Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011 Budget/Spending Autopsy

Do you like this picture?  It's a Renaissance era painting of a medical autopsy.  I thought it was quite Christmas-y due to the red and green colors used.

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".

I budgeted $1300 for Christmas spending.
$1300 in money we HAD already, so no putting Christmas spending on Credit Cards to pay off sometime next year.

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

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $50.00
Gifts for family  $600
Cash for Kids  $300
Secret Santa Gift  $20
Charity  $100
Electricity for lights  $5
Alcohol  $100
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $125

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

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $39.43
Gifts for family  $452.24
Cash for Kids  $150
Secret Santa Gift  $17.94
Charity  $0
Electricity for lights  $5
Alcohol  $64.21
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $122.50

TOTAL SPENT...$851.32

Here are the Spending Details....

$39.43  *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----
We sent out 5 cards.  2 were mailed and 3 shipped inside of gifts that were mailed so the cost of 2 stamps.  We mailed 3 gifts(and I paid shipping for part of my Secret Santa gift bought on eBay)so that covers the bulk of our shipping expenses.  I knew we'd have a substantial amount to spend on shipping as we weren't traveling anywhere to visit family this Christmas, so we couldn't hand deliver any presents.

$452.24  *Gifts for family----
Last year I spent $369.70 on gifts for family.  I budgeted a much larger figure for this Christmas($600)but I still came in under that amount.  I know that my kids basically at their ages just want cash or gift cards, but I still have a hard time with nothing to wrap under the tree.  Plus it's one of the few times a year I get to shop since I really don't buy things anymore except for food.
Just having a pile of envelopes under the tree just doesn't do it for me...what can I say!lolol  But I do shop carefully and thoughtfully when I buy the kids 'things'.  I no longer buy silly or useless or things they don't want.  Heck, this year, I took #1 son shopping and let him pick out all his 'things' I bought him and then wrapped them up for him to open Christmas morning.  Since I don't see him but a few weeks every year now, this was the only way I could do it and make sure things fit him and were his 'style'. The money and gift card were still a surprise for him.

While I spent $452.24 on gifts, the regular retail on the gifts I bought was $1036.73.
Now how did I save over 56% on the cost of my gifts?

*First I used my credit card points to purchase $175 in Gift Cards, which were given to 4 of my recipients.  Next year, I may give these gift cards again AND 'buy' more cards and use them to pay for gifts I give as well.
*Second, I utilized 'social coupon' sites to locate great deals.  I got cheap movie tickets, free item coupons for fast food, cheap gift cards and used a wine deal to purchase wine for 2 of my recipients.
*Third, I shopped online on certain days to get % off deals on items and/or free shipping.  I shopped brick & mortar stores only 4 times.....1 trip to Kmart, 2 trips to Kohl's and 1 trip to Rite-Aid.  Just a few items(mostly for #1 son and he was with me)and I was totally done by last Wednesday.
*The Fourth way I spend so little on so much, was to pick up items all year long.  This works for both larger items and small stuff, the filler stuff.  By hitting sales, clearance racks and outlets you can save a lot of money over the course of the year by buying ahead strategically.  If you are dealing with growing kids or teens, I don't recommend buying clothing ahead because it may not fit and/or it might not be in style according to the whims and fancies of your teen.  But you can buy ahead staples like underwear, socks, gloves, hats, etc., or things like pens, notebooks, backpacks, gadgets, favorite snacks, etc.  #1 son loves fruitcake so when we go to Ocean City, MD in Oct/Nov, I get him a fruitcake at Rose's for $3-$4 then, instead of ordering the same item from the manufacturer's website in Dec. from GA at double the cost plus $6 shipping.  Daughter loves peaches so when I found peach flavored throat drops for $1 at the Dollar Store instead of the $3 they charge at the grocery store(IF I can find this flavor!), I bought them ahead for Christmas.  When I found a ginormous can of MONSTER drink for $1.50 at Big Lots I bought it for #2 son because he loves this stuff and I don't buy it normally.  Many of the toiletries I get for free at Rite-Aid(after sales/coupons/+Up Rewards/rebates)end up under the tree or in someone's stocking.
All these strategies help me spend less out of pocket and put goodies under the Christmas Tree for less.

$150  *Cash for Kids----
Last year, the first year I actually tallied up what we spent on each kid at Christmas, I was aghast to see $200+ on average spent on each kid.  I had given them each $100 cash(since they like to spend the money themselves)but I had also bought each kid over $100 worth of stuff.  I hadn't realized we had spent this much until I tallied up all the "little stuff" stocking stuffers and filler items and those 'darn cute things nobody needs but they are irresistible' things.  Believe me when I say Stockings are KILLERS!   Even if you shop for them at the Dollar Store, stocking stuffers can add up quickly to big money.  Each kid needs to be stuffed and then times it by 3 and it gets to be substantial money!
I've decided to go totally with 'necessaries' next year in the Stockings.  Things my kids need and I would have to buy anyway and things I can get for free at the Drug socks(we already do socks in the stockings), underwear, batteries(Hubs got D batteries since he is always looking for them for his flashlights), pens/pencils, earphones, toiletries(daughter got shaving cream in her stocking this year), candy bars/gum.
So I reduced the cash given by half, to $50 per kid.  With an average spending of $80 on actual gifts of things/experiences/gift cards, $50 in cash kept the spending per kid to under $150.  I am happier with that figure than the $200+ of years past.

