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Episode 66: Why is there so much Christmas left at the end of the money?

Episode 66: Why is there so much Christmas left at the end of the money?


In this “Money With Mak and G” podcast episode, Mak & G look at how much people spend on Christmas, techniques to reduce your Christmas spending, and other money-saving Christmas hacks…


It can be tough to plan for all the expenses associated with Christmas, but today Mak & G are here to help!


They hit on some great ideas to make Christmas more manageable by saving and planning ahead.


We talk about the power of budgeting, actionable techniques you can use to reduce your Christmas spending, and other money-saving Christmas hacks…


“An average American is expected to spend over 900 dollars on Christmas.” – Mak


“If you don’t budget it, you don’t spend it.” – G

Time Stamps:

00:24 – The strange Thanksgiving we had this year, and the number of people that traveled by air.

02:10 – Dating Elvis and where Elvis worked before he became famous.

02:55 – What’s really important at Christmas and the best Christmas songs.

04:19 – The stressful parts of Christmas and why Christmas is so expensive.

05:28 – How much people tend to spend on Christmas.

06:39 – Our SPLAT plan (Save, plan, and tighten up).

07:53 – How to make saving fun.

10:31 – Dopamine and the importance of having a plan.

12:49 – How to save money through crazy gifts or playing Secret Santa.

14:04 – Regifting old things and how to get discount gift cards.

16:24 – How to stick to your budget.

18:46 – The power of a side hustle.




Connect with Ben Jones:


GRANT: Hey, Mak?


MAK: What’s up G?


GRANT: Do you know what happens when you start early?


MAK: I do G. You go wealthy.


BOTH: It’s time for Money with Mak and G. Finance for you and your family.


MAK: Thanksgiving is over and it was a little different this year.


GRANT: It sure was, stuck at home. Nobody makes road trips to see Aunt Jean and Uncle Bob.


MAK: It was pretty busy at the airport though. The Sunday after Turkey Day had the most people in the airport since COVID started. Almost 1.2 million travelers compared to the 2.9 last year.


GRANT: That’s a 60% decrease, but still a lot. I guess people were ready to take the risk to see family even with a COVID going crazy.


MAK: We’re definitely at record COVID numbers and there’s a lot more low key than normal.


GRANT: Now it’s December and it’s such a great time. But did you hear the music start?


MAK: Yep, we should all panic. Hubba hubba has officially begun, which means st is gonna bring my baby back to me.


GRANT: Yep, and I can smoke candy cane in the scent of pine needles in the air.


MAK: Seriously, you’re gonna complain about the smell of candy canes and Christmas trees? I’m talking about Dad shaking his Caboose and gyrating his hips.


GRANT: Oh, you’re so right. He has to be like the king. He’ll start talking about wanting to go to the White House and to see the kidney shaped pool.


MAK: Yep. And he’ll correct anyone who says the White House is in DC because he says it’s in Memphis Tennessee at Graceland, named after the original owner, Aunt Grace. No. Christmas is the same without Oh Blue Christmas.


GRANT: Did dad tell you that when he went to Purdue he had friends whose mom went out with Elvis. They were actually the silver twins.


MAK: Aren’t those baton twirling twins in the Purdue band dressed in silver? Oh yeah. Their uncle owned a trucking company that Elvis worked out before he was famous. The uncle set them up.


GRANT: That’s wild to think about, but that music just gets into dad’s blood. It’s the true rockabilly sound.


MAK: Maybe we can just hide his music and stop the madness this year. But that head may explode.


GRANT: Or he’ll probably just sit in the corner sucking his thumb and crying. He won’t be right. But I think the real madness is how we let the cost of Christmas get away from us.


MAK: Don’t get me wrong. I love presents, but wow. True. Christmas is always special. After all, as the great American novelist Edna Ferber said…


GRANT: “Christmas isn’t a season, it’s a feeling.”


MAK: Definitely agree with her. Something about those pretty twinkling lights everywhere. Hearing the cheesy Christmas music, smelling those Christmas cookies fresh out of the oven.


GRANT: Oh yeah, a man has got to have a snickerdoodle this time of year.


MAK: Well, I’m more of a gingersnap girl myself, but I’ll take whatever’s fresh baked.


GRANT: You’re right about the music though. There are some great songs. My favorite is Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, hands down. It’s the best.


MAK: Me, I like those Island vibes. Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say, on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day.


