Insert cliche Christmas post here…

I don’t want to send a wave of panic throughout the PF blogoshere, but I have some very important news to share, Christmas is 32 days away. Yes, 32 days. That means you have 31 days to buy, make, or steal some presents for those that you have to want to get gifts.

Over the coming weeks you will be bombarded with PF posts about black Friday bargains, cute Xmas craft ideas, how to budget for the big day, etc. Seeing that I don’t really keep up with the latest coupons and that I definitely suck at making things, I’ll just share a few thoughts on the holiday.

First, let’s talk budget. Say you plan to spend $500 for your Xmas gifting. If you’re on top of your game, you’d have put $41.67 in savings over the last 11 months to reach that $500 goal. But if you’re like 99% of Americans (myself included), all you’ve spent the last year doing is dreaming of apple cider and mashed potatoes, not budgeting for gifts. We knew Xmas was coming, we just failed to financially prepare for it. We have no one to blame, but ourselves.

Even though we don’t budget specifically for Xmas spending, we still plan to drop some coin. We are still trying to figure out exactly how much we think we should spend on gifts. I’m trying to convince her the dollar store is a great place to go shopping, but something tells me we’ll end up in Nordstrom or Anthropologie ;)… she has three sisters.

Girl Ninja and I both share a strong affinity for the Christmas season. It’s our favorite time of the year. I like it because it means I get to be home in Seattle with friends and family. Girl Ninja likes it because she can buy a bunch of stuff to decorate our home and because she can excuse her excessive Starbucks runs… “But Ninja, they only serve Peppermint mochas for a few weeks!” I pick and choose my battles, and when it comes to Girl Ninja and decorating and/or Starbucks, I’ve learned to shut up real quick.

I’m sure as December 25th approaches, I’ll have more thoughts to share, but for now I leave you with a few questions….

How do you plan for Xmas shopping? Do you budget throughout the year? Pull from discretionary savings? Or make everything yourself?

Do you have any holiday traditions with your family?

What’s your favorite holiday food? p.s. the answer is mashed potatoes.

Women: What is it about Christmas decorations that gets you high on life?

This article is part of the Go Banking RatesHolidays and Money” writing project, an on-going project that encourages creative writing in the PF blog community, centralized around a single broad-reaching subject.

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32 thoughts on “Insert cliche Christmas post here…”

  1. Okay, on women and Christmas decorations, I have no comment. I do not understand what it is, but even when I know I have enough holiday decorations… Just walking into a dang Cracker Barrel gets me so jittery! (Cracker Barrel is a country restaurant with a shop that regularly stocks holiday decorations.) I think it’s mostly just that the holiday itself makes me happy so anything to do with the holiday – decorations, music, stockings – gets me excited. Plus, homes decorated for Christmas are just so beautiful!

    Since I got married, we started a new tradition with family. We spend Christmas Eve with my family and go to his family’s celebration on Christmas morning. It was absolutely perfect last year. Before I was married, we spent Christmas morning opening gifts at home and then went to my granny’s house for lunch and more presents. Yes, it was fun, but we spent the entire day there! With Mr. Red’s family, we get there so early (7 a.m.!) that we’re back home before noon. It leaves the rest of the day to be lazy, watch Netflix and do absolutely nothing but play with our gifts! ๐Ÿ™‚

    My favorite holiday food is definitely mashed potatoes! Though, is that really a holiday food? I would think of holiday food as something you ONLY eat around the holiday, in which case mine is no bake cookies. (Seriously, the most delicious cookies you’ll ever eat. If you eat my mom’s version!) But excluding dessert, I love me some mashed taters! (As we say in the south!) Oh, man, my mom has perfected her mashed potatoes recipe. I cannot wait for this Thursday! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’m having a no spend Christmas this year, which means I’m using gift cards I’ve won throughout the year to pay for Christmas presents. I’m only really buying for Mr. Red. Then we’re getting my parents a small gift – an ornament with our favorite photo from the wedding. (We gave his dad a computer Mr. Red already had but spent $40 to fix up.) I’m not going to be the crazy gift giver I was last year because I’d rather use my Christmas bonus for debt. (Plus, Mr. Red has already told me he doesn’t really want anything, and I feel the same!) This holiday is so out of control!

