Holiday Overspending: Why we all are tempted!

Overspending by the numbers:

15-30% is the average consumers tend to go over their holiday spending budgets, according to the International Mass Retail Association.

31.8%of consumers feel worse off financially this Christmas compared to 18.5% last year (almost one third of all Americans!)

32.4% of Americans plan to entertain less this Christmas

81.2% of the 72.5% of consumers who gave gift cards last year will give more this year

85.3% of consumers expect to shop at Wal-Mart this Christmas

87.3 is the November Consumer Confidence Index measured by the New York-based Conference Board, which marks a 4-month slide, down almost 8 points from October 2007.

$800 is what the average American will spend on holiday gifts this year, according to the National Retail Federation

$475 billion arethe expected sales from the holiday shopping season that runs from November to December

So what can we learn from these numbers? In general, we Americans are less confident in our finances and we don’t plan to entertain as much, yet we will spend lots of money anyway, especially at Wal-Mart.


How does holiday spending get so out of control?

Here are a few reasons:

Feeling of obligation to buy gifts

Getting caught up in the holiday spirit

Falling prey to marketing tricks and gimmicks

Buying gifts out of guilt for lack of giving other things, such as time

Overspending on those close to us

Getting focused on one very special item (and will pay ANYTHING for it!)

Buying yourself items that you feel you “deserve” because you feel underappreciated, underpaid, overworked, etc.

Feelings of depression, boredom, loneliness or stress turn to shopping

Shopping for sport

Not considering minor or hidden costs such as postage on greeting cards, ingredients for holiday baking, replacement strands of lights, etc. in your holiday budget

Strategies to Beat Overspending

Make a budget and STICK TO IT

Pay off credit card debts as soon as possible in order to avoid finance & interest charges. Better yet, use cash so you see real money flying out of your wallet instead of mere numbers on a statement.

Make gifts instead of buying them

Beware excessive shipping & handling charges when ordering on-line

Buy several gifts in bulk or from the same store

Don’t buy gifts for people merely because you think you SHOULD

Wait for sales and comparison shop before purchasing more expensive items

Give experiences vs. toys for children (a trip to the zoo vs. a toy that is most likely made in China with questionable lead content)

Think about the “carbon footprint” of the item you are buying before your purchase

Challenge yourself (and tell others) to buy products “Made in America”

Consider donating to a worthy organization in someone’s name instead of buying junk that will be shoved in a drawer after you give it

Give “warm fuzzies” instead of flowers or candy (write a heartfelt sentiment such as “Thank you for your smiles as I check in my child for child care. It is a difficult time of day for both of us, but your friendliness and flexibility make it more bearable.”)

What are YOUR Thrifty Tips?

Do you have a unique and inexpensive way to spread the holiday spirit?

E-mail us at and we will print it in our newsletter (with or without your name according to your wishes) next month in a section entitledSuper Saver Holiday Ideas!”

For example:

“I gave my grandson a ticket to a children’s museum. I was worried about him not having anything to “play with” under the tree, so I wrapped the ticket in a giant box. Once he opened it, the box became a train, a spaceship and a table, changing with his imagination and creativity. He played with that box more than the expensive toys others had given him!”

“I had a small item for my niece. Instead of just handing the gift to her, I wrote several hints on cards on where to find the gift. (If I were more creative I could have even made them rhyme.) Following the treasure hunt was more fun for her than the gift itself. She asked me to do another one for her birthday.”

“I live in Hawaii and shipping costs are outrageous here. I bought several different local food items in bulk at a warehouse store, split them up, and mailed them to relatives on the ‘mainland’ in a flat-rate box.”

“I sorted out my closet and removed the clothes I didn’t wear anymore. I donated some and threw some away. My gift to my husband was 8 inches of closet space and some nice new hangars! It was a win-win for both of us.”


Honolulu Advertiser (newspaper). Hawaii’s Business Today Section. “Consumer confidence level hits 2-year low.” Written by Anne D-Innocenzio. November 28, 2007.