Making the holidays magical on a budget

Tips and tricks for the smart and savvy gift-giver


Let’s face it: For kids, the holidays are all about presents. And while it would be wonderful if wishes really did cause packages to appear, every parent knows that making the holidays magical is really up to them. (Shhhh, don’t tell!)

As much fun as it is to sit back with a cup of coffee and watch the kids tear into their gifts, planning for that moment can be tricky. The average holiday shopper spends more than $837 on presents.1 And even if you make a seasonal budget, it can be hard to stick to it once you start shopping. But there are ways to save money while you shop. Gift-giving doesn't have to hurt your wallet or feel like a chore.

Make a budget and stick to it

With most major purchases, having a plan before you leave home (or shop online) is absolutely essential. If you start buying presents before setting a budget, it’s way too easy to overspend.

Trying to do your Christmas shopping on a budget? Want to stay smart about Hanukkah spending? One smart way to think about your holiday budget is to pick an amount to spend per child. Parents tend to spend on average $276 per child.2 If you’ve been saving for gifts all year and don’t have a big family, that number may be higher. But if your list is long and your funds are a little tighter, just choose an amount that works for you. Whatever the number, knowing what’s available before you start shopping makes it easier to plan.

Time it just right

If you’re looking for the best deals on gifts, when you buy can be just as important as what you buy. One of the best days to snag a great deal on toys is on ‬‬Black Friday.3 If you prefer shopping from the comfort of your couch, remember that online retailers have great sales on Cyber Monday. These days can be the best times to save on those must-have, big-ticket items on your kids’ wish lists.

But if you miss the post-Thanksgiving sales, no worries. Research shows that great deals can also be found during the first 2 weeks of December. In fact, Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) is known for having deals just for those last minute shoppers.4 With the holidays quickly approaching, many retailers start slashing prices, making the first few weeks of December a procrastinator’s paradise.

Create experiences

One of the best ways to save money on gifts is to put your funds toward an experience for the whole family. Look at your kids’ bedrooms and toy collections. Think back to past holidays and remember when even the most coveted toys lost their appeal sooner than anyone expected.

Giving your family a unique experience, such as a trip to a theme park or a ride in a hot-air balloon, can be the kind of memory that sticks with kids for years to come.5 If you buy a family membership to a science museum for Kwanzaa or season tickets to see their favorite sports team play for Hanukkah, you can spread the holiday cheer throughout the year. It’s also fun to get creative with how you wrap an experiential gift. A giant stuffed Mickey Mouse makes a big impression that just gets more exciting when kids realize it represents tickets to Disneyland.

However you choose to shop (or not) this year, you can make memorable and magical moments for your kids without breaking the bank. Just stick to your budget, shop when prices drop and think outside the traditional gift box with an experience the whole family can enjoy. When it comes to presents, giving really is better than receiving. And the act of giving feels even sweeter when you make wishes come true without busting your budget.


This site is for educational purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

  1. Early U.S. Holiday Spending Plans Look Similar to 2020 (November 2, 2021). Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/356897/early-holiday-spending-plans-look-similar-2020.aspx.   
  2. Poll: Many Americans say they’ll decrease their holiday spending in 2021. (November 8, 2021). Retrieved November 15, 2021, from: https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/holiday-debt-poll/.  
  3. This Is The Best Day To Buy Toys And Other Gifts If You’re Shopping Online (November 15, 2016). Retrieved November 15, 2021, from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2016/11/15/this-is-the-best-day-to-buy-toys-and-other-gifts-if-youre-shopping-online-2/
  4. 15+ Super Saturday Sales For Last Minute Holiday Shoppers (December 17, 2020). Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.iheart.com/content/2020-12-17-15-super-saturday-sales-for-last-minute-holiday-shoppers/
  5. 41 Experience Gifts for Kids That Are Way Better Than Another Toy. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from: https://www.purewow.com/family/experience-gifts-for-kids.

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