6 ways to avoid overspending on the kids this Christmas

November 29, 2023 04:16 AM GMT | By PAMEDIA
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There’s few better feelings for a parent than seeing the delight on their child’s face when they open a gift they’ve been desperately wishing for.

But all too often, those gifts are expensive – and the cost-of-living crisis means many parents just don’t have the money to splash out on their kids as much as they’d like to this Christmas.

However, not buying what’s on your child’s wish-list means potential disappointment and possibly even tears on Christmas Day, and no parent wants that either. So, what’s the solution?


“It’s so easy for parents to overspend at Christmas, as you really want to give the kids something special,” says personal finance expert Jasmine Birtles, founder of the money-saving website MoneyMagpie.com. “And it’s particularly hard if they see their friends getting expensive presents that they want too.”

Louise Hill, co-founder and CEO of the children’s debit card and financial app GoHenry, adds: “Navigating this year’s Christmas lists from your kids is extra-challenging during the cost-of-living crisis and needs a balance of thoughtful giving and financial restraint.

“It can be hard to avoid the latest – and expensive – toy trends, and while you want to buy everything on their lists, it’s important to remember that Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, rather than expensive gifts.”

Here are the experts’ tips on how to avoid overspending on the kids this Christmas…

1. Be honest with them

Communication with kids is key, and talking to them about the family’s financial situation will at least go some way to helping them understand why they won’t be getting everything on their wish-list this year, and help parents feel less under pressure to buy things they can’t afford.

“Children are very good when they understand the situation,” stresses Birtles. “So try to explain to them – without frightening them – how much money you have and that you want to buy them some nice presents, but you don’t have a lot. Get them to tell you what they really want that your money could buy – that gives them control and makes them satisfied.”

2. Set a budget and stick to it

Mother and young son opening a Christmas present
(Alamy/PA)

Draw up a strict budget – and no going over it here and there! “Setting a budget will help you avoid overspending and will keep your family finances healthy during the most expensive season of the year,” says Hill.

Matt Buttery, CEO of the parenting programme provider Triple P UK, adds: “Early on, establish a reasonable budget and ask kids to list one or two items that are on their top wish-list. This can help to manage expectations and increase the likelihood that the gifts will be appreciated and used.”

3. Try to buy what they need, not just want

Rather than spending precious money on fad toys that might never come out of their box after Christmas Day, encourage your kids to think about things they really need and will get lasting joy from, rather than just want right this moment.

“This might not work as well with younger children, but is definitely worth a go with older kids and teens,” says Hill. “Why not sit down with your kids and gently encourage them to think about asking for more practical gifts they’ll get use out of, rather than fad toys.”

4. Swap toys

A toy swap can be a great way for your kids to get ‘new’ (to them) items without spending a penny, says Hill. “Swapping with friends, especially those with kids the same age as yours, is a great way to make use of preloved toys, or even clothes.”

She points out that charity shops can also be a treasure trove for cheaper gifts. “Purchasing from local charity shops is not only great for the environment, you can also find some brilliant bargains as well as supporting important causes,” Hill adds.

5. Maximise free festive fun

Dad and young son at home together at Christmas, looking at a phone
(Alamy/PA)

Parents just want to make their kids happy – so if you can make them happy through cheap or free festive fun, it could help make it a little easier to accept that you can’t buy them all the gifts their hearts desire this Christmas.

“Get them to join in the festive preparations by making decorations, helping with the dinner, and even joining you in carol singing around the area,” suggests Birtles. “Find a free Father Christmas session – sometimes local shopping centres do them, and go to your local church for carols too as those are usually free.”

6. Remember there’s much more to Christmas than spending money

It’s important for parents to remember that there’s so much more to Christmas than just the money you spend, stresses Buttery. “When most of us reminisce about our favourite Christmases as children, we remember the fun, games and family time, not how much our parents spent on gifts,” he says.

“It’s important to keep this in mind as you negotiate your finances during the holidays, and to remember that the effort you put into creating memories with your child can endure a lifetime. The true essence of the holiday season can be found in spending quality time together and providing children with the affection, compassion, and sense of security that comes from a strong family bond.”


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