How Much Money Everyone Else Is Spending Over the Holidays

Wendy Robinson | Dec 5, 2016 Money

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There's no denying that the holidays can be an expensive time. According to one survey, the average American spends $99 a day during the month of December. Given that I'm financially nosy, I couldn't help but wonder what that represents. Is that just a common rate that everyone's basically sticking to, or is it a wide range of spending habits that just happen to average at that?

It turns out that it's the latter. I reached out to a diverse group of women and found both those that plan to spend nothing for the holidays and those who are already at $10,000 and climbing. You know you want to hear the details about that!

Read on to find out how much money women of all different income levels budget for the holidays -- and how they manage to stick to those budgets (or why they don't!).

  • Thrift Store Shopping

    1

    "My goal every year is to spend as little as possible. I'm a stay-at-home mom with six kids. My husband makes about $60,000 so we have a tight budget. I totally use thrift stores and garage sales to find gifts for the kids, especially clothes. I can often find brand-name clothes with the tags still on them. That is a total budget and Christmas win. My goal is to be under $300 for the whole family. We don't do extended family gifts because we can't afford it." -- P.J. 

  • Hard to Stay Under $2,000

    2

    "I spend an obscene amount of money but I can't get my family to draw names [for a grab bag] or tone it down a notch. It's hard because I have two sets of parents (yay divorce!) and my in-laws, and we have several living grandparents that we buy for. I also do small gifts for my husband's boss and direct reports and all of the usual suspects (mailman, UPS, hair lady, teachers) get something (usually edible) or a gift card. We also have a big Christmas Eve party after church every year. I save all year long and shop early for deals to help spread the spending out. Luckily, because my son has so many other people being generous to him, I usually only spend $100 to $150 on him, and half of it is usually new clothes and pajamas.

    To complicate matters, we have several December birthdays in my family so I just include that spending in Christmas. I think I have 15 people I'm shopping for for Christmas and three additional birthdays (this does not include my own, December is CRAZY).

    I try to save every single place that I can. Last year, after Thanksgiving dinner when everyone had left the house, I sat down with my computer and did a ton of shopping on the early Black Friday deals. I've already purchased Christmas cards this year and almost everyone's big gift. I try to do all of my shopping for stuff like wrapping paper the day after Christmas when it goes on sale." -- J.B.

  • Gift Card Win

    3

    "My kid won a coloring contest that came with a $100 gift card to a toy store. This totally went over his head. He's just excited that he won. SCORE. He's sportin' the bill for the kids this Christmas season!" -- L.D.

    More from CafeMom: 10 Stocking Stuffers for Tweens for $10 or Less

  • Family of Five on $1,000

    4

    "We do the 'something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read' lists. That helps keep budget in check. We spend probably in the ballpark of $1,000 between the entire family (us, kids, grandparents). That's high, but with five kids, it gets up there. I don't feel too bad about it since we do a family Santa gift and practical stuff in the stockings, and one gift is something not necessarily fun since it is something they need." -- E.S.

  • Homemade Gifter

    5

    "I try to do homemade and thoughtful gifts, and I've been buying/making things since August. So we've been slowly doing things, but it'll probably be $400 total, which is a lot given our budget!" -- J.R.

    More from CafeMom: Avoid Holiday Overspending: Top Tips From Finance Expert Alexa von Tobel

  • $10,000 and Counting

    6

    "We're doing it big this year! We're going on a family safari trip in Kenya. We've already spent roughly $10,000 on flights, passports, lodging, and all that stuff. We'll probably spend another $500 to $700 on family and friend gifts. I'm on the fence about buying gifts for my direct reports this year. I have a staff of 15, so even at $20 a piece, that will add up fast. My credit cards are crying but you only live once, right?" -- R.T.

  • Strategic Budgeter

    7

    "My husband and his family are big into Christmas. Everything Christmas. The entire Christmas season. Gifting is big. My husband and I are not extravagant spenders throughout the year. Birthdays and anniversaries are not big gift holidays for us. It's all about Christmas. Our families are huge and we buy for everyone: grandparents, young cousins, godchildren and their siblings, a few children of friends, a few coworkers.

    I'll break it all down. Our budget changes slightly from year to year because it is based on a percentage of my husband's income for the year. We save accordingly throughout the year. Last year our budget was $6,000. (I know. I KNOW.)

