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Holiday Season Expenses: Then & Now

Written by Dustin Pellegrini on December 4, 2015 in Family Money  |   No comments

In addition to more crowded airports and roadways, each new holiday season seems to arrive with higher costs and expenses. And while online shopping and additional flight options may have made some parts of the holidays more affordable and convenient, not every cost of holiday…

HolidayExpensesThenVsNowIn addition to more crowded airports and roadways, each new holiday season seems to arrive with higher costs and expenses.

And while online shopping and additional flight options may have made some parts of the holidays more affordable and convenient, not every cost of holiday expenses has decreased in the past one or two decades. In fact, in some cases, you might end up spending even more on your annual family gatherings than you did before the rise of Internet.

Here are some ways the holidays have become more, or less, expensive over the past several decades.

Gift giving gets pricier

The Internet has certainly made many aspects of holiday shopping more convenient, but plenty of people still show up to stores after Thanksgiving. And even with numerous sales and discounts offered, prices aren’t as low as ever. Some 20 years ago, the most popular kids toys for the holidays were things like Beanie Babies, Bratz dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures—items that had cost less than $50 then.

In the last 10 years, the most popular holiday items for kids have been the iPad, Xbox, PlayStation, and other similar devices, most of which cost hundreds of dollars. Even add-ons like games, cases, and accessories can cost more than the price of a single stuffed bear. Not surprisingly, then, gift giving has now become a more expensive tradition, though shopping for presents is more easily done via the Internet. If you’re persistent enough to find the right online or in-store deal, there can be plenty of opportunities to find holiday gifts that work within your budget.

Travel expenses rise, but only if you fly

In the early-2000s, the majority of people travelling for the holiday season—over 90 percent—did so by car, leaving the rest to planes or trains. So the costs associated with travel mostly depended on the price of gas, which hovered under $2 per gallon over those years. In short: Travelling was relatively inexpensive as long as you weren’t going too far.

Holiday travelling in 2015 is very different. Articles pop up on websites months ahead of the holidays, explaining the best ways to save on travel and when to book your flight for the best possible price. Holiday-timed flights for this year seem to stretch $300 to $400 for round-trip travel. While this amount is slightly lower than last year, it’s still likely not an ideal price point for many families’ trips over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.

Food prices stay flat

No matter how many relatives you’re sharing a guest room with, you can always look forward to a big meal at the holiday table. Thanksgiving dinner may be the most well-known menu of the year, with the same turkey and sides remaining popular for decades. But has the price remained the same?

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the total cost of ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes, has hovered just below $50 for the past several years. Compare that with about $36 in 2005 and $29 in 1995, and it seems like quite a jump in just 10 and 20 years.

However, when adjusted for inflation, the total cost for your Thanksgiving dinner has actually remained relatively steady since the late 1980s, with slight increases and decreases every few years. Of course, this only covers the ingredients for the meal. If you’ve always suspected your aunt’s pie of being store-bought, it’s possible she’s been spending more over the years to keep her secret.

Your holiday traditions may have changed over the years but giving gifts, travelling, and sharing meals with family can still lift your spirits without weighing down your wallet.

Dustin Pellegrini is a senior web producer and writer at Think Glink Media, where he specializes in reporting on identity protection and credit. He studied writing and visual media at Columbia College Chicago.

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