What holiday shopping looks like for real moms

Ever wonder what the mom next door is buying for the holidays? Does she have the kids purchase gifts for their own friends? Is she tipping every single person in her life?

And what is she going to get her kid's teachers?

The holidays can be fraught with gift-giving anxiety, especially when you have a family. You may be left wondering, "Am I doing enough for the nanny?" Or, "Did I go overboard this year? Am I spoiling the kids?"

To help put some of those worries to rest, we decided to do a little real-person research. See below how one real-life-mom-next-door plans to spend her money this holiday season—and where she's finding the deals.

Perhaps her holiday spending habits can help put your own mind at ease.

The family:
 Mom Kristin, Dad Nicholas, 5 ½ year old sister Elizabeth and 1-year-old brother Matthew

Where they live:
 Somerset, New Jersey

When do you normally start shopping for the holidays?

I usually start thinking about Christmas gifts in October, and I'll pick up things if I see them. But I don't start going out for the sole purpose of Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving. 

Have you started shopping for this year yet?

Yes, I'm about halfway done at this point. So far, though, most of my shopping has been online.

About how much would you say you spend on each child for the holidays?

We usually spend between $200-$300 per child, but I don't budget, so once it seems like the quantity is enough, I stop.

Do you get gifts from the kids for people, like grandparents, aunts and uncles?

We haven't started doing that, and I'm not sure we will anytime soon. Gifts come from the four of us for now. I think when I was younger, I started buying gifts for people once I got a little older and started earning an allowance and could pay for small gifts myself. We may do that for our kids.

Do you tip a lot of people around the holidays?

I don't do a lot of tipping—I probably should do more, but I never know what is expected. Other parents are getting gifts not only for teachers (I'm doing that), but for the bus drivers, too. And I hear people getting things for the vet, their doctors, the mailman, etc. I think it's getting out of hand. I can't buy gifts for every person in our lives or I'd be broke. We don't have cleaners, hair people or nannies like other families, so I probably have less of a problem than others. This year I'm buying gifts for Elizabeth's school teacher and her ballet teacher. 

Do you budget for the holidays?

We spend as we see fit. We are fortunate enough financially that we never needed a budget. We've never sat down and determined that we can only spend, for example, $1,000 on Christmas this year, and then decide how to divide that up between family members for gifts. That being said, we do agree to a few dollar amounts for certain people, like each other. And for those certain people, we have felt the need to increase our spending as Nicholas' salary has increased.

What would you say is the main difference in buying for the holidays now that the kids are in the picture?

We haven't needed to adjust financially with the addition of children, per se, but this year I'm finding more ways to cut back than previous years, not because we need to, but because we can. For example, Matthew is getting several gifts of toys that used to be Elizabeth's. And he's probably getting less than Elizabeth because as a baby, he won't notice and won't care.

Also, I've found several gifts for Elizabeth from a Facebook page that is basically an online yard sale in a neighboring town. People post clothes, toys and other kid items that their kids have outgrown and you can respond requesting the item. Then you arrange a meeting place and buy it from them at a great price. For example, I got Elizabeth a used dollhouse (retail $70), including all furniture and accessories (retail approximately $100) for just $45. I've found tons and tons of clothes for Matthew at $1 or $2 a piece. And I got Nicholas a pair of Nike running shoes (only worn once, retail $100) for $10.

Tell us—what are your holiday shopping secrets? 

Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she's not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.

(Source: Savings.com)

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