Holidays,  Parenting

The Epic Gift Giving Dilemma Solved – How Many Gifts to Buy Your Kids This Year?

How many gifts do you get your kids for the holidays?  Every year, our kids make an extravagant list of things they want (and sometimes need) for the holidays because in our family, we only buy gifts for the kids at Christmas and their birthday (I’ll write a post on why soon, I promise!).  They know they’ve only got a couple times a year to ask for everything they’re wanting, and they certainly take advantage of the holiday season!

But how many gifts should you actually buy?  I think it depends on the answers to a few questions, and the answers to these questions can change over time.  Ten years ago we bought our kids 8-10 presents each for Christmas, and now we just buy 4-5 gifts because our reasons for buying gifts have changed.  As our family grew, we still asked these questions because we feel like the things we do should have purpose, but our answers have totally changed based on the season of life our family is in. 

Here are the questions we ask:

1. What’s your budget?

This is the most important question when buying gifts, and my strong advice is to STAY WITHIN YOUR BUDGET!  It’s hard to enjoy Christmas when you know you’ll be paying for it over the next 12 months.  There’s a lot of freedom that comes with setting a budget and sticking with it.  You won’t be financially stressed, you won’t feel guilty about spending too much money, and you’ll be able to truly enjoy the gifts because you know they’re paid for.  By setting a budget and staying within it, you’ll find a freedom you never knew was possible at Christmas time.

2. What message do you want to send your kids with the gifts you buy?

Did you know that all gifts send a message to the recipient?  Yep.  The message is either “I know you and I heard you and I love you,” or the message is “I don’t know what you wanted but I got you a gift anyway,” or it can also be “I really liked this thing so I got it for you,” or maybe even “it’s Christmas; here’s a gift.”  If you’re nodding your head as you read those sentences, then you know exactly what I mean when I say gifts send a message, whether good or bad!

Think about what you want your gift to convey before you give the gift.  Does your gift tell your child “I love you and I know you,” or does it say “It’s Christmas; here’s some random gift I picked up.”  Listen to your kids/spouse/friend, think about what gifts they would love, and then get them those things.  If you need some help making a list, check out this post on How to Buy a Thoughtful Gift.

3. Do you want your gift to last, or is it ok for it to be fleeting because they’ll LOVE it?

We prefer to give gifts that will last a long time, but we also know that sometimes kids just need junk to play with, LOL!  For example, we always buy our kids books at Christmas time.  Everyone gets books from their favorite series, or just something that looks interesting.  Books last forever if you take care of them, and I feel like I’m investing in their future as well as their kids’ futures too.

But we also get the kids some toy or game at Christmas too.  Sometimes these toys will last, like Legos or Duplos, but sometimes they’re age specific and don’t have a chance of keeping their attention, like the Doc McStuffins Traveling Toy Cart that our second daughter played with for three days and then never touched again.   Literally, Never. Touched. Again. Ugh!

Thinking about how long you want your gifts to last will help you decide on what to buy.  If you’re ok with buying something fleeting because you know how stoked your kid will be when they get it, then do that.  But if you’re not ok with that, then come up with some other ideas for gifts that your child will love.  That way, you AND your kid will both be excited when it’s time to open gifts!

4. Does your family actually need GIFTS, or could you invest in some really amazing EXPERIENCE instead?

Our family is full of gifts love language people, so we will never totally abandon gifts altogether.  But I do look forward to the day when our kids are older and we can start suggesting big trips as our Christmas gifts instead of piles of gifts under the tree.  Imagine – how awesome would it be to go to the Cayman Islands, to Canada, to a cabin in the mountains, or to Hawaii for a Christmas trip instead of unwrapping presents under the tree at home?  It might not be everyone’s idea of a wonderful Christmas, but I think it sounds divine!

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Gift Buying Themes

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have a pretty good idea of how many presents you can afford for your family.  Use these answers to brainstorm gift ideas that will fit into your gift-buying philosophy.  Here are some themes to help you out:

1. Experiences

Experiences could be trips like I mentioned above, but they could also be sports tickets, annual passes to the zoo or the local Children’s Museum, or a coupon book filled with activities you and your child will do together. Another great idea is to buy a year’s subscription to a subscription box that you and your child can do throughout the year.  Here are some really great subscription box ideas for kids and a few for parents too!