$17.94  *Secret Santa Gift----
I had #2 son's name.  I found a t-shirt he wanted on eBay I won for $7.99 and I had picked up a nice $25 leather wallet he wanted while down in Ocean City MD for $9.95.  We try to keep the Secret Santa gift spending around $20-$25 so I did well this year with 2 items he liked while spending below average.

$0  *Charity----
Before you call me the Grinch, I did something different this Christmas to help those in need.  I am on a YahooGroups help list.  It operates year round and is only for those physically located in PA.  Every year at Christmas time people who are in need of help providing for their families at the Holidays can post for help.  And then those who are in a position to help, the Angels they are called, either adopt a family or persons in that family and buy them gifts or food or whatever they ask for.  Other Angels who aren't in a position to do an adoption will offer items they have-mostly these are gently used items-to whomever can use them.
Since I still have eBay inventory items to downsize here, mostly of the toy variety, I took a large load of them and offered them up on this List for Christmas to anyone local to my area in PA, instead of selling them or donating them to Salvation Army for a tax write-off.  A little direct charity for a change, if you will. ;-)
I was able to put some smiles on kids' faces for Christmas and get some more items out of my house.
A win/win with no actual cash involved!

Ok, so maybe I AM a grinch since I didn't throw money in the kettles or send a check to the food bank or such.  Hubs just informed me he threw money in the bell-ringers' kettles when he was out Christmas shopping, so my no-money-spent guilt is assuaged....I
Seriously though, AM I grinchy this year for not giving cash somewhere at Christmas?....Even though I gave over $500 worth of food to the local food bank over the course of 2011?.....I gave about $4K worth of stuff to Salvation Army?....Hubs had about $600 taken from his paychecks for AFAA(a charity we have monetarily supported since 1986).  Tell me if I am a big old Bah-Humbug, I can take it. ;-)

$5  *Electricity for Lights----
Hubs strung 2 strings of lights outside and lit the Wreath on the door.  They were only up 2 full weeks and lit for a few hours each night. 

$64.21  *Alcohol----
I generally don't buy liquor at Christmas but felt the need this year.  Don't judge. ;-)  I bought 2 bottles of champagne(1 for NYE, 1 for Christmas dinner), a couple of small half bottle of JD and Kahlua, 2 bottles of Vodka and a bottle of Grenadine.  The vodka was a spur of the moment decision because it was on sale(and there was a  I thought I'd make some martinis but if I didn't like the brand of vodka I could always use it to make some Vanilla Extract. 8-)

$122.50  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----
We had our immediate family and daughter's boyfriend for our traditional Chinese restaurant meal.  We sprung for sushi as well so the bill was a bit high, but whattheheckitschristmas!lol

Yay us.....

So looking forward to Christmas 2012 for me--
* I'm basically happy with what I ended up spending.  I came in under budget but there was still enough bought and spent on everyone.
* With our schedules(and 2 kids away at college)it's difficult trying to find activities to do as a family(plus the kids don't want to 'hang' with the 'rents), but I'm going to try to find 1 thing to do as a family, besides eating out.  I'd love to find a concert for free or cheap here that we can attend.
* I'm happy with using some of my inventory to give directly to those who needed it.  Next year I am going to make an effort to get involved in a local Santa organization and give the gift of my time too.
* I cooked/bakes a LOT less this Holiday season and the world didn't end.  I think I'll plan on spending about the same reduced amount of time in the kitchen for Christmas 2012.

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(epiphany? epiphani?)when you looked back at the Holiday plan?
Do you see anything you'll change about your spending for Christmas 2012?

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



  1. ANY post that has the word Autopsy in the title gets my attention!
    Great job on the spending! I wish I could say the same.

  2. The mister spent as much money as always on the kids (every year he says he's going to spend less and there won't be very much and he worries that the kids won't be happy but every year he spends just as much as the year before and every year) but the thing we did less than in other years was EATING. We had low-key food for dinner (OK, listen up - we had pizza because the kids requested it and I thought "WHY NOT?") and no particular breakfast food (we're on diets! Not the kids, but us) and we had very little candy compared to other years. The kids had about 60% as much candy as other years and didn't know the difference; we had about .15% as much as other years, and I baked (get ready for it)... ONE batch of cookies. When they were gone, they were gone, and that was Merry Christmas as far as cookies were concerned. It was fine, too!

  3. I like your "porn" post titles ;) I spent a couple hundred on each kid, $40 ea on (4) Secret Santas, $100 on my parents & $30 on hubs just to have something to open as we're going to S. Fl on vacation in Feb. Happy New Years! Enjoy your champagne.

  4. Really do I need to drive all the way up there and kick your a grinch..NEVER. You gave so much to the food kitchen..oh the gravy..the passed on toys to children who needed them. You listened to me whine..or wine..depending on the day. You are so not the Grinch

  5. I didn't keep track this year. But it was more than plenty!

    I love the way you do your charity. We give all year long to a number of charities: Jerry Lewis Telethon, American Heart Assn. Diabetis Foundation, Autism Assn., etc. We also started a tradition when we were in AZ. We find a family who is in need and send them a substantial giftcard for a supermarket near them and giftcards for Toy's R Us for their children. Some of the people who frequent my blog have benefited from this Christmas giving.

  6. I think you did great with every aspect of your Christmas!! :) Next year my budget is dropping, and I want to have more handmade gifts prepared instead of making everyone else's gifts! ;)


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