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Christmas Gifts for Kids: How Much Is Too Much?

Christmastime is one of the best times of the year. And if you’ve got kids, you know the joy of seeing their faces light up as they realize Santa stuffed himself down their chimney, dropped off a roomful of presents, and ate all the cookies in the house. Thanks, Santa!

No matter your financial status, parenting style, or whether you set out milk or that dairy-free alternative for Santa on Christmas Eve, we all have one thing in common: We want to give our kids the best Christmas possible.

How Many Presents Should a Kid Get for Christmas?

The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend nearly $998 on Christmas this year.1 (Insert long, slow whistle here.) Crazy, right? Well, when you think about all those decorations, cookie-making ingredients, holiday dinners and gifts for family, friends, coworkers and your kid’s bus driver—it all adds up pretty quickly.

We all want to give our kids a Christmas to remember. But how many presents is too many? What’s the average number of presents per child? And stocking stuffers—do they count?


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When it comes to gifting, there’s no right answer. Why? Because the answer will always depend on how you define Christmas as a family. Let’s break that down:

1. Your Parenting Style

We’re all unique. Every single one of us. So that means how we parent our kids will be unique too. And when it comes to raising kids, more is caught then taught. That means their little eyes will be watching you as you show them how to give generously and receive graciously—no matter how many gifts they get on Christmas morning.  

2. Your Finances

The last thing you want to do is gift so many presents that you can’t pay the light bill next month. There’s no need for an expensive new video game if there’s not enough money to pay the electric bill. That’s where a budget comes into play. Not only will a budget help you know what you can and can’t afford, but it’ll also help when your kids come down with a case of the “gimmies.”

And when it comes to figuring out the average number of presents you should get per child, your preplanned zero-based Christmas budget will get the final say. So, no matter their ages, setting a budget for each child’s Christmas is key. Don’t be tempted by a last-minute deal to fill up space underneath the tree. Instead, decide your limits ahead of time, and stick to them this year. And in case you’re new here, we never ever recommend going into debt—not even for the latest and greatest Star Wars action set.

3. Your Family Traditions

As you were growing up, your family may have enjoyed a shared experience instead of stocking up on gifts. Or your family may have shared hot chocolate and one special gift the night before Christmas. Whatever your tradition was, you’re likely to carry some of those special memories into your new family traditions. There’s no right answer when it comes to traditions—just the sweet years of memories that come with them.

Make Christmas special by creating memories, choosing unique gifts just for your kids, and making your home the place your children want to be on Christmas morning. If your children are little, think small, because that sets the expectation for the next year. Decide to make Christmas special by enjoying family traditions, and know that the choices you make today pave the way toward financial peace in the future.

4. Your Values

How do you define Christmas? If it’s defined by the stuff under the tree, you may want to reevaluate what it really means. Christmas is a spiritual holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus with your loved ones and friends.

You get to decide what role gift exchanges play in your family. Maybe you decide to serve your community or help a family in need have a Christmas of their own. Whatever it is, it’s important to know what’s important to you and keep that as the focus of your holiday.

Setting Gift Expectations With Kids

If you’re on a tight budget, the best thing you can do for your kids is keep them in the loop. In other words, they need to know if the gifts this Christmas will be light. That might involve you just coming out and saying, “I know you really want a new iPhone this year, but it’s just not in our budget.”

This is especially true if you’ve given a lot of gifts in the past. If you set a high bar last year, your kids will automatically assume this year will be just like last year—or better. And if all their friends are asking for—and planning on receiving—a new iPhone, then they’ll expect the same thing.

Be clear with your kids ahead of time, and you’ll help avoid those Christmas mornings filled with teary eyes and ungratefulness—mornings that make memories for all the wrong reasons.

How to Teach Contentment This Christmas

It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And if we’re not careful, scrolling through Pinterest, keeping up with the Joneses, and trying to buy everything on your kid’s list will replace the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

1. Be grateful.

This time of year is a great opportunity to take a breath and be thankful for everything you have. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, you can stand out by simply being content—and teaching your kids about the power of contentment.

2. Keep things in perspective.

As much fun as that new stuff is, the newness wears off pretty quickly. That’s why it’s important for you to help your kids keep Christmas in perspective—because as much fun as that new stuff is, the newness wears off pretty quickly.

3. More is caught then taught.

If your kids see you stressed throughout the holiday season—frantically buying lots of stuff without ever stopping to “smell the Christmas trees”—then guess what? That’s what they’re going to take away from Christmas.

But if you’re focusing on the quality of giving over quantity, and if you’re spending time enjoying the holiday season instead of being stressed out because of it, then your kids will notice that too.

4. Give generously.

This Christmas, teach your kids the power of contentment. While you’re thinking about all the gifts you want to give them, make sure you take some time to show them how much giving to others matters too. Contentment and gratitude truly are two of the best gifts you can give your kids this Christmas.

Want to give your kids a little bit of intentionality? Check out our gift finder. You’ll find gifts to help them learn about giving, contentment and even how to give, save and spend. Yup—these are the gifts that keep on giving, raising up the next generation to win with money.


Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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