Friday, January 12, 2018

2017 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 $850 for Christmas spending in 2017.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas.
Last year I budgeted $1600.00 and we spent $793.72.
So I based this year's Xmas budget on what was spent last year plus a little more.  Since we weren't traveling for Christmas again in 2017(couldn't travel Xmas 2016 as Hubs had a broken leg)I figured the amount spent should be well under $1K.

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
2016.........$1600 planned/$793.72 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 in each one.

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.  Since Hubs retired mid-2017 I will have to budget for Xmas better in the future.

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, 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 2018, or 2019 or beyond.

So we went into the Holidays with $850.00 budgeted to spend.

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

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $40.00
Gifts for immediate family(includes any cash gifts)  $600.00
Gifts for extended family & friends  $50.00
Electricity for lights   $10.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie   $150.00
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)   $0.00
Charity  $0.00

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

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $30.47
Gifts for immediate family  $567.99
Gifts for extended family & friends  $53.07
Electricity for lights  $10.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $184.09
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $0.00
Charity  $0.00
TOTAL SPENT...$845.62

Here are the Spending Details....

$30.47 *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----$9.53 UNDER budget
We sent out 23 cards(2 were put into packages and not mailed separately in envelopes) and mailed 1 package to my brother and his wife and 1 package to a friend.  Stamps cost $10.29 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.   The postage for two packages was $20.18.

$567.99  *Gifts for family---- $32.01 UNDER budget
Last year I spent $542.45 on gifts for family so I spent $25.54 more this year on the family's gifts.  Family included 4 people--Hubs, 3 kids.  $350 of that $567.99 was cash gifts.  We had 2 less people to buy gifts for this holiday(Eldest no longer has a SO and Daughter's BF was not here for Xmas).

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 acquired a new back-up credit card and earned $70 in Amazon credit for that and used the credit for all but $14.67 on a coffee grinder for Hubs big gift.
*  Some clothing bought at Kohl's using Kohl's Cash/sales/discount codes.  I found some sneakers Daughter wanted in March and used discounts and Kohl's Cash to get them for under $10 OOP and hid them from her for 9 months. lolz
*  The last 20% off weekend at Big Lots in 2017(in October-they never run these near the Holidays) saw me get some items for cheap.....already low prices plus 20% more off when bought that weekend.
*  I picked up items/souvenirs on our road trip when I spied a "deal" and tucked those away for Xmas.
* Lots of stocking stuffers were items gotten at Rite-Aid over the course of the year for no money OOP.
Other stocking stuffers were gotten at the grocery store for free after coupons and others gotten as giveaways/freebies from companies.

$53.07  *Gifts for extended family---Over $50 Budgeted Amount by $3.07
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.  His dad's food basket was foodstuffs I used sales/coupons to get.

$10.00  *Electricity for Lights----ON Budget
We used the smaller tree this year(less lights than a full size tree)and Hubs was able to do the outdoors lights too which was the same stuff we usually hang outside.

$184.09  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----OVER budget by $34.09
Dinner for 7 this year and 4 of them got booze(never cheap).  After tip we spent $184.09.

$0.00  *Charity----NO Spending After shelling out for the "rescue misson" expenses we were tapped out in the chairty department, and will be tapped out for some time to come.

$0.00  *Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze, cash incidentals)----NO Spending We didn't travel this year again as the Eldest came home for the Holidays for the first time in 3 years.

All totaled, this year I budgeted $850 and we spent $845.62, so $4.38 under budget overall.

Thoughts for 2018--
I think I'll keep our budget at $850.00 for next Christmas.  We aren't hurting for money but we are on a fixed income with Hubs retired now.  Plus all of our kids are 21 or older(and 1 is established in a career now)so I don't feel the need to spend so much on them as when they were younger.
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 2018?

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



  1. I didn’t keep track last year but will this year. I bought odds and ends all year, just like you. I went with the ‘ one they want, one they need, one to eat and one to read’. The three adult children all got the same book, bought used on eBay, an ornament, several food items each and a magazine subscription each. And a Michigan calendar. The three Grands got two books each, bought on eBay or amazon with gift cards or at garage sales if they look new, an ornament and a cigar box I decorated and filled with found feathers, rocks, chocolate coins etc. Next year, i’m sticking with getting everyone a book, food and subscription. I’ll cut back on the amount of food. It cost 35.00 to mail a package; too much for my budget. My Daughter has an early Jan. birthday so that is always sent with Christmas and figured into the price. I already have her gift for next year. I spent waaay too much but i’m not going to sweat it since I don’t do it often. (And, it’s perfect!)
    We went down state to visit family so we spent on that. We didn’t eat out while there and stayed at our sons so that saved money. All in all, I didn’t do bad. Christmas was done and wrapped by Thanksgiving when a son visited. I try to be done by Oct. when my Summer job ends. This was a good year for us.

    1. Reading you talk about going "downstate" I'm fairly certain we live in the same general area! If you ever feel inclined to do so, message me over at Always fun to connect with like-minded neighbors! Lucy.

  2. You done well, Sluggy! This was a good year for us as well. Beginning last November I put $60 a month into a Christmas fund, for a total of $720. Plus, I earned another $480 in Amazon credit through Swagbucks for a total of $1200. $100 was sent over to Japan to buy gifts for our grandchildren. Then the rest was divided up so that each person was allotted $210 - $150 for gifts, and $60 for stockings. Usually my husband and I don't exchange gifts, but we did this year - mostly things we can use for our upcoming travel. Plus, we each were matched with someone in the family to do a Secret Santa gift, with an upper limit of $30. I was matched with our oldest daughter and gave her a $30 theater gift card. My husband pulled my name and got me a wonderful pair of silver hoop earrings. Anyway, it was a wonderful Christmas all around, and we actually ended up with a little bit of money at the end. No wrapping paper was used either - we all used paper bags, old shopping bags, newspaper and other odds and ends. It all look pretty nice, too. The most surprising thing was even with turning on the tree lights every evening, our electric bill went down compared to previous years. Next year's Christmas will be smaller as we'll be in the middle of traveling - we plan to be in an Airbnb in Portland and will keep things simple.

  3. Totally agree with you on NO DEBT for the holidays! I did not go over budget this year. I scaled way back a few years ago and it has made all the difference. Looks like you did very well and under budget - can't beat that!

  4. As my circumstances change, I adjust all line items in my household budget, including Christmas. This year was the second year of a "Hey I am officially retired now" budget. I worked my magic, and there were plenty of gifts, kids were happy, we had a nice meal at home, with some treats tossed in. I'll go the same plan as last year, this went well again.

  5. We kept Christmas to a minimum and paid for it all in cash. One of my goals for 2018 is to do a much better job at keeping track of all of our spending in order to see our trends.

  6. I had a very meager budget, and I stayed within budget and all paid by cash.

  7. I spent what I planned, less than last year over all. I felt better positioned this year but as part of my kids gift is a family trip, I intentionally cut back.


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