The Cost of Christmas: Local Shoppers Spending More This Holiday Season

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By Heather VacLav

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year...but Christmas comes with a cost. Consumers spend billions on Christmas every year, but between Christmas lights, decorations and presents, it all adds up.

“I've cut back, but I still have shopped and gotten most of what I need,” said Gloria Hartley of Montgomery who saved all year for Christmas.

But not everyone has a four-figure budget. “The cost for Christmas is going to be a little bit less than $400, we're trying to keep it a little under budget,” said Crystal Tolbert of Montgomery.

And even though many shoppers are budgeting before they cross off their Christmas lists, most say they have more wiggle room to spend on gifts than before.

“This year I saved about $800 so I'll probably spend $1,000,” Hartley said.

According to the American Research Group Inc., Christmas gift spending is returning to pre-recession levels. The latest report shows Americans shelling out more than $200 extra from last year.

Average Christmas Spending:

2012    $854
2011    $646
2010    $658
2009    $417
2008    $431
2007    $859

 

But no matter how much you spend on Christmas presents, most family's say no Christmas is complete with out buying a Christmas tree, and a fresh cut tree costs anywhere between $20-$60.
 
Tolbert says even though her family can afford more for Christmas, they are doing things differently this year.
 
“We just cut back on decorations and are really just focusing on [my daughter] more than ourselves this year,” she said.
 
Whether it's an artificial or fresh-cut tree, lights and ornaments drive up the cost. For some
shoppers, it's a cost they're willing to pay, but unfortunately many decorations are already sold out.
 
“Last season it was no problem to find lights or to find anything, but this year, I'm finding the little candies I go and buy, a lot of them are gone,” Susan Allen of Wetumpka said. “Just the little gifts, they're not there.”
 
The average Christmas spending on gifts and decorations does not factor in the cost for holiday meals and baked goods, so with a few more weeks until December 25th, it's something many people need to think about before opening up their wallets.
 
Many home improvement stores across the River Region are either sold out of or have limited supplies of Christmas lights and decorations, so they say if you plan on buying; you need to do so soon.