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Let’s Talk About Christmas Spending


We managed to keep our Christmas spending down to less than $450 and I was super proud of myself… until I read this stat:

In 2018, the average American spent $511 on gifts and gift cards. (Source Fortunly.com) $511? I understand the average household doesn’t have 4 kids but $511 seems low. The article mentioned the average American spends $123 on their spouse and, on the years we buy gifts for each other, that’s about spot on. But $511 overall? Is that accurate? What is your average spend per person?

Want to know the scariest part of all??? 22% of Americans believe their spending will leave them in debt. Hope that Playstation is worth it. Ugh. So dumb. I can say that because I’ve been there, I’ve bought gifts on credit cards I had no intention of paying off anytime in the near future. I paid so much ‘stupid tax’.

I think that number is inaccurate. Sure, maybe only 22% fessed up to putting gifts on credit cards but I think there are two more groups of people. The first group, they just don’t admit they put gifts on credit cards. The second group, they don’t have credit card debt, but they have other debt (school loans, car loans, etc.) and instead of paying down that debt, they bought gifts. No, I’m not saying to skip Christmas until you are debt free. I am saying your Christmases should be pretty tight while you are paying down debt. When we were in the thick of paying down debt, our Christmases were paltry but it helped us keep focus.

Put the Playstation back. Put the credit card back. It’s not worth it.


  • Reply MW |

    Remember, that’s an average. Which means some people spend more and some people spend less.

    Hope said a couple of weeks ago her Christmas budget is $2,000. Not sure how much of that is gifts (versus food, travel, etc.), but let’s go with it. If she spends that and you spent $450, that averages out to $1,225 on gifts. In that case, you’ve saved a ton compared to the average BAD blogger. 😉

    I would argue there’s a third group of people: people who honestly don’t know and don’t care. That could be for several reasons. My husband and I don’t have any debt other than our mortgage, we are high-earners, and we buy what we think our friends and family would like and don’t track costs because it doesn’t make any appreciable difference in our day-to-day lives. I imagine there are also people (and my parents were like this) who don’t know because they don’t budget and don’t track their spending. They don’t care because what would they do with the knowledge once they had it?

  • Reply Steve S |


    Great post as usual! I have gone away from buying stuff to giving gifts of experiences that me and the recipient will share. These experiences do not have to be expensive (Starbucks gift card, etc.). These create memories long after the wrapping paper is thrown away, the bows discarded, and the credit card racked up!

    Amount spent/not spent on gifts is no reflection of the love you have for that person.

    I love Miss Minimalists One Less Gift idea too. (http://www.missminimalist.com/one-less-gift-a-holiday-gift-exemption-certificate/)

    Blessings to your family Beks and all readers too!

  • Reply Klm |

    I wonder how they are counting a person. If I spend $511 and my spouse spends $511, that starts to seem reasonable for us, our two kids and limited family gifts (adult siblings don’t gift each other). If you added in our two kids, who certainly don’t have $511, but who are “average Americans” if they divided by the entire population, that’s way more than we spend.

  • Reply Anon Lawyer |

    I’m not sure why your spending being close to the average makes you doubt the average. Personally, I probably spent less than that (I haven’t broken it out separately from all the family birthday presents since everyone in my family has their birthday in November and December too) but I have one kid, not four. I also buy gifts for my niece, various adults in my family, and some friends because I really enjoy finding the right gifts for people.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    I think you may have misread the article. It states the average household spent $1536 in 2018.

    Fact #12

    • Reply Beks |

      Correct. But only $511 of that was on gifts. The rest was on holiday related items like clothing, travel, etc.

  • Reply Ellen Smith |

    I think you have to keep in mind that other factors work here. First, the income of the average person. For some it’s easier to find those black Friday and buy Barbies, dolls, Hot Wheels, and games at $5-$10 then it is to go out and buy that $500 Playstation. Your average stays down the cheaper the deals you seek out. Also, the age of the kids comes into play. Your 5 year old would be elated to have that $5 Barbie, while your 14 year old tends to ask for higher end products. I remember when my daughter was 15, she asked me for a Kurig along with a bunch of other items. (insert raised eyebrow here) Shoot my son asked me for a gaming desk, chair and also would like me to get him a bigger bed this year. Got to love it.

    This year I haven’t really kept track of what I have spent. I can tell you for a fact it’s more than the average though.

    • Reply Beks |

      That’s so true! My kiddos are young. I luck out budget wise. Ugh, I’m not excited for the price tag when they get older!!

So, what do you think ?