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A properly budgeted Christmas

My wife and I are still paying off debt, so we didn’t budget anything for Christmas. How much do you think we should spend on close friends and family members?

Dear Dave,

We have three daughters under the age of 5, so we may be spending quite a bit on things like weddings in the years to come. Is there a Baby Step for weddings? If not, during which Baby Step do you recommend setting aside money for this?
Dear Carrie,
I don’t have a Baby Step for weddings, but in my mind it would come after Baby Step 5, which is putting aside a college fund for your children. Once you have education savings, retirement and extra house payments underway, then you could start putting aside a little extra for weddings.
This may not make me popular with some young ladies or their moms, but an education is more important than a wedding. Maybe this is the dad in me coming out, but if I had to choose between paying for college educations and paying for big weddings, I’m going to pay for school. In my mind, anyone who disagrees with that is kind of a twit.
Weddings are wonderful, and you should mark these kinds of milestones with celebration. But a wedding is only a one-day event. Plus, there’s absolutely no statistical correlation between the size and expense of the wedding and the success of the marriage!

My wife and I are still paying off debt, so we didn't budget anything for Christmas. How much do you think we should spend on close friends and family members?


Dear Dan,

Not having a budget for Christmas probably isn't a great idea if you want to have a happy marriage! It's really not that difficult. I don't know if there's a certain amount that works for everyone, because everybody's circumstances are different. But you must have a plan when holidays or other special occasions come along — especially when you're trying to get out of debt.

If you have kids, you certainly need to budget for them. They may not get everything they want, but there's no reason there can't be something from Santa under the tree. You also need to budget a little something for your spouse. The good thing is you can have a little fun with these gifts and make them more from the heart than the wallet.

What if you gave your wife a coupon that says you'll cook a real dinner for her and the kids once a week for the next three months? Or perhaps it's a voucher for a free back rub any time she's feeling stressed and tired. Maybe you could find a nice but inexpensive frame and put a favorite picture of the two of you inside. Things that come from the heart, or that include little acts of kindness or serving the other person, can go a long way. Those kinds of things are especially meaningful to most folks during the holiday season.

Trust me, Dan. You can have a wonderful, loving, quality Christmas without spending a lot of money. You'll have to spend a little here and there, but just make sure it's an amount that's appropriate for your financial situation. If you're making $200,000 and trying to get out of debt, that's one thing. But if you're making $20,000 a year and trying to get out of debt, you need to do things that are creative and don't require a lot of cash!

Dave Ramsey is America's trusted voice on money and business. He's authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. His newest book, written with his daughter Rachel Cruze, is titled Smart Money Smart Kids and is out now. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at