Chanukah 2011 ~ On a Budget

Chanukah may not be for a few more days, but I am officially done shopping!

As I did last year, I thought I’d give you a run-down on what we got and how much we spent – to help encourage you that Chanukah (and other major gift giving occasions in your family) can be done ON A BUDGET.

Our budget last year was $50. We doubled that for this year, but really – that just means that our budgets for birthdays and other gift-giving occasions (Purim, Afikomen presents) will be decreased.

You see, we set aside $25 per month into a family gift fund, for a total of $300 over the course of the year. That fund covers all the kids’ gifts, all year long, and usually birthday gifts for me and my husband as well. (Or I use Swagbucks to fly under the budget radar!)

Beyond the money side of things, I actually had some internal struggles this year over “scope”. In some ways, writing this blog can be dangerous, because I’m hyper aware of how EASY it is to acquire so MUCH for so LITTLE.

In addition to the value of sticking to our budget, we also try to model modesty and proportion for our children. And that’s where I struggled.

On more than one occasion, I took an item out of my cart, or shut down a window – not just because I couldn’t afford it, but also because I didn’t want to “spoil” my children – especially on a holiday that really isn’t about gift-giving anyway.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I decided a few months ago that we were going to get the family an XBox 360 Kinect for Chanukah, provided we could save up enough Swagbucks to pay for most or all of it. By mid November, I had $178 in my Amazon gift card account, so I knew we were good money-wise.

But an XBox is a much bigger gift than we have ever given to our kids for Chanukah, so even though it was ‘affordable’ with our Swagbucks, I wasn’t sure we should indulge. My husband convinced me, but honestly, I’m still a bit conflicted. I’m really hoping we can frame this gift as a special treat for the whole family.

Anyway… Outside of the XBox, I think the rest of our gifts were much more modest – both in price and in scope. So, without further adieu, here’s our Chanukah 2011 Rundown:

1st Candle – XBox 360 Kinect. We paid $199 at Amazon during Black Friday (unfortunately I never got the deal with the $50 gift card – those just went too quickly) – $178 in Swagbucks = $21 + tax

2nd Candle – Gifts from grandparents (1 XBox game + Hess trucks, which have become a Chanukah tradition)

3rd CandleSnapfish photo albums. Another Chanukah tradition, I make each kiddo a flip book with pictures about their year. I paid $3.49 each after coupon codes & free shipping.

4th CandleMatching Spiderman pajamas for our boys (love when a practical need can be framed as a gift) and a Crayola Pixies wristlet for our daughter (she’s into purses right now, so I thought this would be cute.) The PJs were $5.93 each after coupon codes, free shipping, 5% off with Target Red Card and my $10 Target gift card. The wrislet was $3.99 at Amazon.

5th Candle – Gift from grandparents – Another XBox game.

6th Candle – New Crocs. They worked out to be $12.50 each during the BOGO Free Sale (+ free shipping, of course!)

7th Candle – New winter gloves for sons and hat/glove set for daughter. The gloves were $6 each from Lands End during Friday’s 40% off sale, and the fleece hat and glove set was $2.85 at Target (after a BOGO50% off sale… I got a purse for myself on clearance and happily her hat set went from $6 to $3!)

8th Candle – Nerf Basketball Hoop & Ball for our boys and Melissa & Doug Fold-and-Go Doll House. The basketball hoop was $10 shipped from Toys R Us a few days ago and the dollhouse was actually FREE from Ecomom, during that amazing Black Friday promotion with Plum District. I had $25 in Plum District credits to buy the original $50 voucher to Eco Mom – with which I got not only the doll house, but also $40 worth of toys for our gift closet. That sale was insane!

The total value of gifts for this year’s Chanukah – before sales?

$561. Gulp.

The total amount we spent out of pocket for Chanukah?

$110.31. Sigh of relief.

Tell me: Are you finished shopping? Were you able to stick to your budget this year? What were some of your favorite finds? Did anyone else struggle with “scope”?


  1. You are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Elisheva Appel says

    I guess I am really cheap – I haven’t bought any Hanukkah gifts for anyone. I did give my mother some ideas for gifts for the kids, and maybe I will give them cash one night of Hanukkah. I prefer to not be part of the December gift-buying frenzy.

    • Not cheap, just different emphasis. We’ve done traditional gelt in the past, but our kids are still not so good with money. (The oldest is 8.) We’re working on it with allowance, but we’re not there yet.