GRANT: Nice. Although up here in Antarctica we call Indiana the idea of a hot Christmas is just too weird.


MAK: Yeah. Hey, we got some big stuff to talk about. Christmas ain’t all peaches and cream, you know.


GRANT: Right. It’s a stressful time too, so many things to organize even in the year of the virus. One of the most stressful parts in the season for many is money.


MAK: It sure is. Christmas is expensive.


GRANT: For many families, it can be really tough to afford. There’s so much to pay for food, drinks, gifts, a Christmas tree, all those decorations, travel Christmas cards.


MAK: Right. And did you ever see how expensive gift drops are? For something you rip up and throw away? Isn’t it insane? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of newspapers?


GRANT: You’re right, I threw the nice gift wrap in the fire because you get to see all those pretty colors when it burns.


MAK: Okay, that’s weird and very dangerous. It is pretty full on though. I read that an average American is expected to spend over $900 On Christmas.


GRANT: What?! $900? That’s a lot.


MAK: I know. But this is even more crazy. The average is around $992 for people who don’t set a budget for their Christmas spending. It’s only $880 for people who do. Can you say impulse buying?


BOTH: Impulse buying!


GRANT: That really proves budgeting can really save you money. That’s over $100 difference.


MAK: Wow, just wow. But we’ll come back to that because here at Money With Mak And G, we’ve come up with a three part plan for Christmas.


GRANT: We sure did. And it’s called, ‘What am I gonna do?’


MAK: Grant, what? That’s not what it’s called. It’s called, ‘Help, it’s Christmas again!’


GRANT: Okay, okay, let’s get serious. It’s actually called…




GRANT: That’s right. You heard it, people.


MAK: Sure did. We said splat and splat stands for save plan and tighten up. This may be some of our best work.


GRANT: Agree. We did a ton of research and found tips from family and how they import all this craziness.


MAK: Then we took our favorite ideas and some of our insights…


GRANT: And turn them into the Money With Mak And G splat program. And it’s free.


MAK: Part one of splat is a save.


GRANT: Save only to get ready not just when December hits, but the whole year. Putting a little aside every month adds up to a lot. Kind of like a layaway plan.


MAK: Start small if you set aside $1 a week, that’s $52. If you know you need $100 and that’s a little less than $2 for a week. You don’t want to come up short or have to dig in the sofa in December to make up the difference.


GRANT: You got that right. But saving can be hard. It takes a lot of discipline.


MAK: Sure does at first, but it can be super rewarding. And there are always many ways to make it fun.


GRANT: Like what Mak?


MAK: Well, first, it helps you to have a target. You can’t hit the goal if you don’t know what you’re shooting for.


GRANT: You’re right. Just like a fundraiser, you can track your progress on a big thermometer poster. It helps us focus, actively color in any progress and visually see how you’re doing.


MAK: Great idea. You can also make it fun by trying gamification, too.


GRANT: That sounds like gaming perfection. I like the sound of that.


MAK: Gamification does have a game in it. And it can be super powerful to keep us motivated to succeed.


GRANT: So you basically take some otherwise boring activity and make it into a game to make it fun, right?


MAK: Exactly. A lot of retail companies are really good at it. They give people rewards for getting to different levels by spending more.


GRANT: So loyalty cards are kind of gamification. You’ll get freebies like Starbucks or sweet deals on stuff.


MAK: Yep. The trouble is that, that kind of gamification makes people spend more money, not save it.


GRANT: And we don’t want to do that. Not if you’re saving for Christmas.


MAK: Exactly. So how could we gamify saving?


GRANT: Well, you could give yourself a reward for every $10 saved, or you could set different levels. I bet Mom and Dad would support that. I’m thinking of an old fashioned donut from Starbucks.


MAK: Perfect. Set an easy goal and make it tougher. Start with $5 and if you hit your goal reward, then move to six. If you beat your level in your video game, you win coins, prizes, increase your score, right?


GRANT: Yep, I like it. You’d have to get pretty creative to keep it going.


MAK: Definitely. Hey, we’re young and creative, right? If you already have your own bank account, a lot of banks try to help you with stuff like this.


GRANT: Doesn’t dad’s account automatically put the loose chain from everything he buys on his debit card into a savings account?


MAK: Exactly. When he bought Elvis’s album for $19.25, it rounded up to $20. And the 75 cents switched from his normal account to his savings. He put over $250 in savings and he never touches it.


GRANT: Bingo. And you know what Mak? It can even get addicting.


