Tuesday, January 8, 2019

2018 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 2018.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas(except for food for Christmas meals-which is accounted for in the food budget).

Last year I budgeted $850 and we spent $845.62.
So I based this year's Xmas budget on what was spent last year as we were pretty close to the targeted amount.  We weren't going to be traveling anywhere for the Holidays so this amount seemed adequate to me.

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
2017...........$850 planned/$845.62 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, 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 2019, or 2020 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  $38.85
Gifts for immediate family  $640.46
Gifts for extended family & friends  $71.00
Electricity for lights  $10.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $84.72
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $0.00
Charity  $0.00
TOTAL SPENT...$845.03

Here are the Spending Details....

$38.85 *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----$1.15 UNDER budget
We sent out 23 cards(3 were put into packages and not mailed separately in envelopes) and mailed 1 package to my brother and his wife and 2 packages to 2 friends.  Stamps cost $10 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.  The postage for two packages was $28.85 and the stamps cost $10.00

$640.46  *Gifts for family---- $40.46 over budget
Last year I spent $567.90 on gifts for family so I spent $72.56 more this year on the family's gifts.  Family included 5 people--Hubs, 3 kids, eldest's GF.  $150.00 of that $640.46 spent was on cash gifts.  We had 1 more person to buy for this year(Eldest son's GF).  If the GF wasn't here I would have been closer to target by $29.06.

$71.00  *Gifts for extended family---OVER budgeted amount by $21.00
Nephew's gift cost what I wanted to spend,  his dad's food basket was foodstuffs I used sales/coupons to get so either free or accounted for in the yearly food budget.  I spent $50 on my brother and the sister in-law's gift which was what put me over.  I sent cousin Sonya hair care stuff for free at R-A and a CVS gift card(that girl is all about the CVS!lol)but I got that free with credit card points. 8-)))

$10.00  *Electricity for Lights----ON Budget
We used the smaller tree again this year(less lights than a full size tree)and Hubs was able to do the outdoors lights too using the same stuff we usually hang outside.  No big Battle of the Xmas Lights here! lolz

$84.72  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----UNDER budget by $65.28
Dinner for 3 this year plus a to-go order for Ex-College Boy(who was working).  Eldest and GF weren't here and nephew and BIL didn't come so a small crowd.  Nobody drank liquor this year but we did all 3 get appetizers.
After tip we spent $84.72

$0.00  *Charity----NO Cash Spending on Charity this Holiday Season(still coasting on the "Rescue Mission last year to SC") but I did give a very large donation to the town's food bank of toiletries, laundry detergent and foodstuffs.  All that was either free with Bonus Cash at R-A or accounted for in the grocery budget.

$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 Christmas with his GF in tow.

All totaled, this year I budgeted $850 and we spent $845.03, so $4.97 under budget overall.

Thoughts for 2019--
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 22 or older(and 1 is established in a career and 1 gainfully employed 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.
Unless our plans change and we travel for the Holidays, $850 seems a good target amount for 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 2019?

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



  1. I had a super cheap year, since we kind of pretty much skipped it this year, living in an overpacked shop. I spent $80 on DD and $65 on her fiance. I spent $50 on FIL/MIL and $40 on SIL/BIL. That's it. My mom and I decided to skip exchanging. DH and I didn't exchange.

  2. Hi Sluggy, this is Chris. Thanks for doing this analysis of your Christmas spending, it is helpful. I do a Christmas Club type account for Christmas and it works well for us most years. This year, not so much, b/c we had some added expenses that weren't planned, but it is ok b/c I can take from misc. category for some, and will make up some of it from the grocery budget. We ended up traveling to our families before Christmas instead of after, and had our kids and grand daughter with us, so had a fast food meal on the way, and the big thing was we had hotel rooms for 2 nights b/c neither hubby's mom nor dad/stepmom had room for all of us to stay. Plus we had my mom's 80th birthday celebration and I had some extra food I had to buy for that party. We are fortunate that all of our parents are still alive, except my dad and hubby's step dad, so I can't really complain too much.

    The way we do gifts with our kids is to set a dollar amount, buy 1 gift, and give the rest in cash. I know when we retire like you are that things will have to change to a lesser dollar amount. I still buy candy and gum for the stockings so will probably stop that also.

    Some of your other categories we spent more, some less. My Christmas budget usually does work well when we don't have these extra things like hotel rooms LOLOL!

  3. I stayed on budget for Christmas. The bulk of it was for my granddaughters, but other than that, I did ok.

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  6. We kept Christmas to a minimum this year. The only thing out-of-budget was deciding to donate an extra $50 to Project Angel Tree which we covered with some "slush money" from our checking account.

  7. We went over by quite a bit. We ended up buying the kids skis. We may do a similar gift next year (lift tickets). It's a good family "experience" gift, that we can leverage, vs buying junk. The rest of the categories were all at/under budget, and to offset, my husband & I skipped giving gifts this year. Our budget was $650, but we were over by like another $1000 (skis). We were fine with that, but it's not something we'll repeat regularly.

  8. We were under budget, but I think my budget is insanely too high with all the nonsensical extended family gifts. Still, I think I gave some really terrific things, plus a little walk around money to my kids. I can't really buy for my son other than a few clothes and food stuffs (which he loves) so I give him funds to buy himself something once home. It probably goes to bills, but a gift of less stress is fine by me.

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  11. Christmas was somewhat pared down this year and I would like to remove two more people from our list. Gift giving with them has turned awkward. We don't see them often and they didn't get us anything this year and it felt weird. I would also like to stop exchanging adult gifts with brother in law and his wife. Definitely buy for the kids and maybe just go out for a nice meal or put it towards an activity because we do hang out often. Other than that, Christmas was paid for in cash, nothing extravagant. I did run into some great deals on gift wrap and things but everything was under 50 cents a piece. No decorations or clutter purchased as I desperately need to purge what we already have. All in all Christmas went by too quickly!


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