Christmas in July… How Do You Handle Gifts?

posted by Andrea | 07/25/2017

Last month, I asked my Facebook followers if there was anything specific they wanted me to write about… any post ideas, questions, suggestions, recipes, etc.

After only 15 minutes, 3 people had already requested more information about how we plan, budget, and shop for gifts (specifically Christmas gifts). And after a few hours, there were several more requests for a post about Christmas gifts.

So today, July 25, (exactly 5 months until Christmas Day) I thought it would be fitting to share a bit about what Dave and I do for Christmas gifts (and various other gift throughout the year).

I’d also love to have you chime in and share what works for you in the comments.Β 


Who We Buy Christmas Gifts For:

First things first, I feel it’s important to share WHO exactly we buy gifts for each holiday season…

Obviously, we buy gifts for our kids

Also, their cousins (they will have 5 cousins by next Christmas)

We buy gifts for both Dave’s and my parents

We do something small for Nora’s teacher(s)

That’s it.

We do NOT do gifts for neighbors, our friends, the kids’ friends, extended family members, Dave’s or my siblings, Dave’s or my grandparents, bus drivers, hair stylists, babysitters, people from church, etc. etc. etc.

I don’t necessarily think it’s bad or wrong to give gifts to any of these people — but it does cost money, it does take up time, and it often seems to cause a whole lot of extra stress and busyness during the holiday season.

Of course, this all might change as our children get older and want to give more gifts, but it’s working well for us right now!


Who We Buy Birthday Gifts For:

In general, we don’t go overboard for birthday gifts either.

We buy gifts for our kids and often do something REALLY small for Nora’s teacher (see photo below)

We don’t get gifts for cousins or friends unless they actually have a birthday party we are invited to (our cousins haven’t had birthday parties because they live out of state and we’ve only had 1 invitation to a friend’s birthday party so far.)

We also don’t do gifts for grandparents unless it’s something special (we got Dave’s Dad a handful of gag gifts for his 60th birthday last year). The kids will just draw them pictures, make them a card, or I’ll bake a special treat we can bring over to them on their special day. Otherwise, our parents really don’t need or want anything for their birthday.


What Other Gifts We Buy:

Maybe Dave and I are just Scrooges, but we really don’t buy or give many other tangible gifts for anyone throughout the year.

We don’t do:

  • Valentines gifts
  • Easter baskets
  • half birthday gifts
  • anniversary gifts
  • “push presents” (gifts from the husband when the wife has a baby)
  • 100 days of school left gifts
  • etc. etc.

We did put money in a pot for an end-of-year gift for Nora’s 2 teachers, and we do little things for our kids all year long (surprise toys or special things on vacation, letting them pick out a free toy at the thrift store, buying something special at the dollar store, etc.)

Also, we will obviously buy an appropriate gift for any baby showers, bridal showers, or weddings we are invited to (always from the registry to make sure they can easily return it if necessary).

I think we operate more on “acts of service” gifts — like babysitting for a neighbor so she can go to the Dr. alone, bringing meals to someone who’s sick, or helping to clean someone’s house before they move.


How We Budget For Gifts:

Since we really don’t do many gifts outside of birthday gifts for our kids and a handful of Christmas gifts (and we don’t go crazy for any of these events), we really don’t have a lot to budget for.

At this point, we do not have a “set amount” we spend for various gifts, nor do we worry about keeping things fair between children or even between our parents.

We might spend $50 on one child and get them 5 gifts they really wanted, and only $7 on another child — but still get them 5 gifts they really wanted.

Our kids definitely do not grasp the full concept of money yet, so as long as they get roughly the same number of gifts for Christmas and as long as we get them things they actually want, they are thrilled. They could care less how much money we spend on them.Β In fact, most of the gifts we give them are used — from thrift stores, Craigslist, etc.

I realize that as our children get older, there will be more expenses involved in their gifts, but for now, we can easily get away with very frugal gifts for our kids.

As for our parents, we often give them a variety of gift cards to some of their favorite places, family photos, yearly calendars with pictures of our kids, crafts the kids made for them, gourmet foods (nuts, cheese, wine, etc.), sometimes a few gag gifts like silly socks or a funny tie, and maybe a couple things they have mentioned over the course of the year.

