BOSTON (CBS) – I was not happy to see Christmas decorations go up in October. And then the Christmas music started and I discovered Santa has already arrived at the Burlington Mall. The merchants are pushing hard and early to get us in a buying mood.


According to a Gallup poll in October consumers plan to spend an average of $715 on gifts this year. That is a drop of over $200 from 3 years ago. That does not include the tree, decorations, cards, stamps, new clothes or extra holiday food they’ll also buy.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation many consumers start their Christmas shopping before Halloween. And some are actually done before Thanksgiving. Many families have Thanksgiving together and exchange presents then.

We all want the perfect holiday, like the ones we see on TV with beautiful people dressed impeccably (no one in sweats), a lovely tree laden with perfect ornaments, (no macaroni glued to a paper plate for them)  perfectly wrapped presents, a festive table laden with wonderful foods and everyone happy! You know that Martha Stewart look!

What is in your holiday budget? It’s more than just the presents we buy. Be realistic here!

Create a spending plan and include all of the holiday costs here. Cards, stamps, invitations, parties, special foods, drinks, decorations, new outfits for the kids, a tree, babysitting, house gifts, hair salon, new clothes for the grown ups and of course the presents you plan to buy for everyone!

What can you afford without going into debt this year? Did you set up a Christmas club last January? The average consumer is still paying off Christmas in July! And 11% of consumers still have not paid off last year’s Christmas gifts.

What and who can you delete from your Christmas list? Do you need to send Christmas cards to everyone you know? How about just those that live far away? Or just your grandparents and the rest get an e-mail?

Make your parties potluck. Easier on you and the budget. Invitations can be sent through Evite.

And when we are out Christmas shopping we also treat ourselves. To the tune of an additional $18 billion on non-gift purchases. Lots of reasons for that. We see something we’d like or the sales are too good to pass up. On average we spend $108 on ourselves while out Christmas shopping.


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