How Much Should You Spend on Presents for the Holidays?

Are you ready for the holiday rush and buying spree? Traditionally, the holidays bring us a time of sharing and giving. But the cost of giving has increased over the years and you need to be aware of the burden it could put on your financial situation. With the change in most individual’s financial situation over the past year, this is a good time to reevaluate your holiday gift giving.

Most families spend around $500 on holiday gifts. If you put all those gifts on your credit card, the end result may surprise you. Do you have any idea how long you will be paying off those holiday gifts if you can only make the minimum payment each month? Let’s do some math:

$500 of holiday gifts: Let’s say you charge $500 on your credit card and only make the minimum monthly payment of $20. Some credit cards now are around the 19.99% interest rate for long period payoffs, you will be paying on those holiday gifts for 3 years! And to top it off, you will be paying the credit card company an additional $153 in interest (see Federal Reserve website – www.federalreserve.gov/creditcardcalculator).

What if your gifts top the $1000 mark: Now you have an after-the-holidays credit card bill starting at $1000, with the same $20 of minimum monthly payment and 19.99% interest rate. Are you sitting down? It will take you 9 years to pay off those gifts you purchased! The credit card company will be happy because you will pay them $1,167 in interest. Yes, that is correct you will be giving $1000 worth of holiday gifts to your friends and family, plus over time more than a $1000 gift to your credit card company.

Not to be a Scrooge, but there is a downside to credit card use if you can not pay it off in a month or two. Another option is the cash envelope and gift list method. Make a list of people you will be buying for, a dollar amount for each person and some great gift ideas you know they will love. Now hit the mall with list and cash envelope in hand. Your goal is not to purchase more than you have in your envelope.

A last tip to remember: the holidays are not always about the purchased gifts. Think back on all the unwanted, unneeded or forgotten gifts you have received over the years. If you were able to have something different from the giver, what would it have been?  What were the best holiday gifts you have received? Was it the homemade cookies, the framed children’s art work or just being able to spend time with your family and friends? The holidays are truly about sharing and giving; think about using your heart and mind instead of your credit card. Have a Happy and Financially Safe holiday!

About the author

Kimberly J. Howard, CFP®, CRPC®, ADPA®
Kimberly J. Howard, CFP®, CRPC®, ADPA®

Kimberly J. Howard, CFP®, CRPC®, ADPA® is the founder and owner of KJH Financial Services in Newton MA and Denver CO. She enjoys helping clients explore and achieve their life goals through effective comprehensive financial planning.

Kimberly holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Science Information Management from Boston University. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Physical Education from Stephen F. Austin University in Texas. She attended Boston University for her Certification in Financial Planning and H&R Block for Tax Preparation Certification.

Kimberly is currently an adjunct faculty member at MetroState University where she teaches General Financial Planning Principles, Income Tax, Retirement Planning and Estate Planning. She is a past adjunct faculty member at Boston University and The College for Financial Planning.

Kimberly is a member of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). She was named to the Metropolitan Who's Who Among Executive and Professional Women. She is an expert Advisor for Nerdwallet, BrightScope, Morningstar, and FiGuide.

Kimberly promotes a life planning approach with a balanced work/life style. She is active in sports including cycling, golf, skiing, and hiking.

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