  2. Here’s the low-down that happens at Mr. & Mrs.’s Mo D’s:
    1) We save our coin throughout the yest… yep… I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and one year, I had saved $1000 (mind you, that year I was waitressing, so coin was easy to come across). This year, we’ll have about $400… we generally don’t spend more that $600 total for everyone (including us: 8 ppl), plus an extra $100 for the extra food (Hubby will put in OT to get us to $800). We also don’t exchange gifts with my Dad and sister; we all kick in $50/person, and Dad buys groceries and toys for his church’s Food/Toy drive.

    2) Generally, Christmas Eve is at my in-laws… fish fry dinner, coffee, dessert, some chitchat, and home… 20 minute car ride… there by 6pm… home by 10pm latest… and that’s a looong visit. My Dad and sister hook up at our place on Christmas Day for whatever-we-feel-like eating, watch football and go home (sis might make lasagna… it’s DA BOMB!!). Dinner of appetizers is ALWAYS a hit! If Mom & Step-Dad are in town, we head over to my sis’, and Mom will make the BEST turkey!!

    3) Fave holiday food: Mom’s turkey, sis’ lasagna, mashed potatoes, stuffing… and my cheesecake!

    4) We don’t decorate at Christmas, except for the wreath on our condo’s door. We’re not scrooges, and we were both raised Catholic, so it’s not like we denounce the Christmas season… more like one-part laziness, 2 parts curious cats, and no kids. Our condo’s lobby is decorated to the nines, so we can always go downstairs and enjoy the dรฉcor!

  3. After last year’s complete meltdown of a Christmas (although they’ve always been pretty bad), we opted out this year. We’re going to Japan on air miles. “Sorry, can’t hear you, we’re 15,000 miles away! Save the sniping for when we get back!”

  4. This is the first year we saved up for xmas ($100/month) and right now I’m pumped. At least half of that will go towards travel, no matter what side of the family we visit we have to fly to get there.

    It’s not the Holidays until we’ve watch all the appropriate movies: Elf, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas & White Christmas. We also play lots of games, cards, board games, charades.

    Food: Ditto mashed potatoes + my mom’s sugar cookies (itโ€™s the only thing she bakes) & grandmaโ€™s potato rusks (like dinner rolls).

    I’m not a decorator (please don’t revoke my woman card), probably because weโ€™re not usually home for the week of Christmas. But I am crazy for Christmas scented candles.

  5. It’s a good year if I can decorate sugar cookies. That means I have not spent all my time running around like a crazy person.

    I have no budget when it comes to Christmas and I wait til December to buy stuff. The years where I bought ahead I bought way too much for certain family members and none for others. I have a bad memory so I forgot about things that I got months before for someone.

    My kids are small so Christmas day is spent at home and that’s just fine with me. I’m glad I don’t have to run around from place to place like I used to.

  6. I LOVE Christmas and generally spare no expense when it comes to gifts for my nearest and dearest. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas Day, Italian lunch at my grandmother’s, and movie-watching, gift-opening, and talking afterward. Love it!

  7. I budget for Christmas spending at the beginning of the year, and the money is there at the end of the year. I don’t really save up for it; I just have more expenses in Nov/Dec.

    My favorite food is green bean casserole. I only eat it twice a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and it’s muy deliciouso!

  8. I’ll answer your last question first; Christnas decorations are to women what “the big game” is to men.

    About budgeting for Chrismas, I don’t budget in the sense of saving $x per month, but I do usually have a vague total in mind per person. (Which I sometimes completely throw out the window in either direction.) I just pull from discretionary spending, usually spread out throughout the year as I find things.

  9. You mean, what is it with some people and Christmas decorations. I often end up searching for my missing Y chromosome when you talk about girl-ninja and equate all differences between your tastes and hers to her being female.