MAK: Addictive? What? Like you actually start needing to save?


GRANT: Exactly. Scientists have proven that winning out a game gives you a little head of something called dopamine.


MAK: Who’s a dope, and why is he mean?


GRANT: No Mak, I said dopamine. It’s a hormone on your body whose job it is to make you feel happy.


MAK: I want some of that. Are you saying that saving money can make you happy? Now that’s pretty sweet.


GRANT: I am and when you save all the money you need, that’s happiness too.


MAK: Now Part Two is a plan. That’s where the P and L and spot come from.


GRANT: So what’s the story of Morning Glory?


MAK: This part is about thinking ahead.


GRANT: Dad loves planning for big purchases with Black Friday sales.


MAK: Exactly. If you can plan out the gifts you need, you can find great deals whenever they come.


GRANT: Some stores celebrate the month they began business Fourth of July or whatever.


MAK: You got that. Right after Christmas, there’s always a sale on colorful flame material on Christmas trees.


GRANT: Did you mean wrapping paper? Funny haha. It’s even easier now. If you go online. There’s a software called Honey that can check prices across hundreds if not 1000s of websites to get the best price.


MAK: That is so cool. Some even plan ahead for all their food and travel purchases too.


GRANT: What? Mak, I don’t want to eat a turkey that you bought on sale in July.


MAK: Obviously, Grant. But a lot of food stays fresh for ages, especially Christmas treats like chocolate.


GRANT: Yo man now you’re talking my language.


MAK: Okay, so part three is…


GRANT: Tighten up.


MAK: You said it. Let’s cut out some of those expenses. It’s not really about sacrificing but making the adjustments.


GRANT: So it doesn’t mean ruining Christmas?


MAK: Nope. You start with looking at what you spent on your last Christmas. Write all of your expenses down. $200 for coffee? Write down everything, including presents, food, wrapping paper cards, etc.


GRANT: Sounds like a budget.


MAK: It is. First think about how many gifts we give to cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, Mom and Dad.


GRANT: Yeah, it’s a lot. Is there any way we can reduce the cost of all of these? How about a white elephant?


MAK: Great idea. I love giving and giving funny, weird or useless gifts as a gag. And it saves money.


GRANT: Yep. If you normally give a gift to six people, but only need one for white elephant, you save real cash.


MAK: That’s perfect. Last year, you got the bacon air freshener and I got the basketball head hoop. Crazy funny. And we got so many gifts.


GRANT: Even if it’s not a white elephant, we can do a Secret Santa settlement for $20 or so.


MAK: For everyone’s name and a hat. Draw one and instead of buying for 10 people you buy one. You save a ton.


GRANT: Much better for the budget and mom and dad like the personal gifts better than store bought ones.


MAK: They actually kept my 2019 painting but I haven’t seen the belly Buster thing I bought dad in 2018.


GRANT: Looking at dad’s belly, maybe he ate it.


MAK: Burrito, bro. I know who’s getting coal from Santa this year. Making a gift takes time but it costs a lot less.


GRANT: And it’s more memorable. Speaking of memorable, do you remember the RE gifting event of 2000?


MAK: How could I forget? Every year we hear about it? So much press ring, so crazy weird.


GRANT: It was a Christmas before mom and dad were married. Dad grabbed each gift and put them all in one bay red box like a Russian wooden doll.


MAK: Each gift was gently used. A half burnt candle, an old cop, a pair of dirty socks and he even wrapped…


BOTH: Belly lint! How gross!


GRANT: How could he ever have done that in public? Grandma was there. You know your belly button is the lint trap for your entire body? Isn’t that the grossest thing you’ve ever heard of?


MAK: It is and there is so much he must have saved up. Gross. But they laughed for weeks. And they’ve been talking about it every year for 20 years.


GRANT: All that stuff was free too.


MAK: If you want to tighten up, re-gifting can be helpful. For example, Dad doesn’t like white wine.


GRANT: And he’ll really give the wine to his friends he knows love it, cutting his costs.


MAK: Not a bad idea. You can also get gift cards at a discount. Websites buy unwanted cards from people who got them from birthdays or special events, not what they wanted. And so these websites resell them.


GRANT: Dad has a stack in the drawer in the mudroom. He watches until the right time and scoops him up.


MAK: He’s gotten 15% off Chili’s and 20% off Krispy Kreme, as well as 25% off Guitar Center to buy my ax.


