Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas 2014 Budget/Spending Autopsy

Ok, so calling this an Autopsy is not very festive or cheerful.
So call it "The Post Where I Talk About What I Was Going to Spend for Christmas and What I Actually Spent for Christmas".
Whatever works for you.....

I budgeted $1900 for Christmas spending.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas.
Last year I budgeted $1650.00 and we spent $2164.77.

We were going to travel again this year so I upped the budget by $250.00 and hoped we could stay within that parameter.  My budget for Christmas is still less than we spent last year but I wanted to not spend so much this year so I tired to reduce our costs. 

Our Christmas spending has been tracking upward since I began keeping running totals in 2010.
Except for 1 year, we have upped our spending each successive year.

2010.........$1000 planned/$881.64 spent
2011.........$1300 planned/$851.32 spent
2012.........$1000 planned/$1020.48 spent
2013.........$1650 planned/$2164.77 spent(Yikes!)

Time to get this back under budget!

How do I arrive at a budget for Christmas?  Nowadays I look at what we spent the previous years(because I have a full accounting for the last 4 years or so on the blog)and see where we did well and where we did "not-so-well" with budgeting and add in any unusual things we plan to do and after some papers are balled up and thrown away and there is one sheet left with lots of writing on it(as well as writing scratched out on it), we have a plan and a budget. lolz

No, really.....I look at possible spending categories and what I think we will use and compare it to what we have put aside by September of that year.
I generally use c/c points to get gift cards for free(to either give as presents or use to buy the presents to give), cash in our rolled up change(about $150 a year), use blog income and then chunk in a hunk of either the tax refund from that year, a part of Hubs' bonus he receives in March or a piece of the Savings Challenge $ we saved from the previous year.

There are many ways to save ahead for Christmas.....make regular deposits to a dedicated account or a Christmas club at a bank, use a one-time windfall like a bonus or a tax refund, use whatever works for your situation.

The only unacceptable plan is to GO INTO DEBT for Christmas!
Better to not spend on Christmas than to endure the grief/angst/anguish/stress by going into debt buying crap at Christmas you can't afford and having to pay off the bills incurred sometime in 2015, or 2016, or 2017 or beyond.

So we went into the Holidays with $2000 to spend.
Of course, I buy year round so some of that amount was already spent by September.

Here is where the funds were allocated.......

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $40.00
Gifts for immediate family(includes any cash gifts)  $800.00
Gifts for extended family & friends  $100.00
Electricity for lights   $15.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie   $100.00
Charity   $100
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)   $800.00
Extra  $45.00 (the "just in case" cushion)

Unlike last year, we didn't do a "Secret Santa" exchange this year so that category of spending was eliminated.

And here is where the money actually went.....

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $66.01 
Gifts for immediate family  $644.04 
Gifts for extended family & friends  $37.10 
Electricity for lights  $15 
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $96.60
Charity   $100
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $823.72  
TOTAL SPENT...$1,782.47

Here are the Spending Details....

$66.01  *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----Over $40 budgeted by $26.01
We sent out 30 cards(mailed 26 of the cards/4 put in boxes we shipped so no stamps used) and mailed 5 gifts.  Stamps cost $11.70 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.  1 package mailed to Daughter and 4 boxes sent to friends/other family cost $54.31 in postage.
I just didn't budget enough for shipping costs this year.  Shipping costs are difficult to get around unless you travel around the country at the Holidays to hand out gifts, which would cost you much more.  ;-)

$644.04  *Gifts for family----Under $800 budgeted by $155.96
Last year I spent $698.82 on gifts for family.  In 2012, this included $300 in cash and $398.82 in gifts.  This year only 1 person received cash so most of the spending was on gifts. 
I upped my budget for gifts this year(since I was so far over budget last Christmas) and came in under.
Happy, happy!

I cashed in points on my credit card for gift cards and gave those or used some gift cards I got from points to buy gifts.  I "saved" $150 by doing this.    I did shop sales, both in store and online.  I got 1 gift for free as a Wellness Reward at Rite-Aid, 2 gift cards were bought using $5 off coupons at Rite-Aid, B&BW's items were bought 50% off during the after Xmas clearance sales.  I utilized sales/codes online for some gifts during the weekend before and weekend of Black Friday sales plus all online shopping was done through a rebate back shopping site/portal, saving me an additional $7.75.(Hey! Every bit helps, right? lol) I bought a couple of Groupons which saved me approx. $25 over retail on those items.
Lots of stocking stuffers were items gotten at Rite-Aid over the course of the year for little  or no money too.

