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Episode 177: All I want for Christmas is…GREEN

The Costs of Christmas – How much do we really spend on holidays?
Episode 177: All I want for Christmas is…GREEN


In this episode, I look at what gifts people spend the most money on at Christmas, some different low-cost holiday traditions, and the crazy amounts of money people can make from Christmas songs.


People’s spending habits are changing but as Christmas is coming, one thing’s for sure, people are still spending money on Christmas gifts.


In this episode, I look at the five gift spending categories of 2022, why people are buying Christmas gifts early in the year, and how people’s shopping habits are changing.


I also look at how people make money with Christmas songs, the amount writers get paid every time their song gets played, and the highest-earning Christmas songs of all time.


“If they sing your song at a concert they have to pay you to sing it there. At a small venue that doesn’t have a lot of people you can earn two to ten dollars but at a large arena you can get five thousand dollars each time it’s sung.” – Ben Jones

Time Stamps:

00:15 – Why people are buying Christmas gifts earlier in the year.

01:08 – The top five gift spending categories of 2022.

01:26 – How people’s shopping habits have changed.

01:45 – The biggest per-person spending holiday.

03:30 – The average weight people gain over the holidays.

04:00 – The average annual healthcare costs depending on your BMI.

04:30 – Different low-cost holiday traditions.

05:21 – Who earns money from Christmas songs.

07:30 – How much the ‘All I Want For Christmas’ song makes each year.

09:15 – The highest-earning Christmas song of 2022.

10:50 – How much money Wham gets from their song ‘Last Christmas’.

11:40 – How much Paul McCartney earned from ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’.

13:00 – The highest-earning Christmas song of all time.





Connect with Ben Jones:


Welcome back to Money with Mak & G, the holidays are here and this is the week before Christmas. There is money flying around EVERYWHERE.   Spending on gifts is an easy one to see.  And, we seem to be spending more each year. So what are experts saying?

First, they thought the price of gifts was going to increase by 6-8%.  That means more than half of us are going to buy fewer gifts because most of us expected prices to go up. Some numbers say almost 90% of us thought price increases were coming and we were adjusting budgets.

So, stores start hitting you early with messages.  About 6 out of every 10 stores say they start before November. So, it’s no wonder why about 40% of shoppers started buying gifts before the end of October. Planning for holiday spending is huge. But, I saw that consumers received about 6 billion email messages during the 2021 holiday season for “out of stock” items.  

So, what are the top 5 gift spending categories in 2022 in descending order? They are:

  1. Clothes and accessories

  2. Gift Cards

  3. Toys

  4. Books and other media

  5. Food/Candy

All of the numbers say more and more shopping is done online, with mobile devices continuing to increase rapidly. I guess if you could order aunt Sally her cat sweater while going to the bathroom, that’s pretty convenient. 

I saw this the other day, and it made me think.  What is the biggest per-person spending holiday?  I was thinking of the “winter holidays”.  But, this website I found said Back-To-College was #1.  Is it a holiday event because parents are happy to move the kids out?  I thought that was interesting.  But, they said it was about $1,200 bucks with the Winter Holidays around $1,000 and Back-To-School at almost $900 followed by Mother’s day and Easter at $250 and $170 respectively.  I’ve seen much different numbers on spending for each of those items, but the idea that Back to College and Back to School were holidays was an interesting take.

For many, the holidays aren’t the holidays without a specific tradition that they do.  When I was younger, pre-Christmas traditions meant making great cookies and candies with Elvis playing in the background.  Mom always cooked a ton of cookies, chocolates, fudges, toffees and other stuff.  I had a Mexican Wedding Cookie yesterday and it took me back to mom’s cooking over Christmas.  She was doing the cake decorating 40 years ago along with painting chocolate suckers and everything else.  I even remember fond memories of getting to ice and sprinkle cookies as well as getting the hammer to break the toffee after being poured on a countertop.  She was pretty amazing at that stuff.

Then at Christmas, it meant midnight mass along with one gift which was a plastic pellet gun. It was a pretty amazing time when you have at least 8 family members together and a couple of friends or stragglers with nowhere else to go.  But, after opening our pellet guns we would shoot those plastic yellow balls at each other, aiming for bare skin to make it sting.  Mom would find those yellow plastic balls all the way up to Good Friday the following year.

Anyway, I love holiday food and have to be extra careful, now that I’m over 50.  On average we gain at least a pound of weight over the holidays.  I wondered if there was a calculation of how much that costs us on a per-pound basis.  I wasn’t that lucky, but there is a calculation based on weight and height that gives you your body mass index.  It’s referred to as BMI. I’m 220 and 6”1’ so my calc is 29.  If I weighed 190, I’d be 25. So, the average annual healthcare cost for a person with a BMI of 19, which is much lower than mine, was found to be $2,368; it grew to $4,880 for a person with a BMI of 45 or greater.  So, it does cost us money when we put on extra weight. So, be careful of two many Mexican Wedding cookies!!

