According to the American Research Group, in 2016, Americans planned to spend an average of $929 on Christmas gifts.
Give me a minute so I can catch my breath. Yikes!
I wish these studies gave more statistics like earnings, or how many people are on the gift list. But I get it. As a nation, we spend a lot whether we have the money in the bank or not.
I’m an outspoken advocate of living within your means, and this goes double for Christmas gift spending. It’s hard though. People want to show their love, respect, and appreciation for others.
You buy gifts for kids, parents, siblings, classmates, friends, coworkers, neighbors, garbage collectors, the mail carrier, preachers, teachers, babysitters, and every other person that crosses your path during the holiday season.
Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest problem is that we’re guilted into shopping for people who live in our periphery, then compound the problem by spending even more on loved ones.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t show our appreciation, but we should temper it with a little common sense. If you know you won’t be able to pay off your credit card debt next month, then you’ve gone too far in your holiday spending.
Let me repeat that. If you don’t have the money then you shouldn’t buy stuff.
Don’t let social media, advertisers, and peer pressure force you into spending beyond your means.
My mother is a good example of this. She spends lavishly on grand kids and great grand kids even though she knows she’ll go into debt. I’ve admonished her many times to no avail. Grandmas! What can you do?
Do you know where I buy toys when my nieces and nephews come to visit? Garage sales. They seemed just as thrilled.
One time I did buy a toy at full price, but only because Nana and Iko stole my grand niece’s teddy bear for a tug of war. Fair is fair. My kids destroyed it, so I had to replace it.
Overspending on Christmas is a mindset, something that’s been ingrained in us for many years, so it’s easy to be manipulated by that spending monkey. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable too.
I had a friend who loved to send me gifts. (She lives overseas.) Occasionally, I’d send her a trinket too, but I noticed it was getting out of hand. Finally in the kindest, most diplomatic way I could muster, I told her that it wasn’t necessary to send me things. I knew it had to be a strain on her as it was on me.
Slowly, over a period of a couple of months, her letters came less and less until she stopped writing all together. She never mentioned anything about my request to stop the gift carousel, but I couldn’t help thinking it was directly involved. That was the only part of our relationship that had changed.
There are consequences to quitting the gift exchange game. It’s especially tricky at Christmas, which is why I prefer to give gifts when they’re not anticipated. I think it brightens people’s days when they get a gift for no special reason too.
If you must be a generous Santa, try these tips.
• Get a Christmas job. Everywhere I go there are signs that companies are hiring. Work an extra job for a couple of months and it’ll soften the blow when the credit card statements come in.
• Cook, bake, or sew—but only if you’re good at it. Give gifts where your strengths lie. I am lucky–and overweight because I happen to have friends who are terrific bakers.
• Perform a service. Babysit, shovel snow, or clean a car. Grandparents would especially appreciate gifts like these. Give them a handmade gift certificate for the task, and then be sure to do it when they ask to redeem it.
• Reduce the amount you spend per person.
• Ask that no gifts be exchanged. Instead invite everyone for a big sit down meal and ask each guest to bring a food item and a story about the BEST thing that happened to them in 2017.
(This one is actually my favorite. The best gift of all is the company of good friends.)
How much do you spend for Christmas per person? I think I average around $30 per person, and my list is pretty tiny. I try to fill in the gaps of my extended friends list with homemade meals and baked goodies.