How Much To Spend On Christmas



christmas spendingBlack Friday is finally here.  Are you one of the many shoppers that stands in absurdly long lines for the chance to buy a steal of a deal?  In a recent survey, 23% of US adults plan to go shopping on Black Friday this year.  That translates close to 60 million people.


I have a confession to make.  I have never gone to a store on Black Friday.  The thought of waking up early or staying up all night sounds atrocious to me.  As an introvert, crowds tend to violate my personal space, plus I don’t have the patience to wait in long lines.


christmas-spendingOn the flip side, I have had a bunch of friends, most of them extroverts, who love everything about Black Friday.  They love shopping the deals, feeding off the energy of the crowd, and the anticipation of hustling down an aisle to get that coveted item.


Online Shopping

With that said, I do enjoy sitting on my laptop and shopping deals on the Thanksgiving weekend.  I even took a day off a couple of years ago for Cyber Monday.  Shopping at work is a big no-no, and I was really looking to upgrade my TV.  I am not an early adopter, so I still had a bulky tube TV at that time.


christmas-spendingIf it wasn’t for Amazon and Slickdeals, I probably would still be shopping at the mall.  For those unfamiliar with Slickdeals, it is one of my favorite websites.  It aggregates all the deals across the Internet into one easy-to-follow page.  The best part about Slickdeals is the community is so large and will quickly share whether or not a deal is actually good, or something that should be passed on.


Last year, I was able to pick up an awesome Dell laptop that went on sale the day before Thanksgiving for 50% off.  I barely had time to order before it sold out.  So if you’re in the market for something, make sure that you are paying attention throughout the day.


Celebrating Christmas As Kids

Something that my wife and I discuss a lot is Christmas, both currently and as we grow as a family.  My wife’s family is Iranian, and though they celebrated Christmas, it wasn’t a huge deal for her family.  On top of that, my wife’s mom passed away two days before Christmas a few years ago, so that time of year is hard for her and her family anyways.  In fact, I don’t even think my wife’s family is putting up a Christmas tree this year.


christmas spendingI grew up much differently in this arena.  My Christmases were much more magical.  My Mom put up seven Christmas trees, ranging from 8 feet to 12 feet.  They went up the day after Halloween and didn’t come down until mid-January.  She took decorating for Christmas very seriously.


As a kid, I loved Christmas and everything that went with it.  I still have fond memories as we opened presents on Christmas morning.  Afterwards, we’d go to one of my Grandma’s house to open up more presents and eat lunch with my cousins.  Then, we’d go to my other Grandparent’s home to open up even more presents and then have dinner with my other set of cousins.  Christmas has always been a huge family affair.  


christmas spendingSidenote: The most memorable Christmas that I ever had was when I was in 1986.  My parents gave me Nintendo video games, and I thought, this is awesome but I don’t have anything to play them on.  Then, at my Grandma’s house, I got another Nintendo video game, and again, I thought, I guess I have to find a friend’s house to play them at.  Then, at my Grandparent’s house, I got the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Best.Christmas.Ever.


I think this video summarizes what happened at their house fairly accurately:


So in many ways, I’d love to provide memorable Christmases like the ones I experienced for my son as he gets older.  My wife and I continue to discuss how we should emphasis the true meaning of Christmas and how much we want to spend on presents.  


Our Plans for Christmas

In years past, we really haven’t bought each other many presents.  My wife is somewhat picky when it comes to gifts, so I wouldn’t dare surprise her with something.  It leaked that I was going to buy her laptop for her birthday, and when she found out, she put a kibosh on that.  She said it was too much money, and her current laptop worked great.  That’s arguable though.


Sidenote: A laptop does not work great when the battery doesn’t hold a charge, and it must always remain plugged in.  On top of that, I have replaced the battery multiple times.  To me, that means that your computer is dying.  Never mind that the trackpad barely works, and web pages load up like at modem speed.  But if that makes her happy, then so be it 🙂


christmas spendingNow that we have a kid, we have talked about how much to spend on gifts for him.  He’s currently one years old and gets more excited about balloons and plastic spoons that he can bang against the window than actual toys.  So, we’ll probably just get him some balloons to chase around the house.  However, in the future, I have a feeling that may not be sufficient.  


How Much To Spend on Christmas

christmas spendingThe average shopper is planning to spend $929 on gifts this holiday season according to the American Research Group.  With the average U.S. family income of $55,775, according to the Census ACS survey, this means, on average, that families spend 1.66% of their total income on presents for Christmas.


