Christmas on a Budget: A Big Family’s Secret!

If you’re a parent, you know how difficult the Christmas season can be from a financial standpoint. While it is a time of joy and cheer, the holiday season naturally takes a toll on the finances of families, especially big ones. Between traveling for Thanksgiving, feeding large amounts of people, buying gifts and decorations, and all of that is on top of normal living expenses, families are often put under financial pressure.

Drew Mariani is no stranger to this phenomenon. Years ago, Drew recalled a time when he and his family were going through a very difficult time and were dealing with the potential of having to forego Christmas festivities in order to put food on the table. But out of the kindness of their hearts, Drew’s in-laws covered the costs of Christmas for him and his wife. And ever since, Drew and his wife have made efforts to do the same for other families in need each Christmas.

But given that not every family has such generous benefactors, what are other ways they can deal with the weight of Christmas expenses? Relevant Radio CFO, Preston Allex and his wife Kym joined Drew on The Drew Mariani Show to talk about how they handle Christmas every year with eight young children.

Preston revealed that the way he budgets Christmas gifts is through a categorical formula. For each child he purchases four gifts (for eight children, that’s still 32 gifts!): a Read gift, a Need gift, a Wear gift, and a Share gift.

“Three of those four gifts, we were going to buy for the kids anyway. We just wait until Christmas to give it to them,” said Preston.

“And sometimes it’s a little more special,” added Kym. For example, if one of their kids needed a new comforter for their bed, instead of getting a basic one, Preston and Kym might spring for a higher quality or one with Marvel characters on it. And then the Share gift is an added bonus for all the kids, allowing them an opportunity to be generous, and participate and celebrate with their siblings.

Drew admired the Allex formula and asked Preston and Kym how they came up with it.

“I think it was when we had six kids under six,” said Kym. “I looked over at Preston and I said, ‘I’m so overwhelmed right now. There are so many things coming at us.’ And at that time, we really wanted to start cultivating hearts of contentment, so that it really wasn’t about the gifts themselves. It was about the experience and about how we were all going to share together.”

Kym explained that she never wants their kids to look at toys in the house and say, “That’s mine.” The idea of shareable gifts was their way of making the point that this is a shared experience where generosity, selflessness, and kindness is rewarded.

It’s all part of the culture Preston and Kym aim to cultivate during the Advent and Christmas season. Along with their Read, Need, Wear, Share policy, they have also implemented their own version of Secret Santa called Secret Saints. At the beginning of Advent, each child picks out one of their sibling’s names and is charged with going out of their way to do acts of service for that person. Then, on Gaudete Sunday, they all reveal who they had.

While the overt goal is to get the kids to go out of their way to be extra kind to one other sibling, Preston said that he finds that the kids end up doing more acts of service for the other siblings that they haven’t picked because they want their secret beneficiary to remain a secret!

Looking to cultivate hearts of generosity and selflessness with your kids this Christmas, try adopting some of the Allex family policies!

Tune in to The Drew Mariani Show weekdays 2-5pm CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.