How much is appropriate?
It seems that I'm not the only one in the blogosphere thinking way too much about the holiday season already. I've already read several posts -- yes, I am FINALLY caught up on the blogroll that accrued in my absence, thankyouverymuch! -- about holiday preparations, making lists, checking them twice... You get the idea.
But Stacking Pennies asked a question that I've secretly wondered for ages: How much do you spend on a gift?
Okay, there are plenty of you who are smart and non-materialistic and don't do the gift thing. I'm impressed and part of me wishes I could be so blase about it. Unfortunately, when I think of all those presents wrapped up, I slightly morph toward a Gollum-esque state. ("My precioussssssss.")
So, for all of us who are not quite above-it-all and do the whole gift thing: What is okay? How much does it depend on your finances? After all, Tim and I are in debt and trying to sock away money. But we are exchanging gifts this year. I'm sure some will tsk-tsk, but this is something I'm willing to make an exception about in our new, stricter budget.
Of course, it helps that rewards programs are paying for all of Tim's birthday/Christmas presents -- except for a couple of small ones I found at garage sales and on Craiglist, for a total of $40. Meanwhile, Tim can spend $150 on me, and we've agreed to $10 per parent. Amazingly, we've already found two great gifts for a total of $11.30. Sometimes fate smiles on you, I guess.
I am sure that $200 could be put to better use on our debt, but, to us, this is an important, fun ritual. We really don't do gifts much at any other time in the year. For our anniversary, we had a nice dinner out. By my birthday, we were completely engrossed in the particulars of the move, plus money was too tight to really get anything. Instead, we enjoyed some birthday freebies -- Red Robin and Cold Stone -- and went to see a movie with some free tickets from Coke Rewards.
If we were in better financial situations, I would probably still be using rewards to buy presents, because it's always fun to get a terrific gift for free. But I would probably increase the spending a bit more, since Tim shops more by inspiration than price. And our parents would probably go as high as $50. We still aren't really on speaking terms with his brother, even though the pregnancy turned out to be completely imaginary. I'd probably get a little something for my cousin and her two boys, and maybe a small gift for my aunt. That, sadly, I would consider living large.
What about you guys? Where would you draw the line -- if you were in deep debt, getting close to the finish line of being debt free, or were completely free and clear? I'm interested to see how the limits vary for people.