Finances & Money

Dealing with Christmas Gift Budget Surprises

So you think you have a well-planned budget for Christmas gifts, right? For us, we budgeted about $1000 for immediate family (17 people including us). We’ve had a budget since 2004, and we’ve been updating it each year by dropping friends and even some relatives, while adding some new people.

For our budget, we list the name, the budgeted amount, the actual expenditure and columns for what we bought them, from where and whether we’re done with that person. This year, we figured we were set.

However, here are a few things that popped up in our budget that we didn’t expect:

  • We didn’t expect to buy a gift for my sister since we agreed otherwise
  • My sister got engaged recently. Do we get the fiance a gift, or is he exempt as a “sibling”?
  • Stacie’s office did a Secret Santa gift exchange: cost $15, but we got that gift back through the exchange 🙂
  • We wanted to buy a Thank You gift for my aunt for letting us stay at her place a few times
  • Stacie bought some ornament kits from A.C. Moore for her coworkers. She’s been busy assembling them, while I’ve been eating cookies.
  • We picked up a “Give a Gift” tag from our parish tree. This is an anonymous gift for a specified age group. Our gift was “men’s toiletries”. I gave the free Gillette Fusion razor I got in February (still packaged), a pack of cartridges, and 2 of soap bars, Gillette shaving gel, toothpaste, deodorant and 1 toothbrush. I really don’t know how much we spent since I had a number of these items from a trip to Sam’s club months ago. I’ll guess our cost was around $20-25 (not counting the free razor).
  • Stacie’s office also had a gift package for a needy family (she works with premature babies), and she bought some baby stuff. Cost: about $20.

So overall, we’ll have about $90-100 more out of budget for gifts this year, but that’s actually no different than past years. We learned now to just add a $100 “Miscellaneous Gifts” budget in future years.

How do you handle “surprise gifts”?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • My wife and I buy gifts throughout the year, resulting in us having no ‘issues’ to deal with during the Christmas season. Sure, we still have to do some shopping this month, but we probably only spend $50 during the craziest time of the year. I love doing it this way. Also, it’s not a huge thorn in our side when it comes to budgeting for it. As a result, we can still put away a lot of money every month and still give us a good kick start to the new year as well!

  • I always include some ‘cushion’ in the amount of money I plan on spending on presents, so that I’m not taken by surprise with secret santas and the ilk. (Charitible projects like giving trees comes from my charitible giving budget–that budget amount is planned to include Christmas.)

  • Your sister may have purchased the gift ahead of time (like Tyler said above), I’m not sure how much warning you gave her. But if she purchased something after you talked to her I personally would feel okay not buying her anything. You had what you thought was an agreement and she broke it, that doesn’t force you to go over budget.

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