Ah, Christmas. That time of year that always seems so far away until it’s way too close. Especially when you have kids, it feels like they just start school and then BAM! You better get shopping for Christmas because its only weeks away and you haven’t gotten a thing.
Going back as far as I can remember I’ve always made a list and a budget for Christmas shopping. I find that it helps me to frame how much I can spend on each person, which helps when I’m shopping for gifts. My husband has a big family – a lot of nieces and nephews – so even at small amounts they add up quickly. Especially when I was in my early 20’s and I wanted to make a good Christmas for my oldest son, a list and budget was key to make sure I (1) didn’t forget anyone and (2) didn’t overspend. Because yes, I’ve done both of those things before.
And the temptation to overspend is everywhere at Christmas. Buy this for your kids – it’s the latest toy! Here’s our Christmas catalog, don’t you want to buy every shiny object inside? Why yes, they do! Sales, displays, all the latest things, seeing your friends and coworkers buying tons of cool stuff for themselves and their families-it can all be overwhelming sometimes.
Here’s eight quick and interesting Christmas spending facts:
Top Five Christmas Shopping Tips for Busy Working Moms
Now that you know more about how the average American spends their money at Christmastime, here’s my top five tips for shopping for a family with kids on Christmas.
Make a list
I know, I already said this, but I think it’s a great idea. I make a list of all the people I need to get something for and jot down ideas of what they might like/want/need. This way if someone mentions something in passing I have a place to jot it down. Don’t forget to include things like cards and decorations. I suggest putting this in a note in your phone, or in an Excel sheet on your computer, so you can implement steps 2 and 5 more easily. Also in your list put down the kinds of things that person would like.
Make a budget
I actually put the budget next to each person/item in my list. Setting a budget helps me make sure I don’t overspend the amount I’ve set aside for the holiday, and makes sure that my spending is the same for the same type of relative (e.g., for nieces and nephews, parents, kids). Putting the budget next to each person on the list helps me with step #5.
- Implement your own Christmas club – When I was a little kid my parents had a “Christmas Club” with their local bank. Every week when they got paid, a small amount (maybe $5 or $10 at the time?) was transferred from their checking account into their “Christmas Club” account. Then sometime in November they were able to get that money and use it for shopping. This helped spread the cost of Christmas over the entire year so there was no need to go into debt or feel squeezed financially around the holiday. Today I do that through my online savings bank. I have an account where money is transferred every week throughout the year, and I use it to pay for Christmas gifts. You can easily do that through an online bank like Ally or Capital One 360.
I’ve been shopping online for Christmas for about 15 years now, back to the time when all Amazon sold were books (in the olden days of the internet). Last year I shopped almost exclusively online. Not only does it save time – because I don’t have the time to leave work and spend time shopping in a store – but you can easily compare prices online. I shop Amazon, Target, and Walmart online and get all the gifts delivered right to my house. This leaves more time for Christmas activities!
Track your spending
The budget won’t do you any good if you don’t stick to it. As you buy things for people, be sure to note down what you’ve spent. If you’re using Excel (which is my preference) you can set it up to calculate for you how much you have left in the budget based on what you’ve spent so far.
Stay tuned for later this week where I’ll go over some fun and frugal activities you can do together as a family without breaking the Christmas bank.
What’s your best Christmas money (or time) saving tip? Let me know in the comments.
Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.
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11 thoughts on “8 Christmas Spending Facts, and 5 Tips for Busy Working Moms”
We travel back to the Midwest to celebrate with our families there and so it’s always been a trick to ship gifts there and bring a few gifts back with us. So we resort entirely to online shopping and preferably Amazon where we can get free prime shipping. Then we hurriedly wrap then there! And we basically just need to bring home gifts given to our little one by keeping some extra room in our luggage and not asking for anything big. It may get more tricky as he gets older though and as we have more kids! Looking forward the holidays, fun times!
Excellent tip for people traveling for the holidays! Our families are local but we still use Amazon quite a bit. I just don’t have the time-or desire-to go to a mall and shop. I’m not a fan of shopping overall
We have shipped things from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast when it doesn’t fit in the luggage. It reduces stress on packing and if you pack a 16″ cube, it’s about $1.50/lb using FedEx Home after you make your own account. You do need a way to weigh it and print the label before you drop it at a FedEx store.
We purchase a lot of our gifts off season. This often results in reduced cost, especially if the item is seasonal. In addition we tend to do things like use newspaper for wrapping paper and recycle prior year cards (obviously to the same individual). The later too items actually sometimes make the wrapping or card feel more personal since you can chose something more specific to the person.
Getting gifts off season is a great idea! I do something like that for kids birthday parties, I have a place where I store inexpensive toys bought on sale/at a deep discount for parties.
We save by focusing on spending time with friends and family and doing just one gift exchange (which I’m hoping we can eliminate soon). We’ll spend a total of $250 on gifts this year, I think, which makes me proud when I compare it against the infographic, but I’d like to cut that further if possible because honestly, the gifts truly aren’t necessary.
If anything, I’d prefer to reduce that to just $50 for small gifts for all the kids and donate the other $200 to causes I want to support. We buy useful things like clothes, since we don’t do trinkets or toys, but the adults simply do not need gifts. We are all self sufficient (or should be) and there’s no reason we need to spend money buying things off a list for each other because we don’t know each other well enough to pick good gifts.
Such a good perspective on gift giving to the adults in your family! Useful gifts are the best, in my opinion- my kids don’t need more “stuff” but could always use clothes or books.
I almost exclusively shop online now and have everything shipped directly to the location where we’ll be opening presents. It’s much easier to wrap at someone’s house than it is to transport all the gifts back and forth 🙂
On top of that we have talked about as an extended family what we really desire. Over the years we decided it was less important to exchange presents and more important to spend time and enjoy each other’s company.
These days we basically get a family Christmas game and play it all day which is always a blast and something that I look forward to now 🙂
That sounds like a lot of fun! I wish my family would do something like that. Although on my husbands side we’ve managed to limit gifts to kids and his parents, no such luck in my family yet 😛
Great tips and love the factoids – I love to see that half the people are buying gifts for themselves! Way to be kind to yourself during the holidays…Im taking myself to the movies today but I don’t think it counts because the ticket was free from TMobile!
I spent way less this year by planning in advance. I grabbed a Barbie play kitchen off the side of the road a few months back, cleaned it up, added batteries, and grabbed a kids cook set from the dollar store. My 2 year old Niece loves it…as does her 4 year old brother. 😉
As for online shopping – you were way ahead of the curve! 15 ears?! I wish I was that smart. This year I am totally on board. The rest of Christmas is being spend with a $200 Amazon gift card I got from a focus group that wound up cancelling but paying me anyway. I really feel like I WON Christmas this year!!
Sweet! I bet your niece and nephew really love that play kitchen. Heck my 1 year old loves playing with empty containers and cardboard boxes!