Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Christmas 2015 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 $1800 for Christmas spending in 2015.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas.
Last year I budgeted $1900.00 and we spent $1782.47.

Since I did so well staying under budget last year I reduced the 2015 Christmas budget by $100 to $1800.

Our Christmas spending has been tracking upward since I began keeping running totals in 2010.
Except for 2 years, 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
2014.........$1900 planned/$1742.87 spent

We finally returned to being under budget in 2014 after 2 years of overspending.  I like this new trend more.  ;-)

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 5 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(after I deduct what I pay in shipping all those giveaway boxes to winners each year) and then chunk in a hunk of either the tax refund from that year, a part of Hubs' bonus he receives in Feb./Mar. or a piece of the Savings Challenge $ we saved from the previous year(though I haven't had to use Savings Challenge $ in a long time now).

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 2016, or 2017 or beyond.

So we went into the Holidays with $1800.00 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  $35.00
Gifts for immediate family(includes any cash gifts)  $800.00
Gifts for extended family & friends  $50.00
Electricity for lights   $15.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie   $100.00
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)   $800.00
Charity  $100.00

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

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $25.74
Gifts for immediate family  $699.77
Gifts for extended family & friends  $50.07
Electricity for lights  $10.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $91.90
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $606.46
Charity  $100.00
TOTAL SPENT...$1583.94

Here are the Spending Details....

$25.74  *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----
We sent out 32 cards and mailed 2 small gifts.  Stamps cost $14.85 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.  
I got smart this year and mailed Daughter and her BF their presents in the same package I mailed her birthday gift so no extra Xmas spending there as the Xmas gifts didn't add to the weight of that package. 8-)
I did send 2 people who aren't family small gifts this year which cost $10.89 to mail.  The actually gifts I either got for free and/or I already had here so no costs associated with those gifts given.

$699.77  *Gifts for family----Under $800 budgeted by $100.13
Last year I spent $644.04 on gifts for family so I spent $55.73 more this year on the family's gifts.  Family included 6 people--Hubs, 3 kids and their 2 SOs.

I really REALLY like to give them gifts!
But here is how I keep the cost a bit lower than it could have been--
* I cashed in points on my credit card and/or hotel program card and a Target free gift card w/purchase offer for gift cards and gave those as gifts.  I "saved" $255 by doing this.   
*  I shopped sales, both in store and online.  I keep an eye out throughout the year for deals.
* I got a couple of brand new items at Goodwill for much cheaper than retail price.
* I made a few things so those were just the cost of supplies.
* Lots of stocking stuffers were items gotten at Rite-Aid over the course of the year for little or no money too.

$50.07  *Gifts for extended family---Over $50 Budgeted Amount by .07¢
Locally we gave something to the nephew(a small Starbucks gift card, fancy chocolates and coffee)and a food box to his father/brother in-law.(Except for 1 item in the food box bought for this use all other items were picked up through the year, using my grocery budget.)
I spent a bit more on my brother and sis in-laws gifts this year though.

$10  *Electricity for Lights----Under budget by $5.00
Same stuff hung outside the house.
We used the smaller tree this year and put it up a bit later.
But we weren't hear to put lights on for a week or so meaning we spent less on electricity than last year.  It's really not a category that I can nail down the cost beyond an approximation.

$91.90  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----Under budget by $8.10
We had 5 for dinner this year.  Hubs, College Boy, myself and 2 of CB's friends.
Though we had 2 less people attend this year we did buy appetizers so the cost was about the same as 2014.

$100.00  *Charity----Even
I wrote an extra check to one of the charities we regularly support this Holiday.

$606.46  *Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze, cash incidentals)----Under budget by $293.54
Gas was $59.13(thank you lower oil!), Lodging was $157.06(including 2 breakfasts we ate at the hotel). Staying at my brother's house for free 3 nights and booking a pay in advance rate at the hotel brought this cost down some.  Meals out were $217.44.   #1 Son paid for 1 meal out and we ate at my brother's house 2 nights and son's apartment 1 night so this item could have been higher.  We spent $145.63 on liquor but most of that wasn't consumed but came home with us.
Tolls came to $27.20.
We didn't have to rent a car this trip so that helped keep the traveling expenses lower too.

All totaled, this year I budgeted $1800 and we spent $1583.94, so $206.06 under budget overall.
We still had a great Holiday and were able to gift and travel to see family even though I try to stick to a budget.

Thoughts for 2016--
I think I'll lower my Christmas Budget another $100 for 2016 to $1700.  Since I have come in under budget for 2 years in a row now I think I can do the Holidays for a bit lower.  Staying on budget is a challenge but I like a challenge.  Of course if we end up NOT traveling for the Holidays in 2016 I'll lower my Christmas Budget to $1000 instead.
It's the travel that really blows up my Holiday spending.

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 2016?

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



  1. You did really good. I missed the mark by quite a bit. But ahhhhh well, its only money, right?

  2. I overspent, but the granddaughter is 2 and I had only sons. I have no idea how to stop buying all the cute little girl stuff

    I have already started buying for Christmas 2016 and found a great deal on boot accessories at 80 % of the regular price.


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