Dear Crabby, How Much Money Should I Spend on Christmas Gifts?

Dear Crabby,

It’s been a week since my mailbox and inbox was taken over by Black Friday ads and Cyber Monday emails. While I want to help the economy and I certainly want to give great gifts to family and friends, I’m overwhelmed trying to decide how much I should spend. Can you help?

Sincerely, Sally Spendthrift

Dear Sally Spendthrift,

Last week I gave my two cents on whether it’s worth the hassle shopping on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the like. As I said in that post all these themed days are just marketing ploys to get your hard-earned money. Every year the fancy-pants folks over at PNC Wealth Management get out their calculators and figure out what it would cost to buy all the gifts mentioned in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. For 2014 you can give your true love everything their heart desires to the tune of $116,273.08 for all 364 gifts (or $27,673.22 if you only buy one set of each of the gifts mentioned). Quite a bargain, eh?

Obviously the average Joe and Jane won’t spend that much. Probably the only folks that would even consider it are those ridiculous reality TV stars that don’t have an ounce of sense in their heads to begin with. DearCrabby

Anyway, many years ago when I was a kid growing up in Detroit, my siblings and I were grateful to see any presents under the tree on Christmas morning because that meant Santa had actually bought the notion that we had been good all year long. Like now, times were lean and my parents worked hard to provide for our family. If there was no money to buy presents, my folks made them. I remember one year my sister’s friends gushing over her new coat. And as you may have already guessed, my mom made it, which meant it was one-of-a-kind. But I suppose that’s the point: to make the receiver feel like a million bucks without having to spend it. You’ve worked hard for your money and you should be able to enjoy spending it, just as long as you don’t drive yourself crazy (or poor) in the process. So I’d suggest setting a budget of what you’d like to spend per person and sticking to it. Or you could figure out what you normally spend on Christmas and try spending half of that and donating the rest. At the risk of sounding sappy and having my curmudgeon card taken away, it really is the thought that counts.

Hope this helps calm your fears of having to spend your life savings to have a Merry Christmas. And if you’d like to give me a small token of your appreciation for my sage advice, I’ll send you my address.

Good Luck!

Dear Crabby

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