Is Your Holiday Spending Normal? The Answer May Surprise You

woman carrying shopping bags down mall escalator
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How much do you spend over the holidays? It might be more more than you’re willing to admit.

GoBankingRates asked 2,000 adults about their holiday spending for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they spilled the beans.

  • 61% of respondents said they were spending less than a paycheck — or nothing at all — on these holidays.*
  • 22% percent said they’ll spend one whole paycheck on the holidays for things like gifts, decorations, travel and food.
  • Nearly 9% said they’ll spend two full paychecks — one month of pay — on the holidays.
  • Just over 3% of survey respondents admitted to spending three full months of pay on their holiday celebrations. Seniors, millennials and men are most likely to spend three months’ pay on the holidays, GoBankingRates noted.

*Note: While GoBankingRates’ report says that 57% of those surveyed will spend one full paycheck on the holidays, that only includes people who said they would spend one paycheck or more on holiday-related expenses. It doesn’t include respondents who said they would spend less than an entire paycheck or nothing at all. We compiled the numbers above using all responses and found that 61% of those surveyed will not spend an entire paycheck on the holidays.

While the amount of each person’s paycheck can vary widely, we can probably all agree that when you look at your paycheck, it feels like a lot of money — at least, until you pay your bills with it.

And holidays come with a lot of responsibilities, whether you’re hosting your extended family for dinner or your parents expect you to fly across the country for the holidays.

What can you do to keep your budget — and yourself — sane?

How to Reel in Your Holiday Spending

First, let’s be upfront about the holidays: Whatever amount you feel comfortable spending is A-OK with us, as long as you plan for it. If you save up throughout the year to spend without worry during the holidays, you get a pat on the back from us.

Christmas flights and gifts? Not great reasons to dip into your emergency fund. They’re not great reasons to overspend and go into debt either.

If your wallet’s already feeling the pressure of the upcoming holiday season, take a deep breath and make a list. By knowing the items you’ll need to purchase during the holidays, you can start doing price research and keeping an eye out for sales.

For example, if you know you’re cooking turkey for 20, you may be able to leverage your spending at your favorite grocery store to get that bird for free.

If you know which Black Friday deals are duds, you can better strategize your gift shopping — and maybe sleep in on Black Friday!

If you know you need to travel over the holidays, you probably know it’s too late to get the best deals on flights. (There’s always next year.) But you may be able to save a bunch if you’re willing to fly on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. And there may still be time to score more affordable train or bus travel.

But you can’t do any of that unless you know what you need to buy or book this holiday season.

Take inventory now, or you’ll be counting out those paychecks in a few weeks.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.