  3. I like to think I’m going in your footsteps πŸ˜‰ I don’t do a gift each night, but each child can choose something they want within reasonable means I and try to accomadate them. b’h they don’t have big aspirations in this dept.
    I scored the $30 lego at walmart on black Friday, so I got a set of duplo for the 2 younger kids, and the small legos for the 2 older kids.
    I got a Hello Kitty 4 puzzle set at century online for $7.97, then got $25 referral credit and bought 2 more puzzles, so in essesnce I got 3 packs of puzzles for $8- that’s about $2.65 each!
    I bought the jdeal of a Gali 18” doll, I once won a $25 credit to their site, so all I had to pay was $2.50 for it.
    I also bought Mastermind game for the older kids for $4.50 at amazon (buy 2 get $5 off games).
    I aslo scored some stuff on the side for my ‘toy gift’ stock, like the bloomingdales offer for the mellissa & doug pizza set for $7.50 each & bought lots of clothing (almost the entire summer wardrobe for 4 kids) at sales of 40% off.

    • Sounds like you got some fabulous deals – and I love that you were able to use so many deal-a-day site credits. I actually think that this kind of creative frugality is a wonderful lesson for our children, too!

  4. Wow, you really got a great mix of some fantastic and practical stuff, and I bet your kids will love it!

    Personally, we try to keep things simple. The grandparents send presents, they get gelt from us (gold dollars), and we usually take a trip to a Judaica store to pick something with it, and we try to do lots of fun experiences. I just have such clear memories from my childhood of “hurry up lighting those candles, and let me get into the gifts”, that although it’s really fun, even as a parent to see the kids ripping into the gifts with excitement, I am just not into doing something every night, at all. Really, the whole gift thing is not really part of the mesorah as far as I know, gelt is where it really comes from, so we try to stick to that.
    It helps that the grandparents are generous, so the kids totally don’t feel deprived, and we usually do gifts for birthdays and afikomen, although we keep it small. All that being said, we probably spend more than you because you are so much more organized and frugal !!!!
    I will totally change the current system if I see them feeling deprived, or there is peer pressure for them. Right now we don’t live in a place where they are exposed to the “tons of gifts” kind of culture in any way, which is nice.
    I hope this didn’t sound judgy, I totally don’t think doing gifts, or gifts every night is some kind of horrible thing, it’s just not the way we do it.

    • Nope – you don’t sound judgy. Hopefully I explained myself and my process well above.

      Ultimately I really don’t think there is a right or awrong answer – as long as your choices are consistent with your values and your finances!

  5. it never really occurred to me that gifts are given every single night of Chanukka… Where does it come from anyway? We just give 1 gift to one another with my husband (this year we set a budget limit of $10), and 1 to our son. (my daughter just turned 1, so I guess she doesn’t know she is supposed to get a gift). I actually got a Perry Ellis tie (thanks to your blog! was it on Black Friday?) with retail value of $40 for just $10 making it within the budget. Our son will probably get a radio-controlled helicopter we got off Amazon for $20 long time ago, and it was waiting for its moment.

    • Funny, last year my daughter was 1.5 and she got very few gifts (I think two, but I can’t remember for sure.) This year, she’s getting a few more, as she’s a bit more aware of things.

      We got that helicopter last year around Pesach (and gave it to DS6 for his birthday this year!)

  6. WOW am I impressed! I actually don’t know what we are giving the kids this year. I stocked up on a bunch of stuff to make up my gift stockpile for the year. Since their grandparents, and aunts and uncles all like to give, that takes up most of the nights. My older girls are getting Leapsters from us, and probably a few small things from the stockpile that I built up. My son is only a year, so we got him a few things, but he won’t know the difference, so we got off easy with him this year :).

    • Hey, did you end up getting the LeapPad instead of the Explorer for one for one of your daughters? We got off easy last year with N – now at 2.5, she’s a bit more aware! Of course, I guessing your son will have as much fun playing with the wrapping paper as anything else!

  7. I think everyone’s situation is SO different. Take our family, for instance. We live in a small Jewish community, and the kids don’t have any Jewish friends during the school year (camp is another story:) ) We have little extended family, including no grandparents to “spoil” the kids at Hannukah. I was raised in the South, being only one of three Jewish kids in our entire school district. My family made a big deal about Hannukah gift giving, and you better believe it helped curb my envy of my Christian friend’s celebrations loaded with gifts. And so, I continue the tradition: Our children get gifts for each night. Great gifts – wants , not needs-
    but not all are pricey. So much fun!

    • I’m sure your kids will love their gifts!

      I hope you weren’t feeling judgment from any of the commenters (or from me!).

      And as I said above (and many times before)… there is no right or wrong – if there was, everyone would be doing the same thing! No judgment here – I just hope to encourage people to do what makes sense for their parenting values and their financial ability.

      Happy Chanukah!

  8. rebecca starr says

    you are amazing! Thanks for always helping my family save money!

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