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A Big Family Christmas

Christmas? In July? Well, yes! It's a really huge deal in this house, and we couldn't pull it off if we didn't think about it at least a little all year long.

Christmas is my favorite holiday and the entire magical season is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the lights, the music, the cheer, the decorations, the smells, and mostly I love my kids' joy. As soon as holiday decorations begin to pop up in stores, it kicks off a sort of buzzing excitement that they can barely contain.

We have a big Christmas each year. There are lots of yummy treats, a big dinner on Christmas Eve, many family traditions to be enjoyed, and nearly every room gets decorated. There are lots of presents under the tree and by late in the day on December 24th, you can almost feel the energy radiating from the kids as they set out cookies and milk for Santa.

We have five children so budgeting and planning for Christmas are imperative. We've been told before that people don't know how we manage to pull off Christmas with such a large family. The secret is not so secret and the answer is quite simple- plan ahead. Need some ideas? Great! I have some to share.


Watch for sales.

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but I don't just mean watching ads for good prices. When you have a little extra time in Walmart (because we all have to go there eventually), hop over to the toy section (or whatever your children are into based on their age) and take a peek. There are often things that have been put on clearance that you can pick up and tuck away for later.

Just the other day we were in Walmart with the kids, letting them spend some birthday money. There were quite a few toys that had been marked down to less than ten dollars per item. When your kids are not in tow, these can make great presents later on.

By being open-minded about what you will buy, you can save a lot of money by looking for sales. Discount stores are also a good option. There are many stores that sell new items that have been discontinued in big box stores. They purchase the entire inventory from a store for cheap then sell it to you at a discounted price. Just be choosy- sometimes these items do not work or are missing parts. Make sure you can verify that the item is intact before you gift it.

Three Elf on the Shelf dolls sitting together.
Our elf family. Aren't they cute?

Don't be afraid of thrift stores.

For some reason, thrift stores get a bad rap. I personally love them and do a lot of thrift shopping. If you missed my post about thrift store shopping, check it out here. It's got some great tips. You can find some great gifts in thrift stores.

Our local thrift stores have a huge book selection. As long as a book has all its pages and is not marked in, there is no reason it should need to be brand new to make a wonderful gift. There are also lots of clothing items that are like new, and some even still have the tags attached. Toys can be a little tougher to come by since kids can be so rough on them, but it is definitely worth looking before paying full price.

Gifting items that are purchased in thrift stores can be a great way to teach your children that not everything has to be brand new, brand name, or fancy to bring us happiness. It is also a good way to show them that we can help others by being deliberate about where we shop.

A great thing about thrift shopping is that many thrift stores benefit a charity. You save money and you help others in need at the same time. If that doesn't scream holiday spirit, I don't know what does!

Set up a special fund.

If it's at all possible, set aside some money to help you cover Christmas expenses later in the year. There are several different ways to go about doing this.

  • Set up a savings account- create a special savings account solely for Christmas gifts. You may be able to connect it to your checking account so that a portion of your direct deposit will go straight into your savings before it ever hits your checking account. You're less likely to miss money you never saw.

  • Create a short-term CD- if you are able to set aside money from a tax return, for example, consider putting it into a CD. While a short-term CD is not likely to yield much in the way of interest, it can be really beneficial to cash out a few months before Christmas and buy your gifts early.

  • Take advantage of Christmas Club accounts- many employers offer Christmas Clubs. They simply take a pre-determined amount of money (an amount of your choosing) out of each paycheck and hold it in an account. Towards the end of the year, you will receive a check, tax-free, for the money your account has built. Again, you won't miss money you never saw.

A black and white cat sitting on gifts under a Christmas tree.
Plan ahead to put gifts (and cats) under your tree!

Buy ahead!

Possibly the absolute most helpful tip I can offer you for buying Christmas gifts on a budget is to buy ahead! Have two kids? Buy two gifts every single month! Yes, starting in January. Buying one gift for each child each month guarantees that even if something happens to impact your holidays, there will still be gifts under your tree on Christmas morning.

A great way to do this is to keep an Amazon wishlist. As your kids mention something they would like to have, add it to the wishlist. Once it has been purchased, it will be removed from the list. You can also share the list with others if you wish, allowing your family to do some early shopping as well.

One thing I highly recommend with this option is to keep a list somewhere of what you have bought and for which of your children it is for. That way, those things that have been tucked away in the darkest corners of your closet won't be forgotten about come time to take inventory and wrap gifts.


Christmas should be a time of love and joy. It should be a time to relax with your family and make memories with your children. It shouldn't be a time of worry, but for too many people, it is. When you're stressing about how to afford gifts and give your kids the Christmas they deserve, you're guaranteeing that you will be unhappy. By simply planning ahead and being open-minded, you can have a peaceful and merry Christmas.

Do you have any tips to add for buying Christmas gifts on a budget? Please share them with us!

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