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Recently a friend asked me, “What is a reasonable Christmas budget for my family? How much should I be spending on Christmas gifts?”
She was curious because she had recently seen a local morning show and the contributor was suggesting numbers that she felt were rather low. She wanted a real answer. Was she budgeting too little or too much? Was her Christmas budget reasonable considering who she was buying for?
Although I don’t like to tell anyone what a reasonable Christmas budget looks like, it got me thinking about my Christmas of years gone past with my overspending and incurring a massive amount of debt and my Christmases of today were I am far more conscientious about what I’m spending.
I’ve learned a thing or two about budgeting for the holidays and how to create a reasonable Christmas budget that’s realistic and meets MY expectations for spending.
But before I go over the nitty gritty of the answer, I want to give you an idea of what’s happening out there for most Americans during the holiday rush of shopping.
WHAT’S A REASONABLE CHRISTMAS BUDGET?
THE STATISTICS (USA ONLY)
- $885.70 Billion dollars is expected to be spent this holiday season.
- In 2015, the average US consumer spent $1,128 on gifts, entertainment, decorations, and travel.
- 66% of shoppers go over their budget by $116.
- 38% exceed their budget altogether.
- Women overspend more than men. Women 40% – Men 30%.
- 78% of parents will take on debt just to keep their children happy.
Holiday Spending Pressure
- 50% spend outside their means.
- 38% overspend because of social pressure.
- 64% make impulse purchases.
- 32% regret how much they spent.
- 11% will go into debt.
- 35% of consumers have maxed out one or more of their credit cards.
- Women are more likely to max out one or more credit cards than men Women 9% – Men 4%.
- 93% of retailers repeat Black Friday prices from year to year.
- Black Friday deals are not exclusive to Black Friday.
- 70% believe Black Friday is overrated.
- Less than 5% is the average Black Friday discount.
- 55% pay holiday debt off in one month.
- Last year 8% still had holiday debt they were paying off from the year before.
Now that you know what Americans have done in years past, it’s time for you to decide what your budget for Christmas will look like. Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind:
DECIDE WHAT YOU VALUES AS A FAMILY
Maybe you’ve felt the pressure to conform to society’s standard about what Christmas is supposed to mean.
Maybe you have racked up serious debt because you gave into the pressures of society. If you did, you more than likely have the credit card statements to prove it.
The question then becomes, how do we create a holiday season that insulates us against what society wants to shove down our throats? How do we create a holiday based on OUR values and not societal pressures?
For most of us, including our kids and grandkids, spending time together is what’s valued most – not some new gadget that they’ll forget about in less than a month.
So the first step is to decide what’s important about the holidays and then remember to create a budget that reflects your values. That includes how much money is appropriate for YOUR family.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES
I don’t know if you realize this, but the Joneses are broke.
Really they are.
And when you strive to keep up with them, the only one you hurt in the long run is yourself and your family.
It’s ok to be different.
If you start your children out young with having a Christmas that’s realistic and affordable, you won’t have to deal with the demands of more and more expensive gadgets as they get older.
Of course, your children may be a wee bit disappointed when they start comparing notes with their friends, but you can simply tell them that Santa always checks with the parents to make sure that what he brings is aligned with the families values.
This way they’ll know Santa really did keep them in mind when choosing their gifts.
Rather than trying to make Christmas special for your child by keeping up with someone else, encourage them to make Christmas special for another child or person.
- Adopt an Angel Tree child and let your kid choose gifts for them.
- Donate food to a local food drive and let your child help do the shopping.
- Go to a food pantry and serve breakfast on Christmas morning.
And on Christmas morning get down on the floor with your kids or grandkids and play with them or check out something they received. Your undivided attention is more valuable to them than any gift they got.
Plus, what if you don’t have a nickel to spare? Keeping up with other’s is a sure fire way of getting way over your head. Don’t end up like a statistic and do Christmas your way!
SET A BUDGET FOR CHRISTMAS YOU CAN LIVE WITH
When all is said and done, create a reasonable Christmas budget you can live with.
If you’ve got young kids or grandchildren, keep the expectations low. Start small.
If you spend $500 on a five-year-old, what do you think the expectation will be when they are teenagers?
Start small and think simple.
As your kids and grandkids grow, realize that your Christmas budget might not be the same for each child in the family. Teenagers cost way more than younger children and the deals you can find around the holidays are not as enticing as with smaller children.
Don’t forget to include all those “forgotten items” when budgeting like gift wrap, the family picture, food, and decorations. They can really add up and destroy your budget if you don’t properly budget for them.
Remember your budget for Christmas is YOUR budget and no one else’s. Do what’s best for your family and don’t go into debt for the holiday.
What real families budget for Christmas comes down to first determining what you value as a family and not getting lured into the lie of commercialism. From there you can best determine how you want your family to remember the holidays. That’s what to keep in mind when creating your reasonable Christmas budget this year.
Focus on what you love and what’s important to you and you won’t go wrong.