How much are Georgians spending this Christmas?

Just 15 percent of Georgians spend more than $1,000 on holiday expenses, while 29 percent spend between $500 and $1,000 and 28 percent spend between $300 and $500.

That’s according to new information from the 2016 Mid-Year Consumer Survey by Georgia released this week by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA).

The average American spent $734 on gifts, $120 on food, $78 on decorations, and $85 on flowers and cards during the 2015 holiday season, according to AOL Mass Media.

Cutting costs may be necessary to stay financially afloat during the holidays for 24 percent of respondents to the GCUA survey who said they don’t plan ahead for expenses. Eight percent said they start planning less than a month in advance and 22 percent said they start planning one-to-three months in advance.

“Thinking ‘outside the box’ during the holidays may be the answer,” Kimberly Ford, vice president of marketing and human resources at Georgia Heritage Federal Credit Union, said in a news release. “The old adage, ‘It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts,’ really does resonate with people. Making homemade cookies, cakes or other holiday foods to give to family and friends will save you the trouble of shopping during the holiday rush, not to mention the cost savings. As an added bonus, you may want to include the recipe.”

Ford also suggests checking out Pinterest for creative, homemade gift ideas.

“Another idea is giving the gift of your time,” Ford added. “Grandparents can babysit the grandkids and give the parents a much-needed date night. Making a phone call to someone you haven’t seen in a while can be priceless. And volunteering at a soup kitchen or at the humane society will give you an emotional boost. The holidays can be a time of joy, but the happiness can quickly fade into stress if you set your expectations too high.”

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