Should You Buy Your Family Lots of Holiday Gifts?

Should You Buy Lots of Holiday Gifts for Your Family?

Welcome to the Personal Finance Roundtable, where we tackle some controversial money questions with the help of our favorite personal finance bloggers, once a month.

In the days of King Arthur, the roundtable signified the place where consequential ideas were discussed – hopefully over good food and good drinks. While we don’t yet have virtual food and drinks, we can at least create a place to discuss important topics related to your finances and get a wide range of viewpoints. So, without further ado, this month’s question is…

Should You Buy Your Family Lots of Holiday Gifts?

Philip Taylor from PT MoneyPhilip from PT Money: “Even though I think most of us have everything we need and want these days, as long as you are living within your means and taking care of your other financial goals, then it’s fine to splurge on Christmas gifts. But I wouldn’t recommend a lot of gifts if you’re going in debt to do it or if it means you aren’t meeting your other financial goals.”

Carrie from Careful CentsCarrie from Careful Cents: “No, I personally do not advise people to buy their family or friends lots of gifts. I learned this the hard way when the gift-giving turned into an obligation madhouse for myself and my family. We finally came to our senses and agreed to only buy the children and our significant other gifts. The season isn’t about getting stuff – it’s about giving and spending time with the people you love. That’s what you should spend your time and money on!”

Average JoeJoe from The Free Financial Advisor: “I love giving presents and have a blast watching people open stuff I picked out specifically for them… but there’s a gift-giving spot known as ‘too far.’ Here’s how to know if you’re overdoing it: If you’re using gifts to make people love you more, that doesn’t work. If you’re going into debt or compromising family goals, you’re actually sabotaging your chances of success. If you’re giving because you think you have to equal what others are giving to you, there’s better strategies. Aunt Martha probably won’t disown you for not equaling the value of that ten-year-old fruitcake.”

Greg-and-HollyGreg from Club Thrifty: “No. We used to buy for everybody, but the adults ended up trading gift cards around. However, we don’t want our kids to lose that sense of wonderment and excitement just yet. Thus, we limit our Christmas spending to the children in the family.”


Planting Our PenniesMrs. PoP from Planting Our Pennies: “In the PoP family, it’s not the number of gifts that we pay attention to, but the thought that goes into them. The best test we’ve come up with is the gun rack test that we have based on the movie Wayne’s World. Wayne says it best: ‘A gun rack? What am I gonna do with a gun rack? I don’t have A gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack!'”

David BakkeDavid Bakke from Money Crashers: “If your family has a holiday tradition of buying lots of Christmas gifts for each other, then you may be forced to take part in order to avoid embarrassment. But generally speaking, no, I do not recommend purchasing a lot of holiday gifts. Doing so can land you in a pile of credit card debt, which will probably take you longer than you’d expect to get out of. Instead, I suggest focusing more on holiday experiences rather than expensive gifts. Family members can better display their love and affection by spending quality time together rather than running through a ton of money. For example, there are meaningful gift ideas for kids that they’re more likely to remember long after than the latest gadget or toy.”

What about you? Tell us in the comments whether you plan to buy on Black Friday or skip it!

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  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    I think it depends on the family and what expectations there are. We try to limit what is spent by having a budget for the Holidays. It also helps that none of our siblings are married yet so that cuts down on the gifts we might otherwise would have to buy.

    • Having a budget for the holidays is definitely a great idea. But you’re right – it depends a lot on your family.

  • We try to keep it pretty simple around here when it comes to gifts. It’s always tempting to over spend, so we set some guidelines when our kids were young. Each child gets one small gift to open Christmas Eve. Christmas morning everyone gets a stocking and two gifts. That’s it. That’s all we’ve ever done. By setting these expectations early, you can train your family to focus less on the gifts and more on the time shared together. It also helps you stick to your holiday budget.