Each year I give myself $100 to buy Christmas gifts. This includes gifts for our extended family, friends and anyone else we want to acknowledge with a gift (like our awesome mailman). It also includes stocking stuffers, plus advent gifts and Christmas Eve pajamas for both of our daughters.
It’s a fun challenge—and because it makes us think more about how we’re spending our Christmas dollars—it results in more thoughtful gifts.
Christmas mornings are really special in our house. We each take turns opening presents, instead of opening everything in a frenzy. This allows us to appreciate each gift, and the thought that went into selecting it. Since a tight budget forces you to be creative, there’s often an interesting story behind how a gift was obtained, and we take the time to share those stories.
I realize $100 sounds like an impossibly-small budget, so each Christmas, I snap picture of all the gifts I’m giving, and share them in a post, along with the running total of what I’ve spent. This is the eighth year that I’ve done this, and it’s always fun to look back on previous years, and see the different strategies that I’ve used to keep my gift spending in check. Some years, I go all-in on homemade gifts; other years, I rely heavily on rewards points or freebies. My approach is ever-evolving, but in the almost 21 years that I’ve been married, I’ve never increased my Christmas gift budget.
Not even this year, when inflation has sent the price of just about everything through the roof.
Interestingly, I haven’t found it any harder to pull off my challenge this year.
If you think a $100 (or less) Christmas sounds stingy or means I give really crappy gifts, this post is going to surprise you. It may even have you re-thinking the way you gift.
Because my Christmas Under $100 challenge is less about sticking to a certain dollar amount, and more about setting a budget that encourages me to be a mindful gifter. To turn off all the noise that tells us we need to spend a certain amount on each person, or buy our kids a certain number of gifts. To slow down long enough to give real thought to the gifts we’re giving and the people we’re giving them to. To tailor our gifts to each person’s interests and needs, so that they feel loved and seen.
Ready to see what that looks like in my house? Here are the Christmas gifts that I’ll be giving this year.
Several years back, I started doing an advent calendar for my girls. They take turns opening a gift every other day, so they each end up with 12 gifts. I use an over-the-door shoe organizer for their advent calendar. It has nice big pockets, which gives me more size flexibility than most advent calendars. I have a free advent calendar printable that you can use to make one.
Since they’re both in college, this year’s advent calendar is mostly filled with little treats and self-care items to help them get through all those term papers and finals.
These are the gifts I selected for my youngest daughter’s advent calendar pockets (she’s 18).
- The protein shake was a free-after-rebate Ibotta item.
- I got all the candy using Walgreens Rewards that I saved up doing the year.
- The tea bag came from a hotel stay.
- I requested the lotion samples online.
- The face mask was a freebie, but I can’t remember where I got it at the moment.
- The poinsettia oven mitt and pot holder were given to me at some point this year. I don’t remember the specifics.
Here are the gifts that I selected for my oldest daughter’s advent pockets (she’s 20).
- The Gatorade was a free-after-rebate Ibotta item.
- The candy was purchased with more of the Walgreens Rewards that I stockpiled throughout the year. Ditto for the Excedrin Migraine.
- The hair mask was a freebie that I requested online.
- The pen and tissues were freebies that I picked up somewhere this year.
The girls get to open one present on Christmas Eve, and it’s always pajamas. This year, I ordered them from Lands’ End, during a 60% off sale (with free shipping). I paid for them with some Honey Rewards that I earned this year.
Here’s what I’ll be tucking in my youngest daughter’s stocking:
- The candy and popcorn came from Dollar Tree. Occasionally, Instacart sends me a couple “we miss you” $15-off-$35 promo codes. So, I bought $20 of dollar store essentials that I would have bought any way, and used the free $15 to buy stocking stuffers for everyone.
- I got the crayons for free with Hallmark Crown Rewards.
- The toothbrush and toothpaste were free-after-coupon Walgreens items.
- The tea was a free-after-rebate Ibotta item.
Here are the gifts I chose for my oldest daughter’s stocking:
- The candy was purchased with that $15 Instacart promo code that I used on a Dollar Tree order.
- The toothbrush and toothpaste were free-after-coupon at Walgreens.
- The travel laundry detergent sheets came from REI. I earned a $75 gift card of my choice by participating in a Door Dash study, which I cashed in for an REI gift card.
- I paid for the chocolate chai latte with Walmart Rewards.
Here’s what I got for my husband’s stocking:
- The caramels, lighter and craft clamps were paid for with that $15 Instacart promo code that I used at Dollar Tree.
- The Skechers socks were free after rewards.
