I have a question for you…. Be honest. How much did you spend on Christmas this year?
Did you have a Christmas budget? Did you go over or stay under your budget?
Or were you like most adult American’s and you racked up close to $1,000 in consumer debt?
Ok, I immediately apologize for peppering you with questions. Chances are if you are reading an article about Christmas spending on a finance blog you are most likely savvy when it comes to yo’ money! That being said, I can tell you we spent more this year than last. However, we planned better this Christmas and we spread out our spending and we didn’t take a single financial hit.
BUT if you are someone who maybe didn’t practice the best Christmas spending habits this year, don’t worry there is always next year. Which leads to me this – Why I am writing this article?
I bet you didn't know most people just put themselves in the hole… deep in the hole. When I contributed to Opp Loans 20 Weird Christmas Facts, I emphasized this point: Christmas spending can be a little insane. Most people just racked up major consumer debt for the holidays and they’re starting the New Year (2019) on the left foot, not the right foot, when it comes to their finances.
My Childhood Christmas.
I won’t lie, Christmas was legit at my house. My mom went ALL OUT. And as a kid it was awesome.
Nothing is better than waking up at 5am after sleeping an entire total of 10 minutes between 10-5 because you were so excited to wake up to open gifts. Bikes, computers, Legos, forget the clothes, toys and whatever else pretty much made Christmas the best thing ever from about age 6-12. Heck even at 13 and 14 I was still jacked about Christmas morning.
I still remember when my littlest of brothers was about 8 and I was 20, and waking up at 7am had me feeling like a zombie from Walking Dead. At that very moment, I felt the pain I put my mom through growing up… sorry mom!
None the less, Christmas morning was a spectacular time. My mom was a huge GIVER. She made Christmas super special for her three sons and anyone else close to our family. She gave gifts each Christmas to just about everyone we knew. But here was the catch – she went just about broke doing it. And while I was a little kid and could not really understand that, I did understand it when I got older.
Now, I am not calling my mom out. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I think giving was one of my mom’s favorite things to do, so ultimately if she chose to spend her money on gifts to make her kids happy, then that is exactly what she should have done (and she did). Just like my article “Stop Comparing Yourself Financially,” says – do what financially makes you happy, just make sure it makes financial sense.
And as we all get older we get wiser, which has taught me this about Christmas: Giving is awesome and creating memories are the best. I think my mom thoroughly loved giving back to her boys, family and friends because for most of her childhood that wasn’t really the case. Giving was just part of who she was.
BUT… just like every decision we make, if it involves finances we should also look at the financial implications and long term outlook.
Yeah, you don’t understand, it is Christmas.
No Correction, I do understand it is Christmas. Which means giving and time with family. But giving does not mean spending. Also, as an adult, you are looking at about an average of 60ish Christmases give or take depending on if you are a male or female.
My simple thinking is this – don’t screw up your new year 60 times by going overboard for Christmas. So before I get to answering how you do a better job during the holiday season staying on a budget while still attacking debt/student loans or contributing to investments… I will share our Christmas spending.
How much we spent on Christmas 2018.
Before I reveal our spending for 2018 I will admit we spend more than we liked. We had a rough estimate on how much to spend on the people we buy for and for the last 3 years we have not bought for each other. However, this year we decided to buy for each other which quickly took us over our $1,000 budget. So what did we spend? See below 😊
|Lauren (From Me)||$195|
|Me (From Lauren)||$220|
|My Brothers (2)||$270|
|Lauren’s Sister & Brother’s GF||$100|
|My Parents & Step Parents||$170|
|Lauren’s Parents & Grand Parents||$250|
|White Elephant Game||$50|
|Food, Alcohol, Etc. & Dinner Out||$115|
|Donation to Kids||$50|
|Gift to Money Life Wax – New Theme||$56|
We didn’t rack up consumer debt and like I talk about in my positive monthly income blog post, if you have a positive monthly income you have the ability to spend money when you decide to without over thinking it.
But just because you have it, doesn’t mean you spend it. So as you can see, this year we spent $1576 in total. Ouch, more than we planned for. And while we spent a little more then we wanted too, we spread out our Christmas buying starting in early November and some the purchases (Food & Dinner) were factored into our monthly grocery/eating out budget.
Had we not bought for each other we would have been closer to our budget – but we all live and learn.
So what could we have done differently, and what can you do next year to plan better for the holidays?
1. Save all year in 2019.
This is simple – we spent close to $1600, so if we had the same budget for next year we could create a “Christmas Savings Account” with Ally.com (2% at the moment) and we could throw $135 a month into it. Then when Christmas roles around – transfer it to our account – do our shopping and then throw the extra back into savings if we don’t use it all.
2. Create a budget for everything imaginable that might come up.
Our biggest mistake this year – not factoring all the little things. I think we have done well budgeting for gifts, but all the little stuff adds up. Now we choose to make extra donations, give 30-40% tips on haircuts/eating out, and things of that nature around the holidays. In the past we couldn’t always do that. But little things like boxes, tags, the bottle of wine, and so on quickly add up. Be prepared and budget for those and see below for #3.
3. Buy Boxes, Tags & Wrapping Paper NOW.
I am doing it today. Go to Walmart or wherever, go stock up on gift bags, name tags, and wrapping paper. If you need decorations do that too. They will be 50% off and by the end of the week they will be almost 80-90% off. Even the Christmas candy is discounted.
4. Be Creative with Gifts.
Figure out ways to be creative giving gifts if you’re on a strict budget. I have alluded to this in the past, but a gift I will never forget I am looking at right now – a picture of my Grandma with a handwritten note she gave me. It probably costed all of $4 but I love it. My wife’s sister gave us this cool sign with our last name and year we got married that we look at every day for Christmas. Things like that really are special and don’t have to be expensive.
5. Make Memories.
Finally, make Christmas and the holidays about memories.
Don’t worry about spending loads of money on gifts – see what fun and creative things you can do next year. Maybe save for a trip and do that next year instead of giving gifts. How awesome would that be?
In parting, I do want to say thanks for being a reader of Money Life Wax. I will admit, at times generating 1,000+ words of content can be very simple. Other times, not so much. But I press on because even if 1 or 2 people get something out of an article then that is awesome.
I also want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas (belated), happy holidays, and a happy New Year. Be sure to check out my 19 Things to Try in 2019 and forget the New Year Resolutions (just read and you will understand). Have a great one!
Q: What is one area you can improve on or one tip you have for people when it comes to Christmas spending?
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.