Nothing extravagant at all — last year, one of my gifts for my mom was canning her 18 quarts of applesauce because she didn’t have time to do it. She was thrilled πŸ™‚


How we shop for gifts:

Once again, since we don’t have that many gifts to buy, it’s usually pretty easy for me to buy them in advance OR wait until closer to the birthday/Christmas party.

I have a gift wrapping cabinet in one of our upstairs closets and I use that to store any gifts I buy or find in advance. This is especially helpful when I find a great item at the thrift store and can’t wait to buy it later.

Here’s a picture of the cabinet — we don’t have the TV inside anymore, so the top area is all for future gifts.

As for keeping lists of items I might want to buy, I Β have a page in the back of my planner to record ideas whenever I hear someone mention, “I’d like _________”. Then I sort of keep an eye out for that item as I shop Craigslist, thrift stores, or Amazon. If I find a great deal, I’ll probably buy it and save it for Christmas. Otherwise, I’ll buy it online or from a store once we’re closer to the date I need to give the gift.

I also keep an Amazon wish list for every person in our family — so if someone wants to buy US a gift, I can simply direct them to that list and they can choose from a variety of items they know we actually want!

As for gift cards, I wait to buy those until after Thanksgiving (if possible) since so many restaurants have special bonuses and extra offers for buying gift cards during the holiday season. In fact, I usually buy a bunch of gift cards for our own family during the holiday season too!


In general, I try to plan ahead with gift giving — even if it’s just buying something a few weeks in advance. Also, we don’t usually spend all that much on gifts, which alleviates the need for a strict budget (one year we spent about $20 total on all 3 kids for Christmas and it’s not uncommon for us to spend less than $10 on a variety of birthday gifts for each child!)

Of course, none of this is set-in-stone — we don’t have one specific way we always or never do gifts. We just sort of do whatever seems to work best for us at that time and for that person.

Sometimes that means buying a gift way in advance, sometimes that means running to the store for a gift card on our way to the party πŸ™‚

We don’t start Christmas shopping at a specific time of the year and we certainly are not out shopping on Black Friday!

If possible, I like to buy most of my gifts online, and if I know of a local small business I can buy from, I’ll try that option first over a bigbox store.

Also, I do really enjoy taking a little extra time to wrap my gifts nicely!

Still Looking for MORE?Β Here’s a link to ALL the posts I’ve write about gifts — there are LOTS of them!)Β 

So that’s a little more about how WE handle gifts.

I’d love to know… how do YOU handle gift-giving?

Happy Christmas in July! πŸ™‚


Filed under: FamilyHolidays

Leave a comment


  1. Sandy


    I have 4 children, 10 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren. It’s true that it’s cheaper by the dozen. So regardless the the occasion, I watch all year for items the kids, young and old might like. Depending on age appropriateness I can still buy 2,3, or 10 for less buying individually. If you have friends or relatives ordering gifts you can ask if they’re interested in the same item and apply the same money saving concept.


    Andrea Reply:

    WOWOWOWOW!!!! good for you for planning ahead! That’s A LOT of people to buy for!


  2. Linda B.


    I have a gift card question. We, too, always buy gift cards (including for our use) around Thanksgiving when there are bonuses offered with each purchase. If you are buying a gift card for someone else, do you think it is okay to keep the bonus gift for yourself? I just think it is kind of weird to fold up the little piece of paper we get from Culver’s for a free basket and include it with the gift card we buy for someone else. Am I wrong about that?


    Andrea Reply:

    Good question — and I think it depends.
    If you’re giving a culver’s gift card to someone who goes there all the time and already knows about the free value basket promotion, I’d probably give them the coupon along with the gift card. However, if you’re giving it to someone who’s never been there or who might not know how Culver’s works, I’d probably just keep the coupon.

    That said, I don’t think it’s a huge deal either way — I’m sure the person will be happy with a free gift card whether there’s a coupon with it or not πŸ™‚


  3. Melinda


    Thank you for writing this post. I read it 3 times. ha. I am totally organized around my home but for some reason when it comes to gifts I find myself running around at the last minute to buy the gift, card and wrapping. And since I’m in a rush I want to kick myself for buying the higher dollar birthday or baby card, etc. and gift bags where I bought the gift instead of having the time to go to the Dollar Tree where they are a lot cheaper (but look just as nice).

