What Happens When You Stray from Your Christmas Budget

This post contains affiliate links.  For many families, this Christmas will be a difficult one.  Millions of people are out of work, and everything, including groceries, just seem to be more expensive.  I thought today I would share a story, call it a cautionary tale, about what happens when you stray from your Christmas budget.

If you’re on a tight budget this year, there is no shame in that.  Please, please don’t feel the need to go over your Christmas budget.  Instead, accept that your situation is different this year and commit to your budget.  Next year will likely be different, and you may be able to spend more.

What Happens When You Stray from Your Christmas Budget

Before I share my husband’s and my story, let me first give you a little background about my mom, who is amazing when it comes to sticking to her Christmas budget.

How My Mom Handles Gift Giving

As long as I can remember, my mom liked to have the number of presents she gave me and my brother even as well as having the amount she spends even. If her budget was $125 for my brother and $125 for me, it wasn’t enough to her that she spent the same amount on us; she also wanted the number of presents to be the same. So if I got one big, expensive gift, she gave me several smaller gifts so they would equal the same amount of gifts my brother got.

Why We Blew Our Christmas Budget

Alright, on with the story.

Early in our marriage, soon after our one year anniversary, my husband and I traveled to my mom’s for Christmas.

At the time, we were on a tight budget. I was making very little my first year working full-time, and my husband was a graduate student.  Plus, I had student loan payments and credit card bills from just finishing grad school.

We had carefully planned our Christmas and planned to give my mom and brother a combination of store bought items we had found on sale and items we had made by hand, such as a homemade flannel nightgown for my mom.

What Happens When You Stray from the Christmas Budget
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

When we came home, my mom had put the gifts around the tree, and she delighted in showing us just how many presents she had for my husband and me. She was excited; we were dismayed. She had clearly bought MANY more presents for us than we had for her. December 23rd found us out in a cold, snowy night shopping for more presents for her, even though we did not have the money in the budget. We bought her multiple sets of brand new towels and bed linens.

Why We Should Have Stuck to Our Budget

On Christmas morning, my husband and I each got a large, expensive gift from my mom. As we opened the other presents she had for us, we discovered that SHE had stuck to her budget. But because she wanted the number of presents for everyone to be even, she had bought up tee shirts from work that were left over from past academic conferences. My husband and I each got five more presents from her.  They were all tee shirts with the conference logo on them; they cost her $1 each.

The Regret Sets In

When I realized what she had done, I was heart sick about the money we had spent unnecessarily when we bought additional presents, not to keep up with the Jones’, but to keep up with my mother!! She had a great Christmas and truly needed and enjoyed the towels, but a large portion of the day was ruined for me as I thought about the debt we had incurred.

In January when we got our credit card bill, my heart dropped. We did not have money to pay it off. We worked like crazy to raise extra money to pay off those unnecessary gifts; it took us until April to finally pay them off.

Final Thoughts

It was an important lesson to learn early in our marriage. Now that we know what happens when you stray from your Christmas budget, we always stick to it, confident in our gift choices, even if the number of packages under the tree is not exactly the same for each person.  And yes, this year our budget will be a little smaller, like many other Americans.

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