WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: Your holiday gift budget

Posted November 29, 2012

 

Whether you are giving gifts to everyone you know or just to your immediate family, holiday expenses can add up quickly. If you don’t set a gift budget AND stick to it, you may be paying for all that joy well into 2013!

 

Budget form

Dave Ramsey, the founder of Financial Peace University, is offering a free 2012 Christmas Budget form HERE It has columns for you to enter how much you plan to spend and how much you actually spent. It’s a great way to very clearly see how much you have left over or how much you have overspent on gifts. You can print out the form and fill in the blanks using a pencil or use the online form and type in your numbers. If you use the online form, it will automatically add up your totals for you. You could also create the same type of form on Excel if you prefer.

The key is to make sure you are adjusting your spending if you see that you have started to overspend. For many people, a cash system works best. Only take the cash you plan to spend and don’t charge anything. The financial “experts” have said that people who use their credit cards spend 30% more than people who pay with cash. Obviously that is not true for everyone, but if you have the tendency to overspend when you pay with plastic, stick to cash.

Our holiday gift budget

In our family, we have agreed to buy gifts for just the kids including the cousins, nieces and nephews. Our agreed upon budget is $10 per child. Most of the kids on the list (tweens and teens) prefer gift cards so I’ll be looking for some good gift card promotions to score an extra bonus when I buy the gift cards. Gift cards are also great to give to out-of-town family because they cost very little to send (cost of a stamp) versus a mailing a gift that requires a box (usually $5 or more per package). And you don’t have to wait in the long lines at the post office to mail a card. The adults do not buy gifts for each other although I do buy gifts for my dad and mother-in-law. We usually bake for the other adults including family and friends. Baking ingredients also cost money so I add that into the budget.

Each of my 2 girls gets to pick one “big” (ie: more expensive) gift and then they get a number of smaller items I have been stashing away since January. Now I just have to find where I have hidden everything! This year, my oldest requested a pair of Ugg boots that run $150 (ouch!). Her feet have not grown for about 2 years and they are very warm boots so I was actually pleased that she picked such a practical gift. She has been asking for these boots for a while so I have been saving up credit card reward points to get a gift card to a store that carries them. I ended up getting them for ½ price after the gift card I had – which is a fantastic price for these boots!

My husband and I usually spend $50 or less on each other. I don’t need any expensive jewelry and he doesn’t need a 5000” flat screen TV. What we do need is to feel financially secure in a very unstable economy, so we stash the cash instead of buying expensive gifts for each other. We both feel strongly about remaining debt-free (other than the mortgage) and the holidays are no exception. I guess our real gift to each other is that we take the long-term security of our family seriously, which is priceless! This year my husband is getting 2 books he requested and some fun manly toys that were good deals through Groupon. I can’t divulge the specifics because he may actually read this!

I also send out holiday cards each year that I purchased the year before during the post-holiday sales in January for 75 – 90% off. This year we are sending out picture cards using photo insert holiday cards I bought during the clearance sales last year. I am using a photo that I took of the girls and will have copies made inexpensively at the drug store (and paid for using a prescription transfer gift card!).

Clearly we do not go overboard regarding expenses during the holidays but I know of families that spend $300 or more per family member.  They may rack up $1500 or more worth of holiday bills that all get charged to the card and won't be paid off in January.  We prefer to focus on the meaning of the holiday and the time we get to spend with family, friends and the kids while they are out of school for a couple weeks. 

Your holiday gift budget

Let’s hear it – do you have a gift budget for the holidays? If so, how have you determined what to spend? Do you have a total you are willing to spend for all the gifts you plan to buy or a per person amount? Feel free to share your actual budget, if you are willing.

We'll be talking about frugal gifts ideas in the next week. Here’s to a fabulous and frugal Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza and anything else you happen to celebrate this time of year!
 

22 Comments

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  • larindap3 Dec 1, 8:12 p.m.

    Budget, yes I try to budget, and usually stay on track, til about a week before Christmas, when hubby wants to celebrate and cook everything for Christmas dinner. I've about given up but continue to try try again. (I just paid $56 for a tie!! At least it is a frat. tie that my son is becoming a member of. He should be able to wear it f-o-r-e-v-e-r!)

  • SaveEnergyMan Dec 1, 2:22 p.m.

