Chanukah Post-Mortem: 8 Nights on $50 or Less

Photo Credit: Mike Ransdell, Kansas City Star

The last candle of Chanukah has been lit, and the dreidle has spun its last shin. But before I pack up our chanukiot, I thought I’d take a moment to count our gelt — or rather, how much gelt we spent on gifts.

As a rule, our Chanukah celebrations are modest — both because that’s what seems right from a Jewish perspective and also because its what we can afford to do.

For us, our budget for all gifts was $50. $50 means out of my pocket. If I spent Swagbucks or gift cards, I don’t count that — because it wasn’t money I had to come up with. In fact, if you’re not Swagbucking already, I HIGHLY recommend it as it saves me a bundle when it comes to family gift-giving.

Also, let me just throw in a plug for annual budgeting of family gift expenses. We save a rather modest $15 per month to a separate savings account (we save online at ING — but you could also do a cash envelope, since the interest we’re earning on $180/year is really negligible.) That $180 covers all of our birthdays, Chanukahs, afikomen gifts, etc. for the five of us — plus any presents we buy for extended family members as well.

This year, we bought gifts for my mom, my dad & stepmom, and my inlaws. We also bought gifts for our three kids — for four out of the eight nights. (They received gifts from their grandparents the other four nights.)

So, let’s see how we did. Here is the breakdown gift-by-gift (gift recipients — stop reading!):

Parents / Inlaws
Everyone got photo gifts, purchased through Snapfish with a 30% off code and free shipping (no longer available). The totals below are with the discount, but without the Ebates cash back.

Mom – Photo calendar from Snapfish – $7.53. Plus, my boys gave her a pretty little toiletry bag with a body puff and three travel size containers of body lotion, bath wash and bubble bath. We picked it up at CVS on 90% clearance several weeks ago. It cost $.79.

Dad & Stepmom – Photo calendar from Snapfish – $7.53. Plus, the boys made art projects in school that they gave to them.

In-laws – 100-piece photo puzzle (a picture of them with the kids) — the perfect gift for my mother-in-law, especially, who loves puzzles! – $10.54.

I realize that next year, we might have to raise our budget — or get more creative — as my daughter will be 2.5 and we probably won’t be able to get away with not giving her gifts on most nights.

Gift #1 – Each kid got a giant bag of pretzel M&Ms. They loved it! Even my 18 month was all, “Me! Me! Me!”. Each bag cost $.25 at Walgreens a few weeks ago.

Gift #2 – DS1 got a Transformer costume, picked up at Target on after-Halloween clearance. It cost $2.90. To say he loves it would be an understatement. DS2 got the ToyStory3 DVD — a gift that truly gave back, as we all enjoyed a wonderful family movie night Motzei Shabbat. It cost us nothing, since my husband “bought” for it with a gift card he won to Best Buy.

Gift #3 – All three kids got photo flip books made at Snapfish. I put together 20 pictures of each kid throughout the year – from the first days of school to Purim to goofing off in the backyard. Each book cost $5.25 including shipping.

Gift #4 – Board games. DS1 got the APBA Pro Baseball Board Game, which he loves to play with my husband on Shabbat afternoons. It would have cost us $21.02 at Amazon, but with Swagbucks, it was FREE. DS2 got Cooties, which I picked up for $2 at the Toys R Us sale on Hasbro games a few weeks ago.

Total spent for Chanukah 2010/5771: $47.79 – 5.38 =$42.41

Gotta love coming in almost $8 under my $50 budget!

So, how’d you do this Chanukah? Did you stay within your budget? Do you use gift cards, Swagbucks or cash-back sites like Ebates to stretch your savings even further?

P.S. This year my husband and I didn’t exchange Chanukah gifts. My husband did treat himself with a Best Buy gift card he had won some time ago to a BluRay player, which he’s pretty stoked about since we had been watching movies on our very-small screen portable DVD player for the last two years! Since there was nothing I needed — or wanted, I was happy to enjoy giving rather than receiving this year.


  1. Diane Rabin says

    When your kids get older that budget isn’t going to work—I could easily stay w/in that budget for four kids when they were 5 or under–maybe even 6. Wait until your kids are in h.s., middle school, even 6th grade….or college. Good luck!!

    • Naysayers tend to encourage me 😉 If KOAB is still around in 5 years when my oldest is 12.5, please remind me to update this post!

      All joking aside, if $50 is what you have to spend on gifts, then $50 is what you spend on gifts. I’m a firm believer in setting the budget first, because your means must dictate the terms and not the other way around.

      • The budget is the budget- that said more was spent on my nine year old stepson than the rest of the family combined. My husband used to go all out- a HUGE pile of gifts for the four nights he was at our house (we have him half the time). This started before my husband bought a house, we married and had two other children and I was laid off/now am a stay at home parent until the three month old starts school in a few years. We have been slowly ratcheting down the level of gift giving but trying to set a gift budget for the boy was brutal. My husband prefers to think about what a person would like and then figures out the money (new ski boots and a three day ski pass). I look at the money first and then think of what people may like. We can afford it by being careful but I do have issue with 80% of the gift cost going to one person. I would be much happier with $X per person or total and go from there. Even so, the money spent has dropped significantly in the past few years. I know that I am looking ahead to when all three kids want stuff and have two in preschool/full day private K at the same time so it is a work in progress.

  2. Impressive!!! Our cheapest night was the Pretzel M&M night and the night my in-laws gave. I did use the Hallmark $10 coupon for one night, and I always sneak in a night of necessary sweaters using Children’s Place 30% off coupon. Also gave one of the free Picabo photoalbums (only expense was shipping). Maybe I did better than I thought, but I am sure no where as low as you were.

  3. Wait…one more inexpensive and fun idea I incorporate for Hanukah and birthdays is that I make a super special dessert as the night’s ‘present’ to the family. Usually we do this on the Friday night during Hanukah or the Shabbat closest to our child’s bday.

    • Love it! Such a good idea. Taking the focus off of stuff-stuff-stuff (which apparently was my middle son’s middle name this year!).

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