Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

It's easy to get carried away. As Americans when we do something, we like to do it big. And this is no different for the Christmas season. Big parties, expensive gifts—in fact lots of gifts. The average American will spend nearly $983 for presents this holiday season according to the American Research Group. This is $54 more than last year. The idea behind giving is a good thing, after all, we want to be generous and gracious givers—but when giving turns into extravagance, when we max out the credit card and go overboard, we often feel the pain when January bills are due. Gifts and giving are part of the Christmas celebration but this needs to be balanced by living within our means.