Thursday, November 8, 2018

Holiday Budgeting....Really Think About What You Spend for Christmas

**Given how close it is to Christmas this may or may not help anybody out this year but it's worth a read and a think about implementing this next year if not this Christmas.**

A recent Coinstar survey found that 65% of US adults who give presents at the Holidays establish a budget.  This is a good thing.

Even so, 85% of those folks admit that they go over their budgets for present buying, travel, decorating and other expenses of the Holidays.

However planning ahead CAN reduce the risk of overspending or overspending by a massive amount.  It's hard to keep to a budget and hit that goal if you don't have a target of any kind, right? ;-)

Here are some ideas ideas to help keep you on track this Christmas spending season......

1.  Estimate ALL your Holiday spending not just what you spend on gifts.  List all categories of spending that take a hit at the Holidays--gifts are just the tip of the iceberg!

Here are some categories to consider.............

GIFTS-'nuff said.lolz   How wide is your gift giving circle?  Immediate family? And extended family?  And friends?  And co-workers?  And business associates?  And people who provide services to you like--mail people, your children's teachers, trash collectors, doormen, really wait staff, delivery persons, dog groomers, etc.?  Look at how many people you feel obligated to give gifts to(either due to your own standards or just because they give you gifts so you feel compelled to reciprocate)and really think hard about how much this is costing you financially.

DECORATIONS- There is the decorating(trees, other Holiday displays, tablescapes, mantle displays, special decor in rooms such as dens, kitchen, bathrooms, etc.).  Americans can go crazy decorating for the Holidays.   Don't forget that if you electrify your decorating then an additional nice added chunk of utility usage gets tacked onto your decorating totals.

CLOTHING-Holiday gathers often necessitate wearing clothes that are special to the event or to the party.  Holiday parties that require evening wear, special clothes for Church and Church events, Work Holiday parties, even ugly sweaters for those types of events.  Unless you already have appropriate clothes for a given event, add in some cash to get yourself properly outfitted.

PARTIES/ENTERTAINMENT-If you throw a party or gathering be sure to put enough money aside for all that party food and drink and the entertainment(be it a professional band or buying supplies for a game or activity held at your party).  If you plan on attending a party where you are required to bring a dish or drinks or a wrapped toy donation, etc. be sure to include those costs in your budget.

TRAVEL-If you go away for the Holidays(be it fly or drive or take a train)make sure you budget for tickets, cabs/Ubers, the gas, car rental, nights in motels along the way or at your destination, food to eat along the way, etc.

FOOD/ALCOHOL-Many people have Christmas traditions that involve special food and drink.  Don't forget, if you don't include these items in your regular food budget to put aside extra money to procure these extra goodies.

The most important thing is to figure out what you can afford to spend without racking up credit card debt.  Seriously, don't go into debt to pay for Christmas.  No trinket, food, special night out, etc. is worth paying months and months of interest on to get out of the financial hole you might dig for yourself.  Gifts for the kids and seeing their smiles on Christmas morning are nice and heartwarming to a parent/grandparent but better yet is knowing you aren't jeopardizing their financial futures(or yours).
There was a segment on the news just last night here about a survey that found how a good percentage of Americans(I didn't catch the exact figure)are STILL PAYING OFF THE  HOLIDAY PURCHASES PUT ON THEIR CREDIT CARDS FROM 2017!  And the kicker is, these same folks plan to put their 2018 Holiday purchases on credit card again!!!  Don't be one of those people.

Now take the realistic amount you can afford to spend on Christmas and figure out where to apply that money and where to cut the budget or cut out spending altogether.  I like to prioritize the categories and fund what is most important to me(some gifts and food)and leave off what doesn't add to my personal Holiday Joy(parties, clothing).

Don't get rid of Holiday items that can be reused year after year.......trees, decorations, lights, ornaments, decorative candles(unless you burn them), holiday clothing, etc.  Save those boxes and gift bags and bows and reuse them year after year.

Maybe this is the year you actually acknowledge to yourself that you can't afford to do "up" Christmas like you'd wish or you have in the past(and you really couldn't "afford" to do as much as you did back then).  Good on you on being honest with yourself and not giving into the social pressure to spend, Spend, SPEND!!!

If gift giving is a priority for your Holiday then start NOW to plan for your Christmas shopping next year!  You can reduce so much stress in your life by buying throughout the year when you find a great sale/deal.  But the caveat here is to--make sure you have a person to gift that "whatever you got for pennies on the dollar in Feb." to next December and that you have a secure place to store it for the next umpteen months.  If you end up losing it and/or no one to gift it to that gizmo is better left in the store.

If you have your gifts bought before Thanksgiving and Black Friday comes around it just melts the stress away.  If you buy/collect all your gifts(or at least the bulk of them)before the Christmas season arrives you can relax and focus on something else during the Holiday and not have to fight the crowds at the stores(because face it, the stores are a ZOO in December!)or worry that those last minute purchases made online will arrive in time.

If you have a rewards program through your credit card or do Swag Bucks or some other small money generating online scheme, you can put more cash into your budget.  Play mind games with yourself throughout the year by joining a Christmas Club account at your bank, or saving spare change/small bills, or keeping all rebates received throughout the year to throw into your Holiday spending budget.
If you are diligent and find enough ways to fund Christmas in this way you may be able to stay away from using credit cards and/or your regular income and still have a jolly holiday!

If your extended family or even your nuclear family is expanding exponentially you might want to pow-wow with the adults in your family about cutting the gifting expenses by either discontinuing gifting for the adults(and put the gift focus back on the kids and/or the elderly in your clan)or institute some sort of gift exchange--draw names and only buy for one other person, etc. and set a money limit.