    I just bought a planner, so I think my solution is to make a note a month before the intended birthday and have it bought and wrapped then. πŸ™‚


    Andrea Reply:

    wow 3 times!!
    I think it’s a really good idea to write that you need to buy the gifts a month in advance in your planner. I actually do this exact same thing — and it works well for me!


  4. Stel


    I have really simplified my Christmas gifting. Since my one and only close family member (my sis) lives overseas, I choose to still send or order gifts to her. Mail from RSA means I often do it months in advance and she just stores it until Christmas, and they’ll have a little South Christmas Eve celebration in addition to their traditional Irish Christmas morning. Here we buy for ourselves – me, my husband, the boys, my husband’s parents. I stopped including his siblings and their offspring since gift exchanges got postponed more and more, and mailed gifts weren’t picked up, and we almost never see them over Christmas.
    My boys give a small teachers’ gift for their class teacher (up to gr 3) and after that for one favourite teacher, as out school year also ends at the end of the year.
    No gift exchanges with friends or others, rather a bbq evening.


  5. Donna M.


    We only give gifts to our son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. At our large family Christmas with all the siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, we only give to the children, up to age 18. The adults used to draw names and have a fifty dollar limit, but it turned into a gift card exchange so we stopped doing that. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts for anything, but will surprise each other sometimes with something during the year. Or we’ll buy something big as our gift to each other. And I really, really encourage gift lists! I don’t mind spending, but I hate being at a complete loss as to what to give.


    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, we tried exchanging names with adult siblings too — but it just turned into a gift card exchange which wasn’t really worth anyone’s time πŸ™‚

    And yes, I’m always in favor of lists — which is why I do the Amazon wish lists. I can’t stand it when someone says “oh, I don’t need anything” or “just get me something you would like”. NO, I want to get something YOU would like!


  6. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life


    You are SO good at finding great used stuff for your kids!

    For Christmas, we buy for our parents (about $30 for each set of parents), my brother and his family (I usually buy a $40 gift card to the children’s museum in their city for a family gift), and we draw names with my husband’s siblings (the rule is to spend around $50 for which ever name you draw).

    We try to keep birthday spending to around $10-15.

    We save a little bit each month to a separate savings account so that we have the money for gifts when we need it. It helps to keep our budget pretty much the same month-to-month.


    Andrea Reply:

    we have amazing thrift stores in our area — and since our kids are young, they are more than happy with used gifts. Nora actually thinks one of the thrift stores buy is is a “toy store”! Just think what she would do if I ever introduced her to Toys R’ us!!


  7. Tori


    Ugh! Although our primary focus and belief is on Jesus as THE gift of Christmas, Gift-giving at Christmas is a dilemma every single year in our family, which is a total of 23 with sibling and their families.

    Well into adulthood we all bought for everyone! (I did that for 15 years while I was single!). Now, we have pared it down to either drawing names or giving to those under age 13. (Once you’re a teenager, you’re out of luck). BUT, usually my siblings STILL give gifts to others and when I don’t, because I followed the “rules’, it kind of stinks!!! And one part of the family who can LEAST afford to buy gifts buys the most of all! GRRR!!!

    I have always LOVED to buy gifts and I really feel an emptiness and sadness every year when I “can’t” buy gifts, because we are trying to mange the time and money it takes for all of us to exchange gifts. I mean, it is HOURS!!!.

    So, it’s an ongoing dilemma for me/us. Gift giving is definitely my love language and MAKING myself not buy and give gifts is just not fun.


    As always, a great article, Andrea


    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I honestly used to be much more of a “gifts” person (so I know how you feel) — but my love language has majorly shifted to Acts of Service over the past 10-15 years.

    What about making gifts — specifically food gifts? They are almost always appreciated, but they aren’t really a “purchased” gift so you aren’t technically breaking the rules! You could find really cute goodies boxes and tins and wrap everything nicely too.