What’s Your Holiday Budget?

christmas gifts

It’s the big question this time of year: what to spend on gifts? Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s inevitable you’ll be buying stuff for friends, people at work and teachers.

It’s a tricky thing. You want to keep everyone in your life happy and spread a little joy around. But you don’t want a nasty credit card bill come January that makes winter that much harder than it already is.

So, work backwards. Start with an overall budget and map out in advance of hitting the malls how much you will spend.

An Average Holiday Budget

According to past surveys, people spend an average of $800 this time of year on gifts, although this year’s surveys are already showing that Canadians plan to cut back by $300 and spend only $500 in total. Even that might be too much for you. Or, you might feel you can afford a little more. So find a number you can live with and then break it down.

Make a list of everyone you feel you should buy for. Whatever you do, do not make the list in one sitting and consider yourself done. You’ve always forgotten someone. Or several people…

Holiday Spending Guideline

The one you love.  Top of the list is of course family. For your significant other, you may blow $100 or way more (let’s face it, the holidays are a great time to spring for that big-screen TV you’ve been debating all year. Way to blow the budget). If it’s been a tight year, you and your partner might agree on a smaller amount. Socks anyone?

The family. Extended family gets a solid budget too. For parents and in laws, you can go by family tradition, which might see you spending $100 a person, or putting $50 to $100 in a family gift of a gourmet food basket or a game. Since family members often do so much for us over the year, I’m a big fan of splurging on loved ones who have been supportive in our lives.

The little ones.  For other people’s kids, it depends on how much stuff these young ones are going to get from grandparents, parents and the like. About $30 is a good ballpark for nieces and nephews. For kids of close friends (who are probably getting tons of swag from their own family members) a small token like a toy truck or a set of crayons should do it — no need to spend more than $10. Better still, make an agreement with pals to not give kids gifts (this is certainly appropriate if all your friends have kids around the same time).

The ones you rely on. How about those that help you through the year? $25 to $50 seems a good range for a regular babysitter, cleaning lady, hairdresser, daycare provider or teacher. My research is telling me that it’s all relative: if you live in a swishy neighbourhood and have a pricey gardener and house cleaner, your budget for a gift or a cash tip are going to be that much higher.

As a note, anytime you can go in on a joint gift, you can spend less and get a whole lot more. So joining with others for teacher gifts, for instance, is a great idea!

But remember, it’s not always how much you spend. If you can find a perfect gift that suits someone in your life, you can spend a whole lot less and make someone happy. Making gifts: foods like baked goods or jams, or a craft, can charm the people in your lives without spending much.

Your holiday budget should be all about balance: giving appropriate thanks to the  people in your life while making sure your own financial health is part of the festivities.


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