’t typically get him something every time we go out. We ususally leave it for Christmas and birthdays. I think if you give Christmas presents or not, how many you give, and who you give them to should be left up to you and your husband. If he thinks you give to much maybe scale back a little. What other people think is too much or too little shouldn’t matter. You are always going to have some tell you too much and some tell you too little. When people start to give me their opinions about my son and Christmas I just tune them out. As for the people trying to shame others into feeling bad aobut giving each other gifts and not making ot about Jesus, I think that Jesus would want to give to each other not just at Christmas but all year. Besides not everyone believes in God and that is their choice, shaming them and telling them to find a church is not the proper way to handle things. I say celebrate Christmas however it feels right to you and forget what others say.

  30. Rose

    My one grandchild,ask if she could give me Christmas present.
    She is only 5 yrs. and I land pay for it. The other grandchild want to know how much his present cost. Would like your comments.

  31. Cindy

    Growing up as a child my brothers and I didn’t get an abundance of gifts. I will say that my daddy went all out on us for Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s day and even more so when school started. We didn’t have the fanciest stuff and most of my big toys were handed down from my brothers. Now I am 27 with only one child and though she has everything under the sun she is getting more into learning things. For example, she wanted a laptop and a telescope for Christmas. We did get her a laptop but since her birthday is right after Christmas she will get her telescope then. She is 6 and the man in whom is her father is not connected biologically. For the first 3 years I was supplying everything for Christmas and granted she would get an allowance of $600 she normally ended up with a bunch of gifts for that. As she gets older the quantity keeps decreasing but quality is better. I am officially done shopping for this year and right now she has 40 gifts. She gets $20 per person to buy everyone a gift and she spends it very wisely. One year on Thanksgiving my potato peeler broke and on Christmas I unwrapped a brand new monkey(my favorite) potato peeler and a bunch of other stuff from her. I know her heart is in the right place and I know that she gives with all she has so this one day a year that I can take to spoil the crap out of her, I do just that. In my opinion she deserves that and much more! Its all about what u feel comfortable giving ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Hope

    Then you will think I am crazy I buy my parents and my brother about 72 presents this year a piece

  33. Janine

    Wow, after reading a lot of these comments I feel so much better. For Christmas my kids always got about 40 gifts each along with one really big gift. So we always spent about 600 on each kid , and I had 2 at the time . Now I have a baby and times are rough and money is tight. I’m feeling guilty that I only spent about 300 on each kid … but everyone is right , it’s not about gift but to kids that’s what they look forward to a bunch of cool gifts … I wish I never bought them as much as we did throughout the years . Now my kids are 10 and 7 and they are so use to getting a lot! I just hope they appreciate what they get This Christmas

  34. cj31006

    I personally think that 15 is way too much. Im a kid and my parents aren’t rich, but arent poor. I usually get one big gift each year and 4-5 smaller gifts. I don’t know how much they spend, but what I recieve is more than enough.

    • Julian

      I totally agree! 15 is way too much, but I’m still wondering what the price range for “a piece” is. I’m only a teen, but I just ask for the minimal $30 things. About 3-5 presents, I ask for. And other presents are from relatives. (I just blow it all on Pokรฉmon cards ๐Ÿ™‚ If I add all the presents I get a year, it is about 6-8 depending on the relatives.

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