Christmas Shopping on a Budget

"Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read."


I love Christmas. We actually went through several years where we questioned whether Christmas was even okay for us as Christians to celebrate, and even in those quiet years, I still managed to sneak in some kind of gift giving and stocking filling for my children.

What I don't love however, is getting into debt, buying stuff we don't need, and neglecting the poor. 

The desire to live within our means so that we can be free to give defines our Christmas gift giving.

I want Christmas to feel extravagant for our children, but I don't want to spend extravagantly. With this goal in mind, there are a few strategies that I use each Christmas.

1. Keep Expectations Low- Every year I tell the children that it will be a small Christmas and they won't receive many gifts. I do spend a morning asking them what they would like for Christmas and writing it down, I love hearing what they are dreaming of, but I make it clear that they will not get everything on their list.

2. Use A Formula- I love the phrase, "Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read".  It has been attributed to Ann Voskamp and is a very good guideline for me on gift purchasing. With seven children, I need a framework to keep the gift purchasing simple.

3. Start Early- Throughout the year, I am constantly on the lookout for good books at thrift stores. These are stored in my closet where I will then divide them up between the children for their Christmas gifts. There is nothing quite like a new book with a holiday to enjoy reading it. This is a good principle for all gift giving, while being careful not to overbuy or overspend.

4. Wrap Everything- I use Christmas as an opportunity to give my children things that they already need. Socks, underwear, toothbrushes and toothpaste. I may spend a little extra to get day of the week undies, or a character toothbrush, but even necessities should not be taken for granted, and giving them as gifts helps my children recognize that fact. I also wrap small things like crayons and drawing pads which were purchased for a few dollars back in August.


5. Keep Relationship as the Priority- Throughout the holiday season we try to keep relationships at the forefront. Making time to read through an advent devotional, sing songs, build a puzzle, and reach out to the needy are what the holiday should be defined by. If all my time is spent shopping, the memories will be bitter for everyone.

Christmas can be a wonderful time, free of debt and stress, it just might take a little more thought and planning.

For more ideas on a simple, thoughtful Christmas, check out www.bewildandfree.org. The December subscription, Wonder, is full of beautiful ideas for Christmas celebrations that keep Jesus as the center while making special memories with your children. Our recent Little House on the Prairie Christmas Party, along with recipes and a craft is one of many lovely resources included.

If you need some help to define a budget, and create a more simple Christmas, check out the course, Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget. The price is only $18 when you use the code "Budget" and all proceeds fund ministry to children and families in Tanzania, Africa. But hurry, enrollment for the class ends December 20th. 

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. This is a great formula for the Christmas season!

  2. Your formula is a good one. I changed how I celebrate Christmas - now it is all about spending time with Him, worshipping, listening to carols, listening to Him - giving Him the gift of myself.

    1. I love this! In my efforts to minister to my family, personal time with Jesus can get squeezed out. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I think you are so wise in doing these things.

  4. I use three gifts - one for each wise man. My kids try to game that by saying they get 3 gifts from mommy and 3 gifts from daddy and 3 more from Santa. Uh... no.

    I fill stockings with forbidden and favorite food treats. Wrapping a can of Pringles sounds crazy, but it makes my kiddo happy.

  5. These are great tips, I really like "Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read".

  6. Your ideas are excellent... Now I'll say you said it...hahaha

  7. FYI, This is the picture I was wanting and this one is bigger, so YAY! I am going to use it ;)

    1. Oh good! I have been having trouble sharing photos from my iPhoto, and was going to Dropbox you today.
      I am glad that this will work for you.
      Have a great weekend!