    Immediately the budget is divided in half. That is spent on our immediate family (myself, my husband, our son). My husband often surprises me with a trip somewhere as the main gift. This year we're buying our son a swing set as his main gift.

    The other half of the budget is for everyone else. We divide that into tiers. Our parents receive the most (around $200 each), then our siblings ($150 each) and their spouses/significant others ($75-ish, we sometimes lump together with siblings). Our grandparents and my aunt ($50 to $75). God daughters ($75 each), their siblings ($25 to $40 each). Our young cousins ($25 to $40 each). Friends' kids ($20 each). Coworkers ($25 to 40 each). Gift exchange ($40) and white elephants (four of them at $10 each). All said and done we buy for close to 50 people. It's a lot but it's also so much fun." -- R.G.

  • Skips the Spouse Gifts

    8

    "Our usual gift budget is $700 to 800. Includes gift for: our two kids ($200-ish each), three nieces and nephews ($50 each), two parents ($150 to $200 combined), and teachers. My husband and I don't exchange gifts. Then we usually spend another $150 to $200 for holiday-related stuff like cards, food, etc. We have a holiday savings account that gets a direct deposit of $75 per month, so in December we only budget an extra $100 or so for overages.

    I ALWAYS buy gift wrap after Christmas for the next year. And I tend to get teacher gift cards at the grocery store that give me gas discounts. I'm also a big sale shopper. I start buying things in August if I see a great price." -- K.D.

    More from CafeMom: 10 Time-Saving Tricks to Getting All Your Holiday Shopping Done in Under 48 Hours

  • Wine Snob

    9

    "We probably spend about $300 to $400 on Chanukah but we spend easily twice that on Thanksgiving! We host Thanksgiving for our family, and my husband and I are both foodies and self-described wine snobs. I'm sure that we spent at least $500 on wine alone for the holidays. Booze is a budget buster for sure!" -- S.F.

  • Zero Spender

    10

    "I am planning on spending NOTHING out of pocket this year. I have a credit card that earns me points on Amazon. I've been hoarding my points all year and using my card as much as I can. I do pay it off every month. 

    I know I have over $600 worth of points and I'm going to do all my shopping online. I should be able to get everything I need for our family of four plus friend and family gifts. I'm pretty excited to guilt-free shop!" -- M.B.

  • Giving with a Joyful Heart

    11

    "We host both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at our house. We usually have between 20 and 30 family members for both meals. I'm sure we spend at least $500 on food and drinks for the meals alone, even with other people bringing sides and desserts. 

    Beyond that, we'll spend another $3,000 to 4,000 on gifts. It seems insane but I bet we end up giving out at least 60 gifts a year once you count kids, extended family, teachers, coworkers, friends, etc. I try to give with a joyful heart and not to think about the money too much. We spend more on the holidays than I did on my first car!" -- S.W. 

  • Set Aside Budget

    12

    "Right now I set aside $50 a month and try to stay in that budget, but that's pretty much my immediate family only (there are four of us). For most of my extended family (including parents and siblings and stepsiblings) we make donations to charitable causes, so I'll probably add another $100 to $150 for those gifts." -- L.N.

    More from CafeMom: How Much Moms Really Spend on Kids' Holiday Gifts

  • Year-Round Shopper

    13

    "I would guess we spend about $900 overall, but I shop year-round so the financial hit is spread out over months. My bigger issue is remembering where I hid the presents in August!

    One thing that I feel good about is that we've decided not to exchange gifts with extended family. We all realized that we were basically just exchanging gift cards, so we were all just passing around the same $50. I also try to limit the spending on my kids to under $100 each so they don't get spoiled." -- D.A.

  • Just the Two of Us

    14

    "My holiday budget is $250, most of it going to my daughter. It is just the two of us, and I don't buy for friends, coworkers, or extended family. This year I'm getting her a tablet as her big gift, so there will only be a few presents under the tree." -- S.F.

  • Kid Spoiler

    15

    "We set aside money every month for the holidays. This year, we set aside $300 a month, so we'll have over $3,000 to work with. This is a crazy amount but it is amazing how easy it is to spend that much when you have a big family. I have two kids who I'll spend $300 each on and then 10 nieces and nephews that I'm usually in the $75 range on. Our kids are kind of spoiled when it comes to Christmas gifts. I feel guilty about that sometimes but it is hard to stop spending!" -- P.F. 

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