Monday, December 10, 2012

Moolah Monday: Planning for Christmas Presents with Large Families

I know many of you may be finished with your Christmas shopping already but I wanted to share our method of planning for and shopping for gifts in our household.  Creating a plan is a good way to ensure you purchase all the gifts you intend to purchase while having visibility into how much you're spending compared to budget.

Our family gifts on Christmas morning (immediate family) includes a present from Santa, a present from mom, a present from dad, and then each of the siblings trade gifts.  Mom and dad usually give bigger gifts than Santa.  After those three gifts are opened, one sibling will give out the gifts from them to all of the other siblings.  So we'll say "ok Logan, it's your turn to give your gifts.  Kids these gifts are from Logan!" and in his case now that he's older he's had a hand in picking them out.  Even the babies or new fosters will have a chance to give "their" gifts out, whether or not are big enough to pick out their gifts to give or physically hand them out.  When we don't have foster brothers and sisters we'll include the dogs as givers, but for the last few years we've had foster brothers and sisters so we haven't worried about that.  Additionally Santa will fill stockings and we'll have a present to open on Christmas eve.

Currently we have 4 kiddos in our home or 6 total family members.  Even if you're not great at math you can tell that our system can become complicated to manage AND expensive without a plan.  We use a matrix graph like the one shown here (I've drawn this out for you - we usually draw it out too) to help plan and then guide our purchases.

You can use this in several ways.  Here's my process:

1) Use the pink shaded areas (giving to you from you) to keep track of presents you think might come from the jolly old fellow himself.  This keeps those presents on your list without making it obvious in case little eyes should happen upon the list (of course it could be obvious to those little eyes if they see the list then see what they received from Santa later, but still, it gives you a chance to come up with a plan if you need to).

2) First things, first.  Set your overall target budget.  How much are you wanting to spend on Christmas gifts.  Note - this needs to be less than your total if you have other people to buy for (grandparents, coworkers, nieces & nephews, etc.).  Don't stray from this total budget amount unless you know where that money is coming from (extra in your budget, savings, etc.)...

The next step you can choose to do either A or B first - whichever makes you happy or works better for you.  We do A first so that's what I'll start with.  HINT - Use pencil. You WILL need to make changes.

3A)  Using your childrens wish lists, write in the presents you want to purchase for them & the estimated price.  You'll notice from Dad to Logan there is a Meep online tablet.  This is a real wish for our son despite the fact that we bought him a Leap Pad last year.  (Also note that we don't usually spend that much on one person, except I just told you we bought a Leap Pad last year so maybe we do...this year we'll be giving the Leap Pad to Summer as a gift for her since it's fairly new & Logan would get the Meep.  Shhh...don't tell him.)  You may fill in all of the boxes with their wish lists this way.  

3B) Write in how much you'd like to spend in each box.  So, I might say that since #14 is so young I'd like to keep each gift between $5 and $10 and fill that in for each of his gifts in row "#14" across.  

4) When there is an estimated OR allotted amount in each box, add up the total for each row (and/or column, if you wish).  You should now have a target goal for each person (received if you're using the total column, given if you're using the total row). 

5) Add up the total columns (or rows).  If you're total is LESS than the grand total goal (bottom right box) then you can make adjustments by spending MORE on one or more person (or keep the difference in your budget!).  If you're total is MORE than the grand total goal then you need to make adjustments by reducing the amount spent on one or more person.  Repeat steps 3-5 until your total for each person matches the grand total you wish to spend.  Note - you may not fill in the exact item for each box - as long as you have a target amount you're fine. but I recommend at least having the type of item (book, socks, movie, etc.) so you're not running through the whole store trying to think of SOMETHING.

NOTE - in our family we don't particularly care whether one child received EXACTLY the same $$ amount of gifts as the other kids in our family or not.  They are different ages and like different things so the amount spent might be different.  The amount given might also be different at this point since we're funding all of the gifts BUT the total given for each person could be useful if you have older kids who are buying their own gifts (something I recommend, as a lesson in budgeting AND giving).  Not to mention they need to be grateful with what they received not comparing to what everyone else received.  In any case you might be interested in this total by person concept to make them match exactly or at least know how much you spent, if you care.

