The holidays are once again upon us. My local Starbucks is now serving Christmas Blend, bypassing the Thanksgiving Blend completely. And the National Retail Federation has released their estimates for how much people will spend this holiday season by city.
The top ten cities with the highest average holiday budgets include:
- Palo Alto, California: $2,821
- League City, Texas: $2,362
- Sugar Land, Texas: $2,334
- Sunnyvale, California: $2,203
- Pearland, Texas: $2,080
- Missouri City, Texas: $1,985
- Cary, North Carolina: $1,948
- Mountain View, California: $1,914
- Shawnee, Kansas: $1,843
- Troy, Michigan: $1,809
In contrast to the top ten cities with the highest budgets, the lowest include:
- Brockton, Massachusetts: $71
- Springfield, Massachusetts: $72
- Rochester, New York: $90
- Missoula, Montana: $92
- Lynn, Massachusetts: $116
- Cincinnati, Ohio: $122
- Los Angeles, California: $150
- Miami Gardens, Florida: $150
- Merced, California: $154
- Albany, New York: $170
If the world were perfectly just and fair, good people in Brockton, MA would be able to spend as much as people in Palo Alto, CA on holiday gifts (last I checked Santa’s naughty vs. nice meter did not take into account income by metropolitan statistical area). Or in the best case scenario, commercialism would not enter the holiday landscape. For instance, some complain that Hanukkah has now evolved into eight nights of gift-giving when its roots are purely religious and based on rituals and spending time with family.
But we know the world is not this way. For parents, fighting against the tide of consumerism can be tough. The inclination is to spoil kids (just once) and get them everything they want. Hence, according to T. Rowe Price, many parents go to extremes to make sure their kids have everything on their list. In their survey of parents and how they spend and pay for holiday gifts, they found:
- 11% have dipped into their retirement account
- 14% used funds from their emergency savings
- 11% have taken out a payday loan
So it is not surprising that poor parents are the most likely to describe the holidays as a “stressful” time. Their stress lies not in managing the abundance of their lives, but in making do with what they have and hoping their children won’t find them inadequate.
As a kid, I knew my parents scrimped and saved to make sure my brothers and I would have gifts under the tree at Christmas. It made what we got that much more meaningful. There were probably times they should not have spent what they did. But I imagine they were trying to teach us something about the joy in giving. Truth be told, I have never been so happy as on that Christmas morning when I got a Cabbage Patch Kid against all the odds.
I sometimes forget to put other people first. So what makes the holidays special for me is that I remember. I can’t give advice to parents fretting about this year’s holiday budget, but I do know kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for. They have an uncanny knack for valuing what truly matters. Extra time and attention might just make up for toys they don’t get.