    I swear I’ve given birth so I’m pretty sure that makes me female. And yet, I am perfectly happy buying a rosemary tree (they always die right after Christmas but I am ever hopeful), putting up the fancy stocking the IL got for DS and calling it done. I hate tchotchkes with a grand passion, but I don’t think that makes me a guy, just someone who hates dusting and bumping into things.

  10. I set aside $100 a month and put it into a Christmas Club acct at my local credit union. I do not touch it until November when I start shopping. Knowing it’s there makes shopping a LOT more comfortable. I’m a single mom of a 6 year old and yes I know that’s a lot a month to put aside, but this leads into one of your other questions…the decorations.
    Normally, I do not put aside as much. I built a new house this year so I knew that I would want to buy a few new decorations. No I am in no way one of the people who go gaga over decorations, just a few tasteful non-cheesy type things. There will be no inflatable decorations in my front yard!
    As for the food, I cannot make it thru Christmas without red velvet cake and my mom’s sausage balls.

  11. How do you plan for Xmas shopping? We sit down and set a budget. We try to be done by Nov 1st but this year we got lazy!

    Do you budget throughout the year? I used to work for a company that had a Holiday account that was auto deducted from your pay. I am no longer enrolled as my current employer doesn’t offer it. Now we just stock money away when we think about it and shop all year so we’re done early.

    Pull from discretionary savings? If it gets really bad…but not usually.

    Or make everything yourself? I do a combo of making and buying. The kiddies like to make and the grands love it.

    Do you have any holiday traditions with your family? Go to hubby’s brother’s house where the men make a huge breakfast for the women. Ahhhhh the good life… Then off to my parent’s house…chase children, eat, chase children, eat. Go to my hubby’s aunt’s house…chase children, eat, chase children, eat. Then fall out from exhaustion and food coma! I can’t wait!!!

    Whatโ€™s your favorite holiday food? Tie between Ham and anything sweet!

    Women: What is it about Christmas decorations that gets you high on life? I cannot stand decorating for the holidays. I know I am in the minority here but I DO NOT like decorating at home, work, anywhere. If I didn’t have children I would never have bought a tree. Which by the way the hubby said looks like Charlie Brown’s tree. The only thing you can’t live without are stockings…aka the extra gift holders. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I don’t plan on Christmas shopping this year. My work hooked me up with some nice free jackets so everyone gets a jacket this year!

    Our family tradition is… trying for EVERYONE to be happy and get along without someone being miserable. *crossing fingers* for this year.

    Potatoes are my favourite food. Period.

    Christmas is a magical time but I don’t go crazy about decorations. I’m happy enough letting others do that and sharing in their joy.

  13. I have not budgeted for Christmas shopping, but will starting this year. I usually rely on a work bonus to get by. I know not a great plan, but has worked so far.

    I enjoy handling the outside Christmas decorations, hanging lights, etc I don’t go all Griswold.

    Lots of family for the Holidays. Always try and be home Christmas morning so my children can enjoy opening their gifts at home

    Favorite food? All of it!

  14. I’m with you on the dollar store; you’d be surprised how much cool stuff you can get there, although there’s nothing wrong with Nordstrom or Anthropologie, especially when you have sisters.

    I never save up for Christmas shopping, and I probably should. I’m starting to make stuff for the most part, buy cards, and spend as little as possible. My fiance and I decided we’d get each other an iPad, so that’s probably the biggest spending we’re going to do. Grandpa always like car wash coupons. Granny loves lotto scratchers. Parents always say “it’s the love of the kids that matters” but mom gets spa gift certificates while dad gets something Raiders related.

    Holiday food: mashed potatoes is correct AND turkey of course.

    Christmas decorations just makes the world so much easier to endure ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I spend the entire year racking up rewards points on my debt card. Then I spend them over the holidays for Christmas gifts. Total gift expenses last year = $0 out of pocket. 100% rewards points. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Favorite Holiday food… um… All of it!

    Funny thing in my house I’m more into decorating than my wife is, at least until I get the ball rolling. I’ll pull the stuff out of storage and hang the lights outside and so one and toss some of the inside decorations where I think they should go. Then my dear wife goes through the house and “fixes” my setup and usually pulls stuff out of the boxes that I left there and puts that stuff out too.