6) Shop for the "MUST HAVES" on your list. Using a colored pen or marker, cross off the gifts as you put them in the cart.  VERY IMPORTANT - cross out the target price and write down the ACTUAL price next to it in the same box.  For example, I might find a MEEP on sale for $100.  I'd cross off the $150 and write $100 next to it).  Don't estimate - write down what the price tag says (or sale price if it is on sale). 
If you're purchasing a gift that is MORE than what you had planned, you'll have to immediately figure out which present you're making the adjustment to.  For example, I might find a MEEP for $165 dollars, which is $15 more than I'd planned to spend on it.  In that case I might erase the $25 for each of the other kiddos and put $20 each instead - that helps me make up the $5.  Or, I decide I don't want to cut money from my other kids to buy this MEEP so I find a different item, go shopping for it somewhere else, etc.

7)  Once you pick-up the "must haves" on your list, you can use the same process as in #6 to buy all of the things you weren't particular about.  For us these are the gifts for the younger kiddos who don't care and we can spend less on, if needed.  Realistically, last year we had a 16-month old and a 2 year old who didn't really care what they opened!  So we ended up spending $5 or so on many of their gifts to be able to afford the bigger gifts for the others (Xbox Kinect, Leap Pad, etc.).  

TIP- I drew this matrix to take up the whole sheet so you could see it.  You could either draw it smaller (or do it electronically) so you have room on the sides to write down other gifts you want to purchase or use the back of the sheet so you can have that with you while shopping.  You'll notice I wrote down the PJs (Christmas eve gift) on the side - I should write an amount.

The thing I like the most about this system is that it helps mie stay organized and on-track without constantly having to think back as to whether or not I got kid #1 a gift from kid #2 already or not.  It's also helpful when I (or the hubby *wink*) decides last minute to purchase a gift that would be way higher than what we can afford or intended to spend - we can easily regroup about the gift situation and determine if we want to cut from other places, not buy that gift, or pull from savings.  We can look across the landscape of gifts we're buying each other and make sure we're incorporating the kids wishes without going broke.  I also love that it doesn't matter what your budget is - you might end up with lots of $1 store presents if that's what you can afford - you can make this system work for you.  You *could* start this process much earlier in the year (for your forever kids anyway) and keep track of their wishes through the year that you might want to get them so you can look for things on sale or at least start earlier than I will be.  If you have more kids, add more rows and columns.  If you have less kids, it works there too.  You can put mom and dad on the list, or not, it's up to what works for your family.

(BTW - I won't be shopping for most of these gifts until, oh, the weekend before Christmas because that's how I roll and that's when we'll receive the paycheck that we've planned to cover Christmas gifts.  But honestly that's the way I like to do it anyway...nothing like staying up every night before Christmas wrapping presents!  I'm serious).

Hope this has been helpful.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Kylee said...

Wow, I'm impressed with your organization! This is super complicated!

Dana Beam said...

Great idea with the chart!! I find that the Amazon wish list is a good place to store "ideas" and then I stalk the black friday sales because thats what I think is super fun. Also, I find that with younger kids, getting a larger gift that everyone can enjoy and use the whole budget for is a good way to go since really young kids seriously don't care. I just let them open my gifts and everyone is happy since all they really want to do is tear paper. But it's a good way to save money and get bigger items that you're hoping to purchase for the kids.

Mie said...

Hi Kylee - I know it sounds complex but I do it all in about 20 minutes, which saves me hours in shopping time at the store and protects my wallet mostly.

Dana - I'm the complete opposite - with younger kids I'm happy to buy a whole bunch of $1-$5 items and forget the "big gift" - there will be plenty of time for that as they get older! As for me I'm the one who loves to get a new vacuum or other really practical gift, if anything at all! I'm not keen on receiving gifts.

MamaJasmine said...

That is both so organized and so complicated at the same time! So far we're just trying to keep gifts to a minimum ... hopefully we can get by with that for another couple years!