How to Explain Holiday Budget Downsizing to the Kids

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Dear MS,

This year has been a rough one financially for our family.  We are not going to be able to spend the amount of money that we did last year on gifts for our children.  I know they won’t be happy, but I’m unsure how to handle it.  Do I mention the situation before Christmas or wait to see what happens? My children are ages 2, 4, and 7 years old.


Many families are having to scale back their holiday spending habits this year and are probably wondering about the exact same things that you are asking about.

I’d be willing to wager that your 2 and 4 year old won’t even remember how many gifts they got for Christmas last year and that they most likely won’t be upset if they don’t get an abundance of gifts this year either.  Any distinct changes in your holiday traditions or patterns will probably be noticed by your 7 year old, but perhaps not.  I wouldn’t mention the reality of the situation at all with your children.

I’d suggest having your children make out a list of toys they’d like to send to Santa.  You can get an idea of the kinds of toys that they’d really like and also start to figure out what the cost of those toys would be.  Once you have a list, you can begin to pick and choose which items would fit into your holiday budget.

There are some ways to cut down on holiday expenses which will give you some breathing room in your toy budget.  Purchase your wrapping paper and tape at The Dollar Store.  Buying these items at retail prices really is expensive!  Shop around online to get the best sales deals.  Check out the circulars in your newspaper for sales too.  Many stores will match competitor prices, so you can choose a store and ask for them to honor their sales policy. You will save gas and time by only shopping at one store.  Consider shopping online too!  Many online stores have excellent sales deals and offer free shipping as well!

I’ve noticed that children prefer quantity over expense.  We’ve had years where our finances have been incredibly strained.  I found that my children were very happy if I bought one toy that they really wanted, and a bunch of inexpensive stocking stuffer type of toys.

Good Luck!


flawedangel says:

These are such great tips, thank you for sharing. I totally agree that telling children the reality of the situation may be too much for them to handle at such a tender age since they won’t be able to fully comprehend the issues at hand anyway.

Michelle says:

Thanks for stopping by! Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season.


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