- I paid for the solid shampoo with Target Circle earnings.
- The Godiva chocolate almonds were paid for with Hallmark Crown Rewards.
- The iced coffee was paid for with another $15 off $35 Instacart “we miss you” promo code. I bought groceries at Aldi that I would have bought anyway; then, used the $15 to buy stocking stuffers and gifts.
Moving on to gifts …
These are all the gifts that I picked out for my youngest daughter:
- The Outside Magazine subscription was a freebie that I requested online.
- The tea bags were paid for with that $15 Instacart promo code that I used at Aldi.
- The Squishmallow was $1 at a yard sale.
- The National Parks book was in a box of books that someone gave us.
- The diffuser came from a yard sale. It was $5, and came with a bunch of new essential oils. I decided to divide the gift between my girls. My youngest will be getting the diffuser; my oldest will be getting the oils.
- I snagged the pickleball set on Facebook Market place. It was $10. She plays with her friends all the time, but didn’t have a set yet.
- The collapsible measuring cups were $1 at a yard sale.
- The Swell bowl was a Cheerios freebie.
- The little scrapbook was in some scrapbooking supplies that someone gave me.
- The Sanuks were in a big lot of shoes that I bought on Facebook Market place. They were $1.
- The 60-count box of sidewalk chalk was from Target. It was on clearance for $3.50. I had $1.33 of Target Circle earnings, so I paid $2.17. The kids go through lots of sidewalk chalk at college (probably more than they did when they were kids).
- I scored the can opener helping my mother-in-law clean out her garage. My daughter was too cheap to buy herself a good one.
Here are the gifts I chose for my oldest daughter:
- The air plant containers were in some stuff that was given to me this year.
- The essential oils came with that diffuser that I’ll be giving my youngest daughter, so the $5 cost is divided between the two of them.
- The tea bags were purchased with that $15 Instacart promo that I used at Aldi.
- The little scrapbook was in some scrapbook supplies that I was given.
- The books were in various stacks of books that we were given this year. They’re all perfectly suited to my daughter.
- I purchased the Matador soap bag and shampoo bars from REI, and used part of that $75 gift card that I earned from Door Dash. (She’ll be studying abroad next semester, so you’ll see lots of travel items among her gifts this year).
- I scooped up the Micron pens (a favorite of hers), while they were on sale on Amazon. I paid $3.56 for them.
- I made the microwave popcorn bag for her, using supplies I already had on hand, so no cost.
- The taco tote bag was given to me earlier this year. I knew she’d like it, so I tucked it away for her.
I’m hoping we’ll be able to make travel more of a priority this year, so several of my husband’s gifts are travel-related. Here’s what I got him:
- The Fruit of the Loom socks were on his wishlist. I paid for them with Honey Rewards.
- The Matador travel towel and soap bag were purchased from REI using the $75 gift card I earned from Door Dash.
- The waterproof phone pouch was purchased off Amazon, using Ibotta Rewards.
- The ground coffee was paid for using that $15 Instacart gift card that I used at Aldi.
- The Starbucks coffees were free after Ibotta cashback and Walmart Rewards.
That wraps up my immediate family. Now, let me show you what I’ll be giving my extended family and friends.
My dad has always loved these blacksmith metal puzzles, so when I came across these when I was helping my mother-in-law clean out her basement, I knew I had to put them aside for his Christmas gift.
And I picked out these Christmas-scented candles for my mom. A few years back someone gave us a TON of Yankee candles, so I’ve been slowly gifting them to people I know who enjoy them.
On my side of the family there are six nieces and nephews to shop for. Five in one family and one in another. I like to do a single family gift for the family with five kids because I don’t want to overwhelm their house with stuff.
This year, I decided to give them the Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook. They like to cook and bake, live in Florida and are Disney freaks, so this seemed tailor-made to them. I had a $14.20 rebate gift card that my husband earned by mailing back some old car part or another that he replaced. So, my out of pocket was $2.98. The book shipped free with my Amazon Prime membership, so I had it shipped straight to them to avoid shipping costs.
For my other niece, I ordered a Squishmallow Caticorn from Walgreens, while they were on sale, and paid for it with Walgreens Rewards. Shipping was free, so I had it sent straight to her.
That brings my current Christmas gift total to: $26.71
I still need to do gifts for my mother-in-law, one nephew, a couple friends and the mailman. Most of that will be food gifts (which is why they aren’t ready yet). I have a couple homemade gifts that I’d like to make my girls, but it’s been a crazy-busy year, so I’ll be playing that by ear. If I get to it great; if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll do another update, when I get everything wrapped up.