The most wonderful time of year can also be the most stressful. Blogger Natalie Kurtzman of The Boston Day Book shares how she budgets for holiday giving.

My husband Matt and I celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. We are also parents to a one year old boy, who makes the holiday season so much more meaningful … but it is easy to get carried away buying adorable gifts for him.

As we think about our family traditions and gifting, we are trying to be more thoughtful in our approach. We are planning to celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the menorah, introducing the dreidel, making latkes and homemade applesauce, and by giving our son a small gift each night. Truth be told, at one year old the excitement of opening a gift is enough… it doesn’t have to be a big ticket item inside for him to be happy. I am trying to remind myself of that and focus on the things that he will really love (and that will be kind to our bank account) like reusable stickers and board books.

For Christmas, we are planning to gift him a larger item (a play kitchen, for those curious!), and then have a few smaller items from Santa. We want to teach him that the magic of the season comes from being with family and celebrating together. It is of course fun to receive a new toy or two, but it also feels really good to give gifts. He’s already picked out a few toys for his cousin, and although he’s young, I’m hoping that these traditions of giving will stick for years to come, and that he will feel the magic of the season.

As we’ve navigated the path into adulthood (and parenthood), here are some ways that gifting around the holidays has become easier and more meaningful:

Less is More

We live in Boston, and really hope to stay in the city long-term. Of course as our family grows, there are challenges that come with living in 900 square feet. I am really trying to limit the amount of “stuff” we consume by choosing quality over quantity. As a mom, I also like to think about items that can stand the test of time. This holiday season, my son will be receiving a toy kitchen that is well-made and my hope is that he’ll enjoy it for years to come. I find that by choosing quality over quantity, I ultimately spend less and support businesses that I believe in.

Save During the Year

I love to budget. Rewind ten years and I wasn’t very good with money. We typically just spent the money that we made, and didn’t have a plan when it came to emergency funds or savings. Over the years as we made larger purchases like buying a home and saving for career changes, I’ve learned a lot more about money and the ways in which we spend it. I use a budgeting program daily and it has really helped me to understand our spending habits and to also put money aside for savings and rainy day funds like the holidays.

It feels great to not have stress about holiday gift giving or feel like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to buy gifts. We’ve saved up enough money throughout the year (and $5 here and there really does add up) to be able to make the purchases we want without feeling like our monthly budget takes a big hit.

If I could offer my younger self one piece of advice it would be to start budgeting sooner. Money can feel so intimidating but it shouldn’t be that way, and budgeting really gives you the tools to feel empowered and in control of your finances.

Shop Smart

I have always enjoyed a good bargain (I thank my mom for that), and it feels good to shop the sales during Small Business Saturday as well as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It seems that most smaller independent businesses offer some sort of discount or promotion these days in addition to the big box stores. Even if you aren’t getting a huge discount, a bonus item or free shipping can go a long way.

I like to identify the gifts I’m interested in buying and see which shops are going to be participating in the sales, and that way I can be sure to make my purchase in the right window. I love that Small Business Saturday highlights all of the awesome independent shops.

How do you go about buying gifts for loved ones? Do you have a set budget and stick to it?

Photo Cred: Elizabeth LaDuca Photography

Natalie is an editor of the popular lifestyle blog The Boston Day Book which she writes with her sister, Laura Chassaigne. They cover topics such as motherhood, travel, art, local events, and city life with kids. She also writes a family travel blog called Wishful Nals. You can follow along with Natalie on Instagram at @bostondaybook and @wishfulnals.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner professional.

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