6 Women Share How Much They’re Spending On The Holidays — & How They’re Paying For It All

Are those holiday bells ringing or the change in your pocket jingling to remind you that, yes, the most expensive time of the year is here? 
 
It’s not just gift lists and charity drives and all the sparkly window decor luring you into every store you pass that causes things to add up — there's also the transportation to and from the multitude of festive events; the hostess gifts you don’t want to show up without; the looks (New Year’s outfits! Holiday PJs! Thousands of sweaters!); and the food, festive napkins, and bottled beverages you supply at your own casual holiday gatherings. Yes, the holiday season costs a lot. 
 
That’s why we partnered with Affirm — a tool that takes the stress out of holiday spending by letting you
split your purchase into easy monthly payments — and gathered six women to share how much they’re really spending this holiday season, as well as their best tips for navigating all those costs.

Disclosure: Rates are between 10–30% APR, and a down payment may be required. Subject to eligibility check and approval. Payment options depend on your purchase amount. Affirm loans are made by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC.

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Illustrated by Lily Fulop
Alexa Coughlin, The Upcycler
 
Occupation: Owner of RAT BOI 
Industry: Sustainable fashion 
Age: 29
Location: Ventura, CA
Salary: A little in flux because I left my full-time movie-producing job in July to pursue my small business full time
 
Holiday Expenses
Travel: $400 (I’m spending a good chunk of my holiday funds on a trip to Mammoth for my best friend’s 30th birthday.)
Gifts: $250 (Year one of my small business means the holidays are tight this year —which I’ve already discussed with friends and family. That being said, I am working on creating some great upcycled gifts. I've also budgeted some money to shop local, supporting my incredibly talented friends in my community. I love gifting from local artisans because it’s not only a unique gift, it also supports my community and local economy!)
Hosting: $80 (Four words: Karaoke Holiday Dance Party.)
Outfits: Less than $30 (I’ll either make it, thrift it, or wear something I already own.)
 
“If you're on a budget, I have one word for you: upcycle! Not only do you save money and help our planet by reducing your carbon footprint, but spending time to make something unique for a loved one always feels more personal and thoughtful than something picked up at the mall,” Alexa says.

“The possibilities are endless, but some of my favorite upcycling projects are turning old jars, unwanted mugs, or empty coffee cans into planters and propagating succulent trimmings in them; using broken necklaces or bracelets to make one-of-a-kind friendship bracelets; or making scrunchies for RAT BOI from old dresses that don't fit, or fit my style, anymore.” 
Illustrated by Lily Fulop
Laurice Wardini, The Planner
 
Occupation: Freelance writer and founder of ClothedUp
Industry: Media and fashion
Age: 21
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $40,000
 
Holiday Expenses
Travel: $165
Gifts: $300
Secret Santa: $25
Parties: $25 (Uber)
Outfits: $80
 
“It’s easy to put off gift-buying until the last minute. When this happens, you have to scramble around searching for the perfect gift, and you’re not as worried about sticking to your budget. As a result, we often go way over budget,” Laurice says. “Honestly, you shouldn’t buy anything full price during the holidays. I sign up for emails from my favorite retailers and check them often to see if there are any exclusive deals. I actually have an entirely separate email address for this, so it’s easy to keep track and they don’t flood my regular inbox. I also use a coupon-finding plugin that works very well. You could also download coupon apps for any in-store deals.” 

Laurice has also used Affirm to help with holiday shopping. “Instead of paying for your entire order up front, you’re able to split the payments over time,” she explains. “This is especially convenient during the holidays, since we spend so much more money on gifts. You can basically shop anywhere and pay over time.” 
The Affirm app lets you easily search by store, shop, and select a payment plan that works best for your budget. "This year, I plan to use Affirm to splurge on a gift for my mom, probably a high-end back massager or another nice self-care gift," Laurice says.
Illustrated by Lily Fulop
Shanna Battle, The Thrifter
 
Occupation: Outreach coordinator for parks and recreation, and lifestyle blogger 
Industry: Government
Age: 30-ish
Location: Richmond, VA
Salary: $42,000
 
Holiday Expenses
Travel: $50-$80 (to cover gas and travel snacks)
Gifts: $700 (this includes my son, parents, nephews, grandfather, and cat)
Secret Santa: $20
Hosting: $30 (I don't host at my home but will take things over to my parents’)
Parties: $40-ish
Outfits: $20 (only if I need a piece to top off a look)
Decor: $20 (tree from my local market)
 
In this spend-heavy time of the year, Shanna is prioritizing thrifting for gifts, outfits, and decor. “I’ve bought plenty of holiday outfits at thrift stores, and typically they’ve only been worn once or maybe never. Why spend a whole bunch of money on a sparkly pantsuit to wear once?”