  16. This was the first year that I put aside some money each month to spend at Christmas. I collected $1200. It’s almost all spent though as I have about 75% of my shopping done… just 9 people left to buy for out of 30!

    I’m not sure what my favourite holiday food is – probably stuffing!

    I’ve been out of my parents’ home now for 23 years now and I really have very few Christmas decorations. This year I decided to start a new tradition of setting aside $100 to buy new decorations each Christmas. This year I bought a 4 foot tall pre-lit Christmas tree and some small ornaments for it – cost: $85… I still have $15 to spend. ๐Ÿ™‚ I get all giddy when I’m near Christmas decorations too, but have been really disciplined at NOT buying stuff – but now that I’ve given myself permission to spend $100, I can’t wait to go find a new something for my house.

  17. 1 – Yep, save throughout the year. I budget $500 and normally come in under. And I did my first “Holiday Savings Account” this year which automatically pulled $10 a week for 50 weeks. Worked perfectly. And I’ve gotten 3/4 of our presents done already. Just one thing for my parents, his parents, and a metric ton of baked goods left.

    2 – I have to choose?! Probably mashed potatoes, or turkey, or my neighbors’ stuffed artichokes, etcetcetc.

    3 – Not so sure on the decorations. My husband and his dad are crazy Christmas decoration people. I try to extend the decorations through January. My parents started me with an annual ornament, so I get that, one for my husband, and one for both of us for our “married” Christmases. And we started my niece with a set. About 90% of our decorations are from years past, but I did buy a new wreath and hanger this year.

  18. This was the first year we decided to start putting extra away for Christmas. We just upped our monthly savings contributions by $50 and now we have about $500 to play with this year…and we don’t have to go broke like last year.

    Food – stuffing. And cookies.

    My mom likes to buy me Christmas decorations for my house, and I usually donate them to Goodwill (sorry mom!).

  19. My parents live in Florida, and my sister and I live on LI, NY. Parents come up every few years for either T’giving or Chanukah and we do everything then; otherwise, a phone call is usually enough. I budget about $50, give or take, for each of six people and have only two more things to buy by Wednesday night. (After this, I avoid all the stores and even the city until after Xmas.) I much prefer fried potato pancakes to mashed potatoes. If they accompany a crisp duck served with orange sauce all the better. We’re not decorators. On the other hand, there’s a house about a mile from me where they start decorating in October and it amazes even a cynical old curmudgeon like me.

  20. I celebrate Hanukkah ๐Ÿ˜‰ and Christmas (hubby’s family)

    hanukkah is usually celebrated the first weekend after my cousins get home from college. My mom hosts either lunch or dinner and the family goes over. Usually just us “kids” get gifts, so we usually get a gift from my grandfather and my 2 aunts.

    Generally hubby & I and my parents try to do “our” hanukkah separate frm the family one b/c my parents overload us with gifts (usually clothes for me) so it seems like a alot and little obnoxious to do in freont of the extended family. If I know of a perfect gift, we will spend $50-75 on a gift for my parents – this year its a dutch oven $40 from world market (they were on serious discount), a scarf ($10) for my mom, and the game apples to apples $25.

    as far as christmas goes – my hubby works xmas eve/ and day unfortunately

    xmas eve is usually me at his folks house having dinner w/ the family and then maybe a friends house after

    xmas day is 8am family breakfast & open presents before my hubby goes to work at 10am ๐Ÿ™ we usually buy something small (around $40) for his sis/hubby (usually houseware like fiestware), $30ish for his sister – now she has a bf so we’re doing a gift for both of them (bottle of wine w/ monkey on it, sock monkey wine bottle holder and wine tags) and i’m doing a small makeup gift of bare escentuals for his sister.

    then we have 3 nieces and nephews to buy for – last few yrs I combined the boys gift and gave them a dvd -cheap! this year i’m giving kids apples to apples to one nephew, pop critters and rock crayons for the other nephew, and for my 2yr old neice I plan to get some trinkets from pier 1 – they have a lot of cute stuff!!

    normally we dont buy gift for his parents – hard to buy for – but i plan to put a blurb album together of our wedding photos so thats $44

    according to mint, we’ve only spent $200 so far this year I think so I think this yrs total will be less than $300!! huzzah!!!

    and no, I didnt budget monthly leading up to xmas this year – I plan to start that NEXT yr though!