Also think about homemade gifts if you have a talent in that vein.  Sometimes they can be less costly in money but will take up more of your time.   Most anyone is appreciative of something  made specially for them.

I want to close with this video CT MOM shared on her Facebook group awhile back of the most recent Martin Lewis' Money Show.  The clip is HERE.  It's just a small piece of the show.

Here's an interview he did in the UK about this show back in late September......

I'm not trying to be a Scrooge and say you shouldn't spend at Christmas.
All I want is everyone to take a good hard look at what they are spending and really think about whether it's a realistic amount you should be spending and can afford.
Does your Holiday spending impact your financial future?

So who's with me when it comes to simplifying Holiday spending?



  1. Love this post! I've shopped year round with earned rewards/gcs/cash from selling our old stuff. I'm about 90% done with Christmas shopping. I'm only waiting on some new releases and gc deals, otherwise my shopping would be done. The best part, I don't have to worry about Christmas/holiday bills. I will start next year's shopping as soon as I'm done with this year's (depending on how much is left in our budget and the holiday sales).

    We haven't purchased any gift wrapping supplies in about 8-10 years. We're still using gift wrap/bags/bows and tape (remember when RA had this great free tape deal & no limits? We still have over 30 rolls and I've donated a whole lot. I know that I scored over 100 rolls then).

    Our only expense will be food, but that's not a budget breaker.

  2. Great post Sluggy. I love Christmas but also despise it as it has so many bad memories of money problems.As in no money and debt and sick to my stomach. So hard.

    1. No Christmas like this Christmas to create ne memories where the focus is on time spent together, laughing, and enjoying your beautiful family.

  3. Our kids are at an age where they really don't need anything and their wants are things I am not willing to spring for. Pip is the only one who gets things because she is 5 and wants stuff. Plus she gets as big a kick out of a toy that costs 2 bucks as she does big gigantic presents.

  4. I've looked through all the black Friday ads and literally saw two things I wanted. Christmas is going to be dullish this year and that's okay. Our list of people to buy for has been trimmed drastically. The kids will get new phones,some clothes, stocking stuffers and food gifts. One niece I already shopped for-using a $30 coupon from Justice I got from a class-action suit. Other niece will only be 4 months old at christmas, diapers and wipes for her. Wine/beer, food gifts for their parents. I will buy for a friend and her son and my mommy lunch friends. We are splurging on my awesome dad and getting him VIP tickets to next summer's air show. Gift card for my brother. The rest of the in-laws can rot for all I care. Kids don't want to give to teachers or bus driver (she doesn't deserve it anyway). There is an Ugly Sweater dance they might go to, we'll either make some or get at Walmart. We'll donate to Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army, visit the local Light Up nights and things like that. I'm hoping for a calm, pleasant Christmas, with no bills in January or beyond.

    Sorry for my novel, but I organized a lot of thoughts just now! :)

  5. My biggest expense is travel, as I am going to see the grands in Missouri this year. I looked at what I spent last time and used that as a baseline. So, I have been saving and saving for that. I have the air tickets, booked a room for when I arrive and reserved the car and have nearly all of that. My next item is spending money. As for gifts, I have a very small budget, but it mainly for the grands.

  6. I don't just simplify holiday spending, I simplify everything about the holidays. My spending comes from the grocery money. Gifts are only given to each other in the house. I do bake cheesecakes and make candies for friends. I do the things I enjoy--baking, decorating and paper crafting, and ignore pretty much everything else. I set aside feeling obligated to get into a funk over the holidays a long time ago. In fact, if anything, I do less between Halloween and New Year's than any other time of the year. Honestly, the last thing I want to do in the darkest, coldest time of the year is leave my warm, nicely decorated, sweet smelling house and chase somebody else's perception of what Christmas should be.

  7. Every point you make is so spot on. I don't think you are even remotely talking like Scrooge-it is sad that people feel unworthy if they choose to spend less but focus on other aspects that bring more genuine joy. To think it is November and families are paying off debt from last year is very sad-no one, except a child who wouldn't understand, would want a gift if they knew it was creating a hardship the other 364 days for the giver. this is when I like to remember the old Little house on the Prairie Christmas stories and think the day was special because they spent time together, played games, and enjoyed the spirit of the day. that sounds like a perfect Christmas to me.

    1. There was one year when every single non-food gift my kids got came from a thrift shop, and they were none the wiser. It was only when they started comparing themselves to their peers' that I started hearing rumblings of dissent from my kids--from one kid in particular. I'm afraid I had some very uncharitable things to say regarding that. The fact that "Christians" use this holiday to compare and keep score saddens me. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say they feel "unworthy." It's almost as if people think that creating the perfect day as measured by another's expectations will compensate for a year of shortcomings. I love Advent and Christmas don't get me wrong--the music, (well, not the secular junk) the decorating, the baking. The trashy, short-sighted avarice, I will not countenance.

  8. Thanks for the shout out, Sluggy. I rarely come back to blogger, now that I've moved my blog to Facebook. Great post. Once again, seems to be an annual thing, I advised the kids that it's a scaled back Christmas this year, as in reduced even further from last year. I am done shopping. 100%. Took advantage of multiple deals, promos, rewards etc and worked my magic as I call it. I also have purchased a sale priced butt ham @ 99/lb, a 2 lb bag of large shrimp @ $9.xx I forget the actual price, it was an odd amount. That is for both Xmas and New Years. As I get closer to Xmas, have currently been focused on Turkey day, I will review my menus, acquire any additional ingredients. No expenditure on clothing, decor (except I ahve cinnamon and pine oils on my list at the mment to freshed potpourri). It's about time with family, not starting the new year in debt. I ahve a few sewing projects to get through (shopped my stash), then can do a bit of holiday baking, enjoy movies and holiday music. It's all about simplify, simplify, simplify the older I get.


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