How Much is Too Much to Spend on the Kids at Christmas?

You don’t have to say a number (unless you really want to, and then I’m all ears), but I would love to know where other families draw the line on gift giving. My husband comes from a family that is wild about the holidays. Passing out the dozens of brightly wrapped gifts his family collects under their tree each year stops just short of requiring the stamina of a long distance runner. I spent my first Christmas with them, mouth agape, silently wondering how many forests had been leveled in order to produce that much gift wrap. It all seemed a little over the top compared to what I was used to.

Don’t get me wrong. My family’s approach to the holidays would not be considered frugal by any stretch of the imagination. My sisters and I were never disappointed on Christmas morning, but my parents were also in the habit of buying us the things we desired throughout the year as we earned them or as an occasional treat. Perhaps this made our list a little less lengthy at year’s end? It was typical for each of us to receive three gifts or so.

Our difference in upbringing has led to a bit of disagreement between my husband and I when it comes to celebrating with our own children. I think our kids should have no more than a handful of gifts, while my husband wants to recreate FAO Schwarz in our living room. For the time being it is easy enough to come to an agreement. The toys our children ask for are not very expensive and so we can afford to buy more of them. This satisfies my requirement that we remain on a budget and not use credit to purchase gifts and my husband’s desire to have tons of gifts for them to open.

However, I see this solution as short term. As our children grow, I suspect their taste in gifts will become more expensive. The price of one iPod touch, for instance, would buy 10 Batman action figures. When we reach that stage, I know I will be perfectly okay with our children finding one gift under the tree on Christmas morning, but will my husband?

Of course, cost isn’t the only issue I have. There’s also the standard worry as a parent that we are spoiling our children by giving into too many of their demands.

How do you decide how much is too much for your children at Christmas time? Do you have a number of gifts or a dollar amount you are willing to spend?

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