Thursday, November 15, 2007

Holidays in GRACEland

I kinda blur everything from Thanksgiving through Christmas altogether--the resulting assault on my finances gives me a whopping headache.

And therein, lies my greatest discontent. How can I enjoy the holidays when I am always worried about its impact on my finances? If the true joy of the holidays is in family warmth, why are my kids and grandkids less than amused if all they get from me is socks and underwear?

Both Thanksgiving and Christmas take place at my home. My kids bring side dishes, but I'm the one buying and preparing the turkey and any other main dishes.

I'm the one who buys the "big" gifts for my children and grandchildren.

I am determined that this year will be different. I am determined to pay attention to my finances and NOT to use my credit cards.

I have a budget for the holidays. It is $1845, with a leeway of $300 due to a check that will come in December 31st.

You'd think that would be enough, but my guess is that it will be close.

Part of the reason is that at least $400 will be earmarked for gifts for my sister. Why my sister, you might well ask? Well, since our parents died, she and I are the only ones who really remember each other's birthdays, and carry on our parent's tradition of lots of nice presents under the Christmas tree. My sister has no children, and a six figure income. I may spend $400 on her, but I know that she will spend over a thousand on me. My lime-green couch, my lifetime Tivo, the sink in the upstairs bathroom are all courtesy of my sister, not to mention the Coach bag that shows up with my name on it every year. I am seriously going to ask her for a dishwasher this year! So, within the framework of my finances, I take good care of my sister at Christmas.

Then, there's my FIVE children (what WAS I thinking?) and their SIX children--ELEVEN folks who are expecting wonderful (read that: expensive) things from mom or grandma.

Plus, there are the hangers on--the boyfriends and spouses who will show up, and for whom there needs to a little something under tree.

Oh, and there's the tree ($20) and the wreath for the door ($17) and something for the Salvation Army bellringers ($20) and. . .


My plan, for the moment, is budget $150 apiece for my adult children, $50 for each of my youngest grandchildren, $75 for the two older grandkids, and $25 for several miscellaneous folks.

I'm curious how this compares to the rest of the world. Too much? Not enough?


SJean said...

I spend about 50/person, a little more for the boyfriend. My parents spend a lot more on us (adult children), last year we got $400 cash along with a couple hundred in presents. But we usually don't get the cash, it was a special year.

Melissa said...

I spend about $10-15 on each niece or nephew (I have 10) and sometimes my parents, siblings and DH and I exchange names. We didn't do this last year and it saved us $40 because we limit it to $20 each for the adults. We buy for DH's parents, brother and grandmothers and usually spend about $50 each - more than I really want to, but it balances out with the total that we spend on my nieces and nephews.

All in all, we try to keep our holiday spending to around $500 or less - total and that includes both of us and now, our daughter.

DH's parents spend probably $150 on each of us and we receive money from his grandmothers.

I don't like that Christmas has become so material, but I try my best to compromise the effect that giving and receiving gifts has on the true meaning of the holiday.

louise said...

my budget this year is $200. I spend $40 on my partner & my kids. $5-7 dolars on nieces and nephew and $20 on parents. I refuse to go into debt so that someone else can get a 5 minute thrill of opening a present.I buy chicken instead of turkey and just a few bags of lollies. I reuse old decorations.

Mia said...

I come from a solid upper-middle class background and never, in all my 40+ years, has anyone in my family ever gifted $150+ in presents to one person! Yikes, that's a lot of money you're spending. I love my family, they love me - but we don't measure that love in dollars. And we would never expect anyone to acquire debt, or neglect paying down debt, in order to gift us. I love your blog Grace, but I was so shocked when I read your planned holiday budget - and strangely, since I don't even know you, it makes me feel nervous for you and worried. If you were my mom I'd beg you not to spend $ on me! In fact, my mom sends us small checks for our birthdays and xmas, but I never cash them - I don't know if she knows because she's never mentioned it, but she keeps sending the checks. Maybe it's time to sit down and have a talk with your children, if you feel the inclination at all. Just yesterday I totaled up my gift spending (I shop all year long) and it was around $700 for 14 people, including my parents and my 3 children. I might spend another $100 or so. Maybe next year you can start shopping in January so you can take advantage of the online sales and coupon codes?

I'm Grace. said...

Mia, Thank you (and everyone else so far) for the comment. I do realize that my budget is on the high end. My personal goal is to see that I stick to that budget and that I not incur any further debt for Christmas. So far, it's fascinating to see how far apart people are on what they spend, from Louise on the low, low side to sjean (who could easily be one of MY kids!). I'm hoping for more responses, just to see what the general spread is.

mariam said...

Hi Grace,

I spend $100-200 dollars on Christmas but not even on family. We don't exchange gifts. That's not to say we won't cheat with dining out around the holiday season or buying each other gifts AFTER Christmas on Boxing Day sales (Canadian).

No, that money is for gifts for charity or family friends' kids who are less fortunate.

But I'd like to ask if you can ask to cut back from your sister. Do you really need a Coach bag every year?

I know it's tradition and she needs pampering but ask her honestly if she uses the gifts you lavish on her.

Heck, ask everybody whether or not they still use what you give them and is it practical.

It just seems to me you carry quite a burden on your shoulders.

Financial Fool said...

I usually spend around $100 each on my children and about half that on my grandkids. They are grown or teenagers. Sadly what they want/need the most is cash or gift cards.

This year, I will not be able to do that much. It's been a year of financial setbacks and I started budgeting/debt reduction plan last month.

This is my first time on your blog, but I will be back. We seem to have a lot in common.

Lin said...

Hi Grace. I chanced upon your blog and I like reading your posts especially your desire to meet your retirement targets.

The amount of gifts should really not matter among families and friends. As the cliche goes, it is the thought that matters. I have never given anybody an expensive gift more than $10 during Christmas. If I give an expensive gift, the giftee would likely match it, which may not really be beneficial as far as his/her financial situation is concerned or is his/her heart may not be into it.