My wife and I have decided we’d like to keep the total cost of gifts to less than 1% of our total income.  At 1% of our total income, I believe we’d still be able to be generous with our families without breaking the bank and allowing us to still safely hit our targeting goals.


christmas-spendingSo readers, how much do you plan to spend on Christmas this year?  Is there something that you’re dying to have?  Is there something that you’re dying to give someone?  Or are you going to pass on the gifts and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas?  Share your thoughts below.

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  1. Wow, I also got a Nintendo from my grandparents one year in the mid-80’s! It was my and my brother’s favorite gift of the year, and we played it all of Christmas vacation. I believe earlier that day we had also gotten some Nintendo games from Santa.

    We also keep our Christmas spending to about 1% of income (slightly less, actually). Every week all year long, I have a set amount of money deducted from my checking account and sent to a special Christmas online savings account. Doing this every week keeps the holiday from taking a big bite from my December budget. Fortunately my kids aren’t into the latest things that people go crazy for, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble shopping for them.
    Liz@ChiefMomOfficer recently posted…Black Friday Fun – What do Personal Finance Bloggers do on Black Friday?My Profile

    • I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only person getting super excited when they got a Nintendo 🙂

      That’s a great idea to have a separate Christmas online bank account. Definitely something for us to consider down the road.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. My daughter is less than 1 and she also loves balloons. Thanks for the idea 🙂 Probably during future Christmases we’ll spend the most on her, but not on this one yet. With my wife we were planning a few days getaway in February, so we decided to let that be the Christmas present for each other. We do not really need anything so some nice memory might worth more than a present we might forget about next year.
    For the rest of the family we will buy presents, but the overall spending will be definitely less than the US average you mentioned above.
    Roadrunner recently posted…The Importance of Expense RatioMy Profile

    • That’s a great idea to use a trip as your present for your spouse. Especially in February. I have a feeling you’ll definitely enjoy that memory!!!

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. The kids are still too young to be commercialized. As such so far the only thing my son has asked for are some men that cling to the walls. Long story short these are dollar store toys we bought him 6 months ago that he lost. That won’t be the only thing we get him but I can’t complain about one of his gifts costing a single dollar. Beyond that this year we will use some of the Black Friday weekend online sales to replenish worn out clothes. Gifts themselves were bought months ago as sales occurred and are fairly minimal.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…How do Bond Funds Work?My Profile

  4. Like you, I’m crowd averse, so shopping is definitely not for me. I’m also a minimalist, so I have had to explain to my husband and family a few years ago, that I don’t want physical gifts anymore. Services are fine, but really, I’d rather people not spend much money on me. I do think kids should enjoy some gifts though, even if very simple, and I think your balloon idea is excellent. My niece is also one years old, and she doesn’t like her real toys as much as a plastic cup, so I’m just going to put money towards her college fund… and maybe steal your balloon idea. 🙂
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…Feasting and FastingMy Profile

    • I’m totally with you and agree I would much rather have memories than stuff at this point in my life.

      I’m trying to convince my wife we should go to Iceland but I’m not sure I can convince her since she thinks it’s too cold.

      Maybe I can convince her it will be warm in July 🙂

  5. I went out this Black Friday (at around 10 AM) just to check things out and walk around. I actually didn’t see too many great deals, but they must have all been bought by the early birds. I ended up getting two shirts and some chocolates for someone’s gift.

    The NES predates me a little, but I did have a N64 growing up! I still have it and it’s still in functioning order. Maybe it’ll be a rare item in 30 more years 🙂 Looking back I kind of like how the game cartridges are a little bulky
    Andrew recently posted…Developing A Mindset To Overcome ExcusesMy Profile

    • The NES was the bomb back in the day. I know I grew up on that system but I still prefer the controller over everything else. But then again I’m sure I sound like an old man saying that 🙂

  6. We’ve started to limit the amount of money we spend on Christmas. My wife and I only spend a small amount on each other, and my family and extended family have taken steps to reduce the number of people we exchange gifts with (Secret Santa works great). Thankfully no kids in our family otherwise that would always be something we’d have to factor into our budget!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…FREE 2017 Editorial Calendar in Google SpreadsheetsMy Profile

    • I’ve been lucky so far not to spend too much on our kiddo. But wow in the future I am afraid.

      Great idea with the Secret Santa. Those are always fun!!!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  7. I still remember when my dad brought home the N64. My parents did the suspense thing in a different way. I would open all my presents and realize they didn’t get me the “one big thing” I had on my list…and then they’d bring it out from the garage and I would jump around.

    I’m the same as your wife with presents, though. I’m picky, and I don’t want anyone spending money on me. Christmas to me is about spending time with people, not gifts. However, most people in my family find that answer unacceptable, and then I feel wrong not getting them something when they insist on getting me something. The exception is my grandma and parents, since they spoiled me growing up, and I figure it’s my turn to spoil them. So overall, I’d say somewhere around $500, but the bulk of that is on those two parties.