    Hubby and I are buying ourselves a bigger TV that we HAVE been budgeting for. ๐Ÿ™‚ hoping for 1k ish

  21. I’m paid bi-weekly and so is my fiance, so December always means one of us gets an extra paycheque and that’s how we pay for Christmas.

    Fav. food – stuffing. Most definitely stuffing.

    And do you know what it is about Christmas decorations that we women love? It’s the shiny factor! We love anything that is shiny, so the more glitter and sparkles, the better!

  22. We pay our property taxes in 10 installments from Jan-Oct. I use the money I would have paid in Nov and Dec (as it’s already accounted for the rest of the year) to fund Christmas presents, and usually add a bit of discretionary saving to make up the difference. I make a lot of stuff-baking, crafts, photo gifts (e.g., calendars) because I find it more personal, and more cost effective. I sit down with DH in November and make our list with budget attached, and from there.

    Our main Christmas tradition is watching Love Actually 5 weeks before Christmas (when the movie starts). DH kind of hates Christmas, but he makes this concession for me. I don’t decorate much unless we are hosting Christmas, which we will be this year. I loathe hauling stuff out for a month and then packing it back up, but if I don’t, it feels kind of bare and sad around the house.

    BTW-you’re totally wrong about the mashed potatoes. Stuffing is by far the best holiday food. The close second is my Nana’s shortbread.

  23. I usually just pull one lump sum out of my November-December paychecks, so instead of budgeting every single month, I just know that I’ll spend about $500 on the whole shebang, and I put about $250 from each paycheck into my other checking account. (For clarity, I get paid once a month on the first of the month, so when I say “December paycheck” I mean the check I get on Dec 1.)

    Next 2 questions are actually the same answer: TAMALES. As a Mexican-American, tamales at Christmas are pretty much a given, and any Xmas without them would be blasphemous. (We save the American goods like mashed potatoes and turkey for Thanksgiving. And there better be mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving every year or I will seriously cut someone. SERIOUSLY, I have a knife set aside just for this purpose. Thankfully, I’m bringing the mashed potatoes this year.) Oh and we also watch A Christmas Story on TV on the big day.

    And finally, I’m a girl myself but I don’t really like holiday decorations, so I can’t help you out there.

  24. Christmas is extra special for us since the twins’ birthday is Christmas Eve. This was the first year we actually put aside money each month for gifts. However, due to an iffy summer budget that money has already been spent…oops.
    Traditions for the month include advent calendar, decorating ginger bread houses, opening birthday presents in bed in the morning for the kids, reading Twas the Night Before Christmas (we even brought the book to the hospital the night the kids were born!), opening one gift on Christmas Eve (it is always new pjs), and going to mass. My favorite holiday food has to be apple cider and chocolate covered cherries! Yum! And we always travel or have family over for the week since we live out of state from either set on parents.
    We don’t go crazy with decorations…tree, wreath, lights, nativity set, and as many kids craft as we can fit into the 23 days before the big event!
    Cute to hear everyone’s traditions…this is definitely my favorite time of year.

  25. @MyMoneyMess – AWESOME plan!!! Way to make it work for you! I am wary of attempting to use it wisely because it might lead to overspending. And it throws off my Excel spreadsheet categories!!

    We don’t save, instead, Christmas gifts come out of our monthly “spending/pocket change” money. But we only give to our 4 parents and 3 nieces. As I’ve said before, museum stores have great educational kids toys (as opposed to expensive adult toys!), which tend to run $10 – $20. Everyone else gets a card – purchased two boxes for a total of $8 at the dollar store last week, holla!

