Why I Won’t Spend the Same Amount on the Kids

Posted by Madison on December 21, 2007

Save the guilt and the cash. Give the kids presents based on wants, needs, and the ability to give. Do not give based on meeting a price that was spent on their sibling. I realize this is probably an unpopular stance, as I’ve witnessed many families make sure that all the kids get equal amounts down to the penny. I’m planning to take a stand against the practice of spending equal money on each child!


We have a 23 month old and a 3 month old. I tried to make a wishlist to give to grandparents of what the little one needs, after the failed college contribution idea. I could only come up with two things. The truth is, he really already has everything he could possibly need as a hand-me-down from his big brother. Therefore, we are just going to buy him a couple small things. We are not going to spend as much on his presents as we do for the our toddler.


  • It is a waste of money to buy things that aren’t needed just to meet the price quota.
  • I don’t want to start the practice of the kids adding up the value of their presents to compare. This is a result of focusing on the dollar values of gifts rather than the gifts themselves.
  • Excess isn’t necessary. We have hundreds of toys; we don’t need anymore.
  • I want to set the stage for the future: sports, college, weddings, life, etc. If we gift one child money for a wedding and the other chooses not to be married, I have no intention of writing a blank check for the same amount.
  • All Financial Matters brought up some additional reasons discussing the financial dilemmas of treating siblings equitably.

The bottom line is that being fair is not the same as being equitable. I’m treating my children fairly by meeting their needs, even if those needs come in different dollar amounts! Accept frugality when it faces you head on. There isn’t a need to spend the same amount on both kids, so don’t!

Action Plan

Of course this might be easier said than done, since my kids are both under 2. When they are older I’ll have to fight harder. At least for this Christmas, the little one is getting a couple small things. I’m sure he’ll be quite content… or probably asleep.

What do you think? Do you spend the same amount of money on your kids?

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Comments to Why I Won’t Spend the Same Amount on the Kids

  1. You’ll find as they get older this will become even more true, as the older they get the more expensive their gifts become.

    So our 13 year old gets one or two fairly expensive gifts, while our 22 month old gets lots of little things.

    Kids don’t notice the price of things, but they will notice quantity when they get older.


  2. Good thing we’re starting early then. It would be really hard to come up with enough gifts to match the spending on a 22 month old and a 13 year old!


  3. Being Christmas day here in Australia already I have just faced the toughest challenge of my life in getting 5 kid presents for $50.00 each…I achieved this successfully and come in at $10.00 under my allocated budget for the kids and my hubby’s present that I had allocated more money too saving me another 50.00.

    My dilemma was that I spent close to $50 on my boys giving them 5 presents each but only spending $17 on one of my daughters because I had stuff that was given to me and I didn’t want in the first place I gave to her I felt guilty for giving her “hand me downs” after speaking to her mother about this she assured me she loves all that is given whether it is brand new or second hand…My daughter is 13 no easy feat for any parent (let alone a step parent) to do this…after reading your blog on presents I feel so much better knowing that I am not the only one that has the feelings of should I spend the same or not. I have learned this year doesn’t matter how much you spend it is what you give that counts. My kid range from 17 to 9 and I am proud of myself for coming up with gifts for all. Merry Christmas!


  4. @Shay: That’s terrific! I’m impressed that you came in under budget. I bet the kids loved their presents and I’m glad you didn’t feel the need to spend equal amounts on each one.


  5. Madison,

    I agree completely and applaud you for starting this early. My own children are 13 and 15. They have always been treated FAIRLY which is not at all the same as treating them the SAME. They have different needs, different wants, and different personalities and therefore need to be treated differently.

    Hopefully by starting out with this view of gift-giving so early, your children will grow up never expecting “equal treatment” in gifts.

    I easily spent 4 (or more) times as much on my daughter’s gifts this Christmas — a practice my son would never think to question. I do make an effort to get each child pretty much the same number of gifts — though I didn’t worry about even that when they were young. My son got things he wanted and my daughter got what she wanted. I’m confident that both of my children, if asked, would 1) not have thought to add up how much I’d spent on each child and 2) would assure you that I had gotten the very best bargain I could find on everything I bought.


  6. @ Elizabeth: I love to hear stories of other parents doing the exact same thing. I am a big fan of treating children differently based on their own likes and dislikes. You have proven that it will work even when the children are older. They are lucky to have such a great mom!


  7. This is maddening. Sometimes, gifts are what is “needed”, usualy gifts are items “wanted.” Of course you should, outside of “needs” treat your children equally- outrageous to say otherwise. All around me I see parents treating their children equally, and few conflicts. Mine, and a few others are not and its infuriating. I struggled to keep a sense of family withing a hellish family until I was 30- the only child by my mother’s side. And, mother and I would always talk about how I was her “special” child, but not favorite child. I did NOT get anything from her that my siblings did not get. Then, my sister (who tore our family apart through violent fits of rage into her late early 30’s) has two beautiful baby girls, and you would think she is an only child. I am very close to outright leaving my family for good. I did it to my abusive father years ago, and I’ll do it rather than take this indignation and abuse. My father called- wanted to give me $40K that my siblings already received. My sister and mother decided that he couldn’t afford it. I’m incensed. I’m the youngest- I’ve gone without- I was at my mothers side where she was…supporting her, not b/c she came to where I was… Go ahead, give unevenly without explanation- then your children will watch all of their friends.. and lessons growing up focus on fairness (re: wants, not needs), and be completely beside themselves as I am today. I need help. Of COURSE it’s their money and they can do what they want… that’s why it hurts.


  8. I think toddlars and infants are fine to do this with. As for older kids, not so much. I would never give one child brand new toys for Christmas, while I pass hand me downs to the “other” kid. I’m sure her mother was just trying to be nice and I am also sure they noticed the nice gifts you gave her brothers too.


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