Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2016 Christmas 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 $1600 for Christmas spending in 2016.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas.
Last year I budgeted $1800.00 and we spent $1583.94.
So I based this year's Xmas budget on what we spent last year(plus a few dollars to round up to $1600).

I have been tracking our Christmas spending since 2010--
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
2015.........$1800 planned/$1583.94 spent

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 6 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.
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)plus I buy a bit here and there during the year when a deal presents itself and those items are cash flowed from our regular monthly income.  I have been known to reserve blogging revenue, rolled coins and/or cash rebates from grocery purchases during the year to pay for Christmas expenses.
I generally don't set money aside each month throughout the year(like a Christmas club account or actual money in an envelope earmarked for Christmas spending)since we had a large cushion of cash in our checking and savings accounts and I can just pull from those sources when I need money to spend on Christmas stuff.

But if you don't have extra cash lying around it is a good idea to take funds during the year and earmark them for the Holidays.
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, etc........so 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 2017, or 2018 or beyond.

So we went into the Holidays with $1600.00 budgeted to spend.

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)   $500.00
Charity  $100.00

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

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $28.27
Gifts for immediate family  $542.45
Gifts for extended family & friends  $56.00
Electricity for lights  $7.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $60.00
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $0.00
Charity  $100.00
TOTAL SPENT...$793.72

Here are the Spending Details....

$28.27  *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----
We sent out 32 cards and mailed 1 small gift to a friend and 1 package to my eldest son.  Stamps cost $14.85 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.  
We had planned to see eldest and his fiancee at Xmas time so when we didn't travel at the Holidays I had to mail gifts to them.  The heavy stuff I didn't send and will hand deliver later in the year.
I did send 1 person who isn't family a small gift this year.  The actually gifts I either paid for from my food budget and/or I already had here so no costs associated with those gifts given, just the postage.

$542.45  *Gifts for family----Under by $257.55
Last year I spent $699.77 on gifts for family so I spent $157.32 less this year on the family's gifts.  Family included 8 people--Hubs, 3 kids and their 2 SOs, my brother and sister in-law.

Here is how I kept the cost of gifts a bit lower than it could have been this year--
* I cashed in points on my credit card and/or hotel program card for free gift cards to give or use to buy items to give. (I wasn't very successful at this strategy as in year's past but I still saved some by using it.)
* I bought items I was going to buy anyway and sent for premiums(free items). IE-$10 Best Buy gift card offer for buying 20 apples sauce packs. These type items cost me the price of a stamp to mail away for the offer.
* I used some Coke Rewards points to get a free $10 Amazon gift code to give.(Coke points were free to me off of bottles someone else paid for.)
*  Many items were bought at Kohl's online during Black Friday week and the weeks following.  I used $100 in gift cards I already had and paid for last year for some of these purchases, 3 items purchased gave me $36 in cash rebates(which brought the cost of those items to $7.99 each)plus I earned $60 in Kohl's cash on one order which I applied to a subsequent order.
*  I shopped sales, both in store and online.  I keep an eye out throughout the year for deals.
* Lots of stocking stuffers were items gotten at Rite-Aid over the course of the year for no money too.  I also bought 4 fragrance gift sets on sale at the Holidays at R-A, with coupons and cash rebates then I sold 2 of them which covered my OOP on all of them so I have/had 2 gifts to give at no cost to me.
More stocking stuffers were gotten at the grocery store for free after coupons and others gotten as giveaways/freebies from companies.

$56.00  *Gifts for extended family---Over $50 Budgeted Amount by $6.00
We spent a bit more on the nephew's gift this year since I gave him a Rite-Aid procured gift card(so I got Plenti points but paid full price for the card)instead of using some credit card points to get a gift card for free.

$7.00  *Electricity for Lights----Under budget by $8.00
Same stuff hung outside the house.
We used the smaller tree this year and put it up a bit later.
After Hubs' accident the outside lights didn't get plugged in much if at all since that is Hubs' "thing" and he couldn't.
 It's really not a category that I can nail down the cost beyond an approximation so I figure we used about half what we usually do on lights.

$60.00  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----Under budget by $40.00
With Hubs not walking yet I got take-out food and we didn't go to a movie.  Amount spend included a nice tip. 8-)

$100.00  *Charity----Even
Another donation to the local food bank but not in groceries/toiletries like I do sporadically throughout the year, but rather a nice sized check. 8-)

$0.00  *Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze, cash incidentals)----Under budget by $500.00
With the accident, we stayed put for the Holidays.

All totaled, this year I budgeted $1600 and we spent $793.72, so $806.28 under budget overall. Even when you take out the $500 for travel(which leaves us a $900 Christmas budget)we still stayed significantly under for the Holidays.

Thoughts for 2017--
I think I'll keep our budget at $1600 for next Christmas.  I am comfortable with this amount and am able to stay within it.  For our income and our needs, I think this is just the right amount to splash out on Christmas celebrating.

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 2017?

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



  1. You're good. You're very VERY good.
    As for money epiphanies. Looking back, I wish we had more of it. money I mean. The work bonuses came at JUST the right time.

  2. We stayed on budget, even with our early December Christmas traveling, although the Christmas meal out would have been overbudget if all 4 kids had shown up (I didn't, won't get into the drama)

  3. Well, we stayed close, but the last week when my kids were home was spendy counting the whopper last food shop in December and extra meals out, booze, and a few movies. We are still eating from the overage, and we should be under typical grocery budget by $100 in January (though wanted to be under by $150. I think I put good thought into gifts for all, but would like to both have a little nest egg for the extra spending that is inevitable, and more stocked gifts bought through the year.

  4. The way I do it is I just don't save $$ in December and use that money for Christmas instead. That's $1,000. Plus I commit some of my misc spending money and use my points that I've saved all year. That covers all the food I'll need plus any new Christmas decor items. Total is around $1300 or so.

  5. I did pretty well. I spent about $300. less than the year before on everything from gifts to stamps, to food and decorations.

    You did extremely well too considering the December you have had.

  6. I love how you used all your resources to keep the budget low. I try to MyPoints every year for at least a $25 gift card. Almost feels like stealing. :)

    We put away $100 month so we always have a $1,200 budget. I made sure to stick to that this year since I knew the husband was going to take an early retirement in January.


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