Baketivity Subscription Box

Kids Who Cook

  • Baketivity – a baking subscription box for kids, the goal behind this is to give parents a way to connect and spend more time interacting with their kids
  • Eat2Explore – a unique way to explore food from different countries, each box comes with 3 recipes, essential spice/sauce/grain mixes, a shopping list, educational materials and fun collectibles
  • Little Sous – Little Sous is a new cooking club for kids! Their themed, monthly cooking kits turn the kitchen into a place where families connect, and kids learn to become creative, confident cooks
GlobeIn Artisan Subscription Box

To Explore Other Countries

  • Little Global Citizens – best subscription box to teach about global culture, the Little Global Citizens boxes take your child on amazing adventures around the globe from the comfort of your very own home
  • GlobeIn – filled with gorgeous, themed, hand-crafted art, I lust after these subscription boxes every month. If you love multicultural home decor or empowering third-world artisans, this is your box
  • Eat2Explore – the best way to explore other countries is with their food! Eat2Explore lets you explore food from different countries, and each box comes with 3 recipes, essential spice/sauce/grain mixes, a shopping list, educational materials and fun collectibles
  • Up & Away Adventures – We are a bi-monthly subscription box service bringing a back-to-basics educational virtual experience for families and homeschoolers featuring countries from around the world. Every month our customers will receive a carefully curated and researched case filled to the brim with informative and entertaining items surrounding that month’s particular country. Each suitcase is packed full of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and things to touch, guaranteed to stimulate our subscribers senses. 
Academics in a Box Groovy Lab Subscription Box

Fun Academic Boxes

  • For Purpose Kids – For Purpose Kids is a social good brand inspiring the next generation of global citizens by teaching kindness and doing good as a way of life. Our Subscription of Toolkits includes curated books and fun, interactive activities around helping people, animals and the environment; each Toolkit focuses on a special cause and our activity guides use multi-cultural characters to help kids connect to the world around them.
  • Superpower Academy – Superpower Academy is an award-winning educational subscription box for kids. It is similar to Kiwi Create, but combines STEM with social and emotional learning (SEL).
  • Academics in a Box – Each month through the Groovy Lab in a Box subscription service, young STEMists will receive fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge – all focused on that month’s STEM topic. All STEMists will receive materials and a Lab Notebook, where they can read about that month’s topic, perform investigation activities and document their findings. They will investigate, brainstorm, plan, build, test and redesign their own creations. STEMists also receive access to our special “Beyond…in a Box” online learning portal.
  • The Preschool Box – Our goal is to make learning fun! We believe that all children are capable of reaching their full potential when given the proper tools and opportunities. Each box contains an array of hands on activities, crafts, and worksheets that you can work on with your child with as much or as little assistance as you see fit for their individual pace and level of development. Every box has a set of focus skills so each month you will have new and exciting material to work with.
  • Up & Away Adventures – We are a bi-monthly subscription box service bringing a back-to-basics educational virtual experience for families and homeschoolers featuring countries from around the world. Every month our customers will receive a carefully curated and researched case filled to the brim with informative and entertaining items surrounding that month’s particular country. Each suitcase is packed full of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and things to touch, guaranteed to stimulate our subscribers senses. 

Crafting Boxes

  • We Craft Box – We Craft Box delivers a stress-free creative experience to your family’s doorstep every month! With 2-3 prepared crafts, unique theme and story, easy-to-follow photo directions and all the materials needed that can be shared between 2 children we are empowering busy families to easily unplug form the screen and connect through creativity!
  • Pipsticks – Stickers + snail mail = LOVE. Pipsticks, a subscription sticker club, was started in September 2015 with the intention of bringing awesome stickers to kids, crafters and sticker lovers everywhere. Now, it’s a subscription service that has thousands of people anticipating their delivery each month. If you’re a sticker fanatic, you’ll love Pipsticks!

Other Fun Boxes

  • Faithbox – Faithbox is a monthly Christian subscription service filled with products from companies who have a positive impact on the world. Each box includes their self-published devotional, an impact guide, and each box sent also provides 3 meals to hungry kids via their non-profit partner.
  • Night In Boxes – basically Date Night in a Box, Night In Boxes curate memorable date experiences that include several interactive activities, accessories for ambiance to set the mood, high quality snacks or drink mixers and thoughtful dinner recipes, all to help enhance the connection with your significant other.
  • Kids Night In Boxes – Kids Night In Box brings families together in the comfort of their home and focus on truly playing with a purpose. Our team of moms, dads and educators package life lessons and education kits that are more than just another toy collecting dust. We also offer interactive sensory kits with all-natural, toxic free play dough and faith-based options as well.