    • That’s awesome that you have the opportunity to spoil your parents and grandparents.

      If they’re anything like mine they have done so much to make a huge impact in my life.

      Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a great Christmas!!!

  8. I’m with you on Black Friday shopping! The crowds are too much for me just to save a few bucks. Plus, with online shopping (Amazon!), I just don’t see the need to actually go to the stores. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done any of my Christmas shopping in brick and mortar stores for two years.

    I think you probably know where I stand on the Christmas budget – I’m attempting to keep out of pocket expenses at $50 or less (total $350 if you include the cash back rewards I plan to use). 🙂 We’ll see if it works!
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…How can you challenge your Christmas budget this year?My Profile

  9. I have actually always enjoyed the craziness of Black Friday! Which is kind of surprising since I’m sort of an introvert. 🙂 This year our family on my side is going to try to exchange gifts that are $15 or less–something I think will be quite the challenge. On my husband’s side of the family we drew names so we only have to shop for one person (around a $20 gift.) So all in all, I think we should manage to do Christmas for only a couple hundred bucks!

    • Wow as an introvert it definitely makes me shutter thinking about Black Friday. You are definitely braver than I am.

      Sounds like you have some challenges ahead with the $15 gift idea but sounds like a fun challenge. Good luck and hope you have a great Christmas!!!

  10. Crazy stats, MSM! I had no idea the average American household was spending nearly 2% of annual income on Christmas gifts – which (I would assume) doesn’t include decorations, meals, travel, etc. Total Xmas spend could well be double the figures given once all those additional categories are tallied up!!

    I’m certain we’ve never spent anywhere close to 1% of income on Christmas gifts. The closest we ever got would probably have been one year when I bought clients, contacts, colleagues, and others holiday gifts as part of my consulting firm’s marketing/brand-building efforts. And even then…probably not close to 1%, even before taking into account tax savings.

    Some thought-provoking stuff here – many thanks for the good post! And happy holidays to you all!
    FinanciaLibre recently posted…Thanks To YouMy Profile

  11. We only have one kid so that helps a little bit in our Christmas shopping. We’ve spent a handful of years just going to the dollar store and buying a bunch of stuff for each other and our daughter. Unwrapping is most of the fun anyway, so that’s always a good time.

    This year though we did buy our daughter a bike since she’s outgrown the one she has now. The good news is that I ended up getting some kickbacks from Paribus and my credit card and the bike ended up costing us only around $50. Score!

    — Jim
    Jim @ Route To Retire recently posted…Why Your Company Match is So ImportantMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Jim. Great tip on the dollar store. We will definitely be doing that in the future because you’re right as a little kid unwrapping a ton of presents is the most fun.

      Your daughter is going to love her new bike. I still remember when I got my big boy bike. It was a good Christmas 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  12. I spend more than 1% of my income on Christmas gifts; however, many of those are charity gift cards. I try to give 10% of my income to charitable causes and figure if I’m going to be spending the money anyway, I might as well double up and get some gifts for it; so grandparents often end up with a well in Uganda, my best friend ends up with a toilet in India, the kids’ teachers end up providing teacher training in Bolivia; etc. Added bonus: This is a great idea for those people on your list who always complain about the presents they’re given, because there is no way to complain vaccinating Indonesian kids against polio without looking like a complete and total jerk.

    When it comes to non-charity-gift-card presents, I spend well under 1% of our household income. We have a rough budget of $100 per child (which is the same as my parents had for us; in the 80s, $100 was A LOT more money, but because of cheap imports, $100 probably goes further today than it did back then.) However we usually spend less than that. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. all get a charity gift card and a token gift, usually something around the $10 mark for aunts and uncles (for each pair) and for grandparents, usually about $50 (for each pair).

    I’ve had lots of people tell us we spend too much on our kids; I’ve also had lots of people tell us we’re stingy. Well, everyone will do what suits their family the best. There is no wrong or right answer.

    • Should proofread better. By “grandparents” I meant my parents and my husband’s parents, the kids’ grandparents, not our grandparents (who are all dead.) But “aunts and uncles” I meant our brothers and sisters, not our aunts and uncles (who we aren’t that close to).

    • Rebecca first off thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

      I think that’s a great idea to give the charity gift cards. I am a bit hard to shop for and one year my Great Aunt decided to donate in my name to Heifer International. I still remember that and that was over five years ago. So clearly it made an impression 🙂

      Awesome job with spending what you feel comfortable with your children. I’m a big fan of spending things on what you value and what makes sense for you. Sounds like you are doing it!!!