    For my extended family - sibling's family and parents - we draw names and spend $50-$75 on the gift. We do buy something for the children (there aren't but a few).

    For my in-laws, we make charitable donations in their names rather than buying stuff they don't need. It's still as much fun to see what was donated and we don't have to drive home with a trunk full of useless stuff! The gifts are also tax deductible!

  • Oxymoron02 Dec 1, 2:45 a.m.

    We don't spend any more money in December than we do any other month of the year, it just gets diverted from different budgetary cookie jars and spent on gifts. If I'm lucky, my husband won't dig too deep into the grocery budget (the literal cookie jar?) for gifts. Gifts are his job, so I don't complain too much.

    I would prefer to go cash only, but there are too many rewards to be had using credit. And my husband is a big boy, so it's not like I can take away his credit cards. I keep on top of it, we don't charge more than we can pay off every month, so we're not paying interest.

  • jdouglas13 Nov 30, 2:23 p.m.

    Some years we can afford to buy gifts, and we really enjoy being able to do that. Others years, not so much. This year, a $520 vet bill this month and an $800 car repair last month wiped out not only the Christmas budget, but the grocery budget for two months, the haircolor budget, and so on...

    Stockpiler that I am, we are okay for groceries. That includes ingredients for cookie baking, which has been my backup gift for the lean years, and is usually more requested than anything else. So, cookies it is this year. We still decorate the house, and always make a birthday cake in honor of my Mom's Christmas Day birthday, even though she's not here to eat it. We'll be ok. :)

  • pss3 Nov 30, 1:06 p.m.

    December is a big month for us, both DH and I have birthdays the week of Christmas. I prefer to save all year long in order to have the extra resources to spend on presents. I shop online/in-stores on Black Friday to stretch that budget even further. I also buy my son's toys from the Kids Exchange sale in July. We usually spend $500-$600 altogether on gifts for 3 boys (ages 1-4), 7 adult family members, and about 10 small gifts for friends and my son's playmates.

  • gumtickler80 Nov 30, 12:22 a.m.

    Oh, forgot to add one thing. I took a knitting class back in February. Therefore, everyone will also have a new winter scarf hand made by me. I have made 14 so far and have 1 more to go. I hope to have time to make 2 more to add in a box of items i have picked up for a young family. I try to help a little when I can, the husband/father lost his job earlier this year.

  • gumtickler80 Nov 30, 12:07 a.m.

    Having a husband who lost his job 2 years ago and is now working (out of his degree field) for slightly above minimum wage, we have been very creative the last w Christmases and this one will be no different. My siblings and mother will get a basket of canned fruits, veggies and homemade soup made form the blessings of our gardens this year. I tell them they have dinner/lunch/breakfast on me! :) My nieces, nephews and my 3 kids get a bag of items I have picked up during the year for free or little cost ( razors, lotions form Bath and Body etc.). I throw in some gift cards for my kids that have been great buys too. My husband and I celebrate our anniversary and my birthday in December too. I tease him that I get a kiss, a hug, and a Merry Christmas ( in that order) for gifts. We don't buy, just enjoy some time together!

  • cbrewer8 Nov 29, 8:37 p.m.

    We have a CD that we set up just to save for Christmas gifts. A set amount gets drafted out of our checking account each month and goes directly into the CD, which comes due in Sept. each year...just in time to start doing some Christmas shopping! That way I don't have big credit card bills to pay off in the new year! We also stick to a certain amount that we spend on each person every year, so we have no surprises!

  • meredith88 Nov 29, 8:20 p.m.

    My husband and I both come from large families so we have 24 people to buy for just within our immediate families. We have our idealistic budget of $5 per person and our realistic budget of $10 per person. Last year we ended up spending $6.50 per person and this year we are on track to spend even less :) We buy a lot from thrift stores and make a lot of gifts too. The hardest part is budgeting for each other because my husband loves to spend extra on me, but this year we set a budget of $20 for each other and have agreed to stick to it and give each other the gift of putting the rest of the money towards getting out of debt :)

  • ncveteranswife Nov 29, 5:36 p.m.

    We spend $500 on 10 family members and that is it. Everyone has everything, so we give a homemade gift and cash/gift cards. We have been doing this for years, so no leftover bills from Christmas to pay for in January!! Works perfect!!

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