Instead, she searches for secondhand items. She typically finds seasonal clothing, including “ugly sweaters” and New Year’s outfits, in good condition — that is, without pulls, stains, or weird smells — and many thrift shops curate their clothing seasonally to help push timely merch. Gifts can also be easy to find at thrift stores: either packaged sets (like perfume or self-care products) that were donated, unique items, or a brand-name piece of clothing or accessory that’s actually affordable on consignment.
Illustrated by Lily Fulop
Emilia Taneva, The Staycationer

Occupation: Board-certified orthodontist and influencer
Industry: Medicine
Age: Millennial
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: Undisclosed 

Holiday Expenses
Travel: $12,000 (airfare and 10 days in an all-inclusive resort for three people and a baby — husband, me, and our nanny)
Gifts: Husband: $1,000-2,000; Baby: $200; Close family (mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephews): $3,500; End-of-year assistants’ bonuses: $1,200; Friends: $500
Secret Santa: $200
Hosting: $1,500 (for food and drinks)
Parties: $1,000
Outfits: $3,500
Charities: $5,000 
Decor: $1,000 (for a tree and holiday decor, plus new ornaments bought after January 5 on 50–70% discount)

Taking advantage of your time off and ready to get out of town? Emilia advises to plan early and book vacations well in advance for peak season, which is between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Procrastinating? Don’t panic! You can still enjoy the thrills of travel at a steep discount, by, well, staying close to home. “Consider doing a staycation and visiting some fun local attractions you don’t usually get to during the rest of the year,” Emilia says. Stay in a hotel, plan an itinerary, and enjoy parts of your city or town that you don’t usually carve out time to appreciate. 
Illustrated by Lily Fulop
Maiko Kyogoku, The Experientialist 
 
Occupation: Restaurant owner (Bessou)
Industry: Hospitality
Age: 37
Location: New York, NY 
Salary: Undisclosed

Holiday Expenses
Travel: $300 
Gifts: $300 (in the form of experiences) 
Secret Santa: $50 
Hosting: $50 (potluck)
Parties: $300 (staff holiday party)

“I feel like the greatest gift of all is time,” Maiko says. “As a busy entrepreneur, it's difficult to keep in touch with friends and family. For the holidays, I try to give them the gift of an experience over a material object. I mean, how many sweaters can you give dad anyway? I would rather have the chance to create a new memory with him.” 

For example, she’s purchased Groupons to King Spa for friends. “That way, we get to relax for the day, catch up, and do some much-needed self-care in the process! It's a win-win in that your loved ones get to try something new, and sometimes it will be an experience where you get to join and share in that time with them. It doesn't have to be expensive!”
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Illustrated by Lily Fulop
Rana Argenio, The Host 

Occupation: Founder and CEO of 10 Grove
Industry: Luxury bedding
Age: 32
Location: Undisclosed
Salary: Undisclosed

Holiday Expenses 
Travel: $2,500 (This year I have a wedding pre-Christmas and a business trip right after New Year's, so multi-destination flights it is!)
Gifts: $1,500 (It’s really important for me to get people what they really want and enjoy, so I don’t start out with a strict budget per person but try to keep to an overall aggregate budget. Plus, both my husband and sister are December babies, so I have to account for multiple gifts for each of them.)
Secret Santa: $50 (I don’t like adding things to the junk drawer, so I always try to find useful and practical “life” gifts, which most of the time revolve around the kitchen or travel. The Container Store is great for this.)
Hosting: $500 (I host a lot, and when I do, I love doing it family-style and preparing a variety of foods so there’s something for everyone.)
Outfits: $0 (I’m not huge on shopping for an occasion. I focus on buying pieces throughout the year that I really love and can wear across a variety of occasions. Plus, I basically live in black and neutrals, so for holidays, I don’t have to allocate a specific budget but rather focus on styling pieces I already have with different shoes and accessories.)

“For me, holidays are all about hosting; I love having friends over, whether it's for casual wine and cheese, an impromptu dinner, or a more official holiday party. I find it to be so much more personal, comfortable, special, and usually more economical, as well,” Rana says. She usually asks guests to bring their beverage of choice, so everyone can contribute to the experience and bring something the group can enjoy together. As the host, you don’t have to pick up the whole bar tab.

“I love the idea of spending time together over a home-cooked meal, so cooking classes are one of my favorite things to gift, whether for a couple to enjoy together or for me to attend with a friend. I feel it’s an experience that brings us all closer together, and given there are so many options, it never gets old!”
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