The only cash gift given out this year was to College Boy as he is the only child not on his own yet.  He hasn't found a part time job yet at school so he needs cash.
$37.10  *Gifts for extended family---Under $100 budgeted by $62.90
Locally we give something to the nephew(a gift card and bags of good coffee this year)and a food box to his father/brother in-law.  I get deals on the food, items that he likes to eat, and always put a bag of Dunkin Donuts coffee that I buy at the Holidays on sale in his box. 
Hubs' sister got a small gift box this year and I sent boxes to 3 internet friends this year as well.
(My older kids' Significant Others' gifts are counted under "family".)
By keeping my eye out for deals I was able to keep well under the budget in this category.  This helps since the shipping for many of these presents was significant once you added them all up.
I didn't spend a lot on friends and extended family this year but postage it cost made up for that. lolz

$15  *Electricity for Lights----Even
Same stuff hung outside the house.
We used a smaller tree inside this year so less lights on that but we got them up sooner.  I figure we'll spend $15 on electricity this year.  It's really not a category that I can nail down the cost beyond an approximation.

$96.60  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----Under $100 budgeted by $3.40
We had 7 for dinner this year.  Hubs, College Boy, myself and BIL and nephew makes 5.
We let College Boy invite his friends this year and his 2 band mates accepted the invitation.  I guesstimated fairly close to what this ended up costing.  8-)

$100.00  *Charity----Even
I spent exactly what I planned to on this category.  My Holiday "giving" dollars didn't go to an organization I can write off my taxes this year but to an individual so our giving was more personal this year.

$823.72  *Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze, car rental, cash incidentals)----Over $800 budgeted by $23.72
Gas was $77.53(thank you lower oil!), Lodging was $205.18(including 1 breakfast we ate at the motel) and Meals out were $267.47.   #1 Son paid for 1 meal out.  We rented a car for the trip at $146.24.  We spent $100.57 on liquor.
Last year we spent over $200 on booze so I am happy with this result.
Some Incidentals spending of $26.73 brings it to $823.72 all in.

I figured we were staying 1 less day this year and I spent $878.52 last Christmas on this category so $800 seemed reasonable.  But we didn't rent a car last year(and the car rental wasn't planned this year, it just came up the day before we left because Hubs' car's check engine light came on.....ugh.)

All totaled, this year I budgeted $2000 and we spent $1782.47, so well under budget overall.
Much less than the $2164.77 total we spent Christmas of 2013.
Our spending was $382.30 less than last year and we still had a great Holiday and were able to gift and travel.
I think I planned better this Christmas, and how much better that my budget vs. spending aligned this year, shows that.

If you kept track of your spending for Christmas, how did you do?
Did you spend more. less or right about what you planned on spending?
Did you have any money epiphanies when you look back at the Holiday plan?
Do you see anything you'll change about your spending for Christmas 2015?

Leave a comment and let us know how you did and what you learned about yourself & money this year!



  1. Love that you gave your charity money to an individual this year. So sweet :)

  2. Our holiday spending has gone up quite a bit, as we now add in the cost of airfare for 4 people (yikes!) plus a rental car for our trip. My budget for the gift portion was $1500, and I spent $1437. That included a bonus for our nanny (new this year), a bonus for our cleaning lady, plus the regular gifts we purchase & our charitable contribution. Like you, this year I opted to give to someone that I personally knew, rather than a formal charity. (We did do a smaller giving tree type charity), but it felt better to give to someone we were familiar with. The car rental ended up being $150 more than expected

  3. I spent far less than I planned and had saved up in the form of cards. Since I had $100 in Walmart gift cards from the battery rebate last year, I could spend that on gas or groceries if I found a gift elsewhere.

  4. Good Job, even with travel. I did all my stocking stuff with free right aid things. It was great! I will do it again next year. I also realized this year kids are satisfied with one nice gift and a few cheap extra's, like Christmas p.j.s and new undies, socks, sheets. Things you can pick up on sales for a song. They are growing up and things are getting less expensive. It is great!

  5. I don't do a lot, my parents, my sister, and one brother. Sweetie bear and I limited to $75 this year, as we are planning a major trip next summer. I have never gone in debt for Christmas.

  6. We didn't have a set budget, but we didn't incur any debt for Christmas. Well, we put a lot on rewards cc, but the entire balance will be paid in full, so no interest paid, and no balance carried over. I think we probably spent less as Hubby didn't want any expensive "toys" this year. And my most expensive gift was a new quilt for our bed. LOL! We are so practical.


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