2. Books

We buy books for our kids every year, and I sometimes buy myself books for my Christmas presents too, lol!  Scholastic has some great books, and if you know an Usborne distributor I HIGHLY recommend the Activity Books they carry.  If you want something a little faster, here are some fantastic books series that Amazon carries. 

3. Clothes & Shoes

We almost always end up buying our kids clothes and shoes for winter at Christmas time.  I don’t know why, but there always seems to be a huge growth spurt between August and November, so the school clothes we got them back in August don’t fit by the time winter rolls in!  There are tons of clothing and shoe options, obviously, but we like to get clothes from The Children’s Place and Old Navy, winter coats and snow clothes from Land’s End (they ALWAYS have a 40-60% off coupon somewhere), and we’re a Nike shoe family.

5. Hobbies

Do your kids have hobbies?  Our kids LOVE to draw and craft, so we often get them craft supplies for their stockings.  Sometimes our craft supplies come from the dollar store or Walmart, but occasionally we get them a gift card to Hobby Lobby or Michaels if they’re wanting something specific like a soap-making set, yarn for knitting or crocheting, or air dry clay.  They think it’s fun to spend gift cards and since I love wandering around Hobby Lobby, I’m happy to take them.

6. Sports

Do your kids play sports?  Sometimes it’s fun to splurge on a special baseball glove or new cleats at Christmastime.  There are tons of great sports places to get sports gear, but we tend to find what we need at Dick’s Sporting Goods or from Amazon.  We actually just bought this treadmill from there since I need to lose this COVID 10 pounds I packed on over the summer! I can binge my favorite Netflix show and still work out and I’m loving it.

7. Splurge/Luxury Items

I never buy myself lotion or perfume or spa stuff since I rarely use it, but at Christmas time I will ask for a pedicure or manicure gift card to be stuck into my Christmas stocking.  The husband has asked for tickets to the Final Four, and our first kiddo got a Pink electric Power Wheel Jeep for Christmas when she was three.  The first time she ever got in it she drove it immediately into a tree and never got into it again, but it was sure cute and a total splurge item!  Thankfully our other kids drove that Jeep or I would’ve been really mad for wasting that money, and it certainly taught me that I’m not really ok with buying junk gifts. 

8. Toys

Toys are a hard category for me.  I personally think most toys are just clutter that have to be picked up off the floor (did I mention I’m sort of a minimalist in certain areas?!?), but I also have a huge appreciation for STEM toys like Legos or Duplos as well as beautifully crafted wooden toys that won’t break after three uses.  We usually include one or two toys for our kids’ gifts because I do remember how exciting it was to open up a toy on Christmas morning, but we limit it because I know, in all reality, that I’m going to be the one picking that thing up off the floor!

9. Electronics

Our kids are getting older now, and we’ve entered into the age of asking for electronics.  In fact, I asked for a Nintendo Classic when they came out two years ago and I LOVE IT!!!  It’s one of the few electronic games our entire family enjoys (it’s got 60 different classic Nintendo games on it) and it’s awesome.  But I think you have to be careful with electronics since 1) they can be pricey, 2) they’re addictive, and 3) they can be too mature for kids depending on the games they get.  We aren’t anti-electronics, but we do encourage parents to set boundaries for electronics since they can easily get way out of hand.

How Many Gifts Do We Buy

Wanna’ know exactly how many gifts we get our kids every year?  Here’s how we break it down.

  1. Books – sometimes that means an entire boxed set of books, and sometimes that means just one novel for a kid, depending on the budget and how many books we can buy within the spending limit 
  2. Clothes/Shoes – we usually buy each kid one new pair of shoes
  3. Christmas PJs – everyone gets matching family Christmas jammers
  4. Toys – we get each kid two toys
  5. Stockings – we fill stocking with craft supplies, miscellaneous toy trinkets, and Christmas candy

And that’s it!  That’s all we buy every Christmas (unless we forgot we bought a kid a present earlier in the year and then everyone gets one extra present, whoops!).   We go through these questions every year when we’re trying to decide what exactly to buy, and then we stick to our budget and our guidelines and every year, regardless of the budget or what the gifts actually are, we all enjoy Christmas. 

If you’re still struggling with ideas for gifts, check out my post on How to Buy a Thoughtful Gift. You’ll find some great questions and even an organizational download for figuring out the exact perfect gifts for every person on your list and then keeping track of what to buy. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it!

All the best,


P.S. Drop me a comment and let me know if these questions are helpful to you.  Do you have other questions you consider when you’re trying to buy holiday gifts?  I’d love to hear them!


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