GRANT: It’s a great way to save money. Costco has discount cards, and Chipotle offers a bonus gift card.


MAK: Great savings tip. When you know your expenses, you can trim some like buying a little less food and drink. Who needs an extra holiday anyway!


GRANT: Hey, we could never cut out mom’s Peanut Butter Fudge, but she could just make a little bit less.


MAK: That’s key, trade offs. Know what you’re spending and make choices. I bet we won’t even notice. So we cut down the number of gifts, make mom and dad’s gifts, do some ring gifting, get more for our money with stuff like discounted gift cards and make some trade offs. That will reduce our overall spend, tighten up, tighten up. Yeah, tighten up. Maybe it’s T for tracking it all or trade off or just telling yourself no.


GRANT: Nice one Mak. I think we’re making some progress. If you don’t budget it, you don’t spend it.


MAK: Pulling out the totally cheesy dad saying nice.


GRANT: Agree. But there’s a tough part too. And that’s sticking to your budget once you make it.


MAK: Right. I’ve read that only 56% of Americans set a budget for their Christmas spending. And only 64% of that group actually stick to their budget.


GRANT: If you break it down, that means only about 1/3 of Americans make and stick to their budget.


MAK: Way to work the math G.


GRANT: Thanks but it’s scary that two out of every three families don’t make and keep on a budget.


MAK: Sounds like a couple easy steps to make Christmas more affordable.


GRANT: Sure does.


MAK: So how about going through things?


GRANT: Okay, start saving early whenever possible to reach your goal.


MAK: Plan ahead to buy when the time is right.


GRANT: And lastly, track your expenses, set a budget, stick to it and look for trade offs to tighten up.


MAK: Which completes our SPLAT plan.


GRANT: Do you have any other ideas?


MAK: Well, I’m thinking about hacks. Are we talking about cheat codes to make Christmas more affordable?


GRANT: Exactly. You can make a bunch of Christmas gifts instead of buying stuff. Maybe Dad could make a sweater with his belly lint. That sweater is growing. But the core idea is great. Plus, there are tons of homemade ideas on YouTube.


MAK: There sure is.


GRANT: Hey, you could also sell some stuff. You don’t need to make a little extra money.


MAK: Another great idea.


GRANT: We can also look for free stuff to do instead of spending money. Many places have free family events.


MAK: Agree but there are probably a lot less this year.


GRANT: What else? Hey, I guess we probably should ask dad at some point.


MAK: Oops, I totally forgot. Dad.


DAD: Hey, what’s up guys?


MAK: Dad, are you wondering where we’ve been?


GRANT: Yeah, we’ve been talking for quite a while now.


DAD: Nope. I just figured you guys did all your research. So I’ve been sitting out here in the snow soaking up some rays with a hot cup of mold wine.


MAK: Dad, you’re getting more and more unique.


GRANT: You really do. Anyways, we did have one question. What’s your number one tip for hacking Christmas finances? Go.


DAD: Well, I’m figuring you guys covered expenses. So I’d say find a side hustle, go find some green.


MAK: Like finding a way to make cash.


GRANT: Like our dog walking business.


DAD: Exactly. But it could be anything. Whatever you’re good at that people will pay for. Hey, cleaning off the snow so I can get back into the house will be a great start. Now I’m gonna go back to my snow bathing.


MAK: Well, I guess now we know, all you have to do to afford Christmas is…


BOTH: SPLAT! Plus a few hacks with a side hustle.


DAD: Awesome. So until next time.


BOTH: Bye!


DAD: Christmas is a beautiful time of year. It just has that feeling. If you know what I mean, you don’t need me to say more. And yes, I do love Elvis during Christmas. It can be tough to afford all those expenses. Mak and G hit on some great ideas for making it a little more manageable. By saving and planning ahead, it can be a lot more digestible. And that goes for everyone, not just parents, but kids too .Imagine how awesome you feel pain for some of the gifts you give with money you’ve saved throughout the year. I think that would be pretty stellar. Of course, it’s not always possible to follow all of the ideas we explored here. Life happens and unexpected expenses come along, but find a good mix, adjust a little as you go along and magic will happen. I’ll bet there are some things you do that nobody would really notice if you took them away, or you should just drop some of the stuff to keep the weight off, or to keep your sanity in check. We’re back next week to talk about the other more important side of Christmas charity. This is a given time of year. Thanks again for being here. And please like, comment, subscribe and review. Thanks!


BOTH: Bye!

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