  26. Ok You are all wrong the best Christmas food is Prawns and Crab and Mussells and for dessert Pavlova. YUMMMMMMY. It’s Summer here and Xmas day can reach 40 degrees celsius, so seafood and salad is always on the menu at our house. I have never had a hot Christmas dinner in my life and never will if I have to cook it. LOL.

    We usually budget but have been a bit slack this year and as for decorations Hubby and I are as bad as each other.

  27. I make a budget in July and save for those few months up until Christmas. We severely cut the Christmas budget last year from $1000 to $450ish. This year we are giving a lot of baked goods. You can’t go wrong with homemade bread (unless you’re allergic to bread).

    Best Christmas food: Green beans simmered over bacon for five + hours.

  28. Budget: We do not buy gifts for adults. At all. Any of them. Even my mother. All the siblings and parents agreed to this about 15 years ago and we have remained true. Each family is given a ‘mystery’ box of little things to be shared by all the youngsters (18 and under). Everything is wrapped and kids dive in, rip open a gift and then the trading begins. For example, my 10 year old neice opened a golf magazine last year, and traded it to her brother for the jumbo pack of double-bubble gum he opened…and so on. Total cost of the box contents is set to 75$ this year. We have been picking up little things all year, and so for the most part everything is done – except for the goodies I will bake.

    I LOVE Christmas…and I have since I was a youngster. Even when I lived alone as an adult in a strange city to which I had just moved and knew no one and was having Christmas alone, I ALWAYS decorated the house ‘to the nines’….every surface is prepared. One year (before cats), I had every stair in my 3 story house decorated with little gift bags stuffed with colorful tissue paper – the arrival of animals stopped that. But still, I drag out the boxes every year and decorate like a mad fiend – much to the chagrin/dismay/surprise of people who know me as a minimalist non lover of tchokas and ‘stuff’, some one who despises any type of clutter, or candles, or frou-frou. But Christmas is different! Decorative boxes and tins and bags are everywhere, everygreens, wreaths, special vases and candles and just everything EXCEPT noisy things or flashing lights. My tree has every decoration I have ever recieved – and believe me each year it is an adventure to find a twig for every thing. There is no theme trees, or color coordinated stuff – it is a messy colorful hodge-podge of stuff!

    And cooking….well, I started baking my cakes and cookies in August (fruit cakes need time to soak in rum); I have 2 industrial sized freezers full of baked goods – most of which I give away to anyone who wants it, and I make trays that I deliver to police, and fire fighters on Christmas day. I just bake and cook and bake and cook………..I love it!

    Sorry, I went off on a tangent…what was the question? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. Those Christmas decorations make the house look like a beautiful, homey, loving Christmas is happening all around me. So my mother-in-law can fuss about who is and isn’t going to dinner, and the popovers can burn, and gifts can be too expensive for us to afford… and all I need to do to imagine I’m having a jolly old time is look around my beautifully decorated home. And drink a lot of eggnog.

  30. I don’t decorate much either, and I too have given birth so am therefore a female human. My Christmas tree is about two feet tall. I hang a Christmas stocking on the bookcase and put up a “reindeer” head made of popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and plastic googly eyes (a gift from a kid I used to babysit).
    Gift-giving was accomplished through rewards-points gift cards, yard-sale finds, the dollar store (a hardback copy of Kent Haruf’s “Evensong” for a buck!), re-gifting and stuff from clearance tables (last holiday and during the year). Also, since I have a Victoria’s Secret credit card the company sends me six coupons a year for free girly pants. I wrap these as a present for my daughter, because it just isn’t Christmas unless someone gives you socks or underwear.
    Done! And it didn’t cost too much. In fact, it left room in my budget to help my sister buy for a family that we’ll never meet (list of their needs — usually clothing — available from a social services agency) and also to buy for four kids whose moms put out a call for trades on the SwapMamas site. It’s really fun to shop for little kids on Black Friday — your dollars go waaaaay further.
    For the record: I never asked my now-ex husband to wear a sweatshirt that lit up, played carols or featured snowmen or reindeer. He wouldn’t have done it anyway, since he was Jewish. (Probably still is, too.)

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