      Hope it’s the best Christmas yet for you!!!

  13. My family is too far away and spread out for Christmas gifts. With my in-laws and Mr. BITAs sibling the rule is that we pull names out of a virtual hat and every adult buys one other adult a $50 gift. The $50 is more a guideline than a hard and fast budget. The kids all get toys from everyone. Mr. BITA and I stopped doing Christmas gifts for each other a few years ago. We write each other Christmas letters. His letters to me are amongst my most prized possessions. This year is the first year we are going to be home for Christmas, so we are excited about that. A Christmas tree needs gifts under it on Christmas morning, so we’ll probably do some stocking stuffer type things for each other and a gift or two for Toddler BITA.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…How Not to Blow your Budget on HouseguestsMy Profile

    • I remember reading on your website about the letters that he writes to you. They sound amazing and definitely something that I would/should do.

      Thanks for sharing your awesome idea and I hope it’s the best Christmas yet for the BITA family!!!

  14. If the average household plans to spend $929, I’d wager that what they actually spend is much higher. At least for us, Christmases past have gotten really out of control without a budget. This is our first year paying off our $600k in student loan debt. We debated doing no gifts at all, but have settled on a budget of $100 for our family (3 of us) and $50 for a family gift exchange that we didn’t opt out of fast enough, so $150 total this year. We are anticipating that our gifts will be a little more meaningful this year because they will take more creativity. We both grew up with big Christmases like you described and look forward to those days ahead, when our mountain of student loan debt is gone. 🙂
    Amber from Red Two Green recently posted…25 CHEAP OR FREE CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIESMy Profile

    • I have a feeling that you are right that people spend way more than that. With all the traveling that families do, putting up Christmas trees, etc. it all adds up.

      Good luck in your quest to pay down your debt. I’m sure once you pay it all off that you will have the BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER!!!

  15. We don’t necessarily have a fixed number for Christmas. We just ask for lists and do the best we can within whatever arbitrary budget we have (although I do like being able to get my husband’s entire list in an extremely frugal way).

    The child, though, is a different story. December for us is Christmas. And Hanukkah. And her birthday. We tend to go with the big ticket items for her birthday, the minor ones for Hanukkah, and in between for Christmas with the grandparents picking up the rest. I think I wrote a post about this once, too, because it took a lot of planning and figuring out to get to where we are now (she’s just about 10 so we’ve had a lot of practice)
    Jana @ Jana Says recently posted…Everything an experienced mom wants to say to the new mom pressuring people to have kidsMy Profile

    • Wow that sounds like a ton of planning between a birthday, Hanukkah and Christmas.

      I have a birthday in December as well, so I remember all too well receiving “combined” gifts. So it’s nice to hear that you she gets gifts for each day.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. Ahhh…the year we got the Nintendo. What a great Christmas! I’ve always loved Christmas and have been incredibly guilty of overspending during the holidays. I feel like it’s a chance to shop and shop with no guilt. However, last year I spent about $2K, which is more than 1% of my income. Mind you, I do not have kids, so all these gifts were family and friends. I was very happy with the gifts I bought, as were the people I bought them for, which does make me feel good; however, $2K is just too much. Needless to say, I decided to dial it down this year as it has been an expensive year (new condo, remodels, etc.). This has been an extremely hard task! I am a bargain hunter, so I was able to get my spending down to about $700 this year. Still more than I would like, but a great improvement over $2K!

    • Thanks for sharing and stopping by Danielle!!!

      Sounds like you have been able to get your spending way down. That’s awesome, congrats.

      I’m a big fan of spending your money on things that you value. Hope you have a great Christmas.

  17. I am a bit late to comment here, but I am with you on the staying home and doing only online shopping, if any, for Black Friday. We haven’t made a strict rule on Christmas spending, but we do limit it quite a bit. We rarely get each other gifts and try to convince parents and other adults in the family to only get gifts for kids. Our kids are still young enough to be pretty easy to please. We have spent maybe $25 per kid on fun gifts, plus some for necessities like snow gear. They spend most of their days digging into random stuff around the house instead of playing with their actual toys, so we go used or free as much as we can! Merry Christmas to you!

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing Mrs. COD!!!

      Isn’t it amazing what can entertain our children? My son is currently fascinated with spoons. He’s one and loves after dinner to go underneath the dinner table and start “scooping” the rug.

      I’m not sure what he’s looking for but he squeals with delight.

      So this year since he’s so little we aren’t planning to give him anything but we are going to keep our eyes open for any free items that come available through Craigslist.

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