So, I found 10-holiday traditions, many people do, including:

  1. Decorating the tree

  2. Baking Christmas cookies

  3. Writing a letter to Santa, and maybe a reindeer

  4. Looking at holiday lights

  5. Building a gingerbread house

  6. Singing Christmas Carols

  7. Exchanging gifts, like a Secret Santa

  8. Wearing an ugly sweater

  9. Watching Christmas movies

  10. Spending time with people you love

These are all low-cost and lots of fun.  Driving Mak & G around when little while looking at the lights, was great and free.  This year, Grant stole a sweater out of my closet and wore it to ugly sweater day.  I’ve officially moved into the Ugly Sweater zone.  And, as Will Ferrell said in the holiday movie Elf, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

But, one of the most important aspects of the holidays is the music.  So, it made me wonder about all the money that’s in Christmas music.  Well, I thought the most popular would be the ones that earn the most, but they weren’t lining up when I went to Wikipedia, scanned various sites, looked at billboard charts, and crossed referenced various articles.  Anyway, there are some interesting facts.

First, anything before 1926 no longer pays royalties.  And, who gets paid anyway?  Well, the songwriters and composers do.  The performers, if they haven’t written the song, don’t get paid. And, if they sing your song at a concert, they actually have to PAY you to sing it there.  At a small venue that doesn’t have a lot of people, you can earn $2 to around $10, but for a large arena, you can get $5,000 each time your song is sung.  It appears that songs charge different amounts, and depending on the number of writers, it gets split up and NOT equally.  So, it’s complicated.  

I love Blue Christmas, which was made famous by Elvis Presley but written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. So, Elvis didn’t and still doesn’t get the royalties on that one.  Interesting.  It has had many versions even a duet with Martina McBride which was years after Elvis died.  It has been sung or covered by Ringo Starr, Celine Dion, The Beach Boys, Sheryl Crow, Bett Midler, Smash Mouth and others, but no pay to Elvis’s estate.

These Christmas songs are gold, because they come back each year, and are considered EverGreen.  I like the “GREEN” in that statement, as the money keeps coming year after year if you’ve got a hit.  I know which one comes to mind for most Americans, it gets annoying by the end of the season, but it’s a mandatory part of the holidays.  It’s “All I want for Christmas is You”. Mariah Carey sings it, but she is ALSO given credit for writing it in 1994. 

Lots of great energy and pretty incredible singing for the holiday season.  This information comes from an article I found about a year old, but still fun to dig into. On this list, it’s actually the THIRD biggest annually at $600,000.  Wow, that is nothing to sneeze at.  I’ll take that to the bank.  If you love the Christmas music channel near you, you probably get a heavy dose starting after Thanksgiving all the way up to December 25th. It’s in a number of movies, on streaming services, radio, and more.  Supposedly it took less than 20 minutes to write and appears to be the 2nd most profitable of ALL TIME in an amazingly short period of time since it was done in 1994. In the top 5 all-time money makers, it’s the youngest and has earned around $60 million.

I have to give a shout-out to “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”, for digital downloads on Wikipedia for the best-selling Christmas songs at number 2, behind Mariah Carrey.  Frozen the movie was really great. This song is fun, and it just makes your day better. I’m just not 100% sure it qualifies as a Christmas song. 

Do you want to Build a Snowman? by Disney

So, what is the number one grossing royalty song annually? I was surprised.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the song before.  Have you? It’s called “Merry Christmas Everybody” and was written in 1973 by Slade.  It grosses a wapping $840,000 smackeroos.  Time to retire, but the group is pretty old by now.  Take a quick listen.

In slot #2, is a group I first heard about when living as an exchange student in France in 1991.  My French brother loved them.  They’re an Anglo-Irish Celtic Punk band from Kings Cross London in the United Kingdom.  Not my type of music, but their hit is classified as a Christmas song and rakes in an amazing $630,000.  It’s called “Fairytale of New York”.  Here is just a smidge of the song, as it changes the melody at least three times.

In 1984, Wham! had a hit called “Last Christmas”. It earns a half million a year.  It was a sad day when we lost George Michaels, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  Hopefully, if you haven’t heard this in a while, it will bring a smile to your face.

Now, when you talk about ALL TIME earnings, things are a bit different. Some songs have had a long time to rack up the money.  Remember, they’re evergreen songs played every year.  **Simply having a wonderful Christmas time.**  I can hear it in my mind.  Sir Paul McCartney got burned when he signed a deal that didn’t give him ownership of his songs, so he made sure he got the royalties moving forward, and “Wonderful Christmastime” was written in 1979, and he’s earned about $40 million off that song.

Mel Torme and Robert wells wrote the “Christmas Song” in 1945. It was recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole, but you probably know it better as **Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.**  Mel was 19 when he wrote it.  He’s Jewish and wrote it in under 45 minutes supposedly during a heatwave while in Chicago.  45 minutes for $45 million. And, it’s still going.

“Santa Clause is Coming to Town” was written in 1934. It has earned an estimated $50 million and the day after the song came out, there were over 100,000 people who ordered sheet music.  Within the first month, over 400,000 copies were sold. It’s a classic.

We already spoke about Mariah Carey at #2 ALL TIME, but #1 is Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” written in 1940.  It’s estimated to have earned around $65 million. It’s interesting to think that this song was written by a Jewish immigrant from Russia. Bing Crosby made it beyond popular, and it’s always on our playlist during the season.


From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  We hope you get everything you’ve dreamed of.  Thank you for being so supportive and we’ll see you soon for more Money with Mak & G.


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