December 09, 2020 | By: Sandra Sherk

20 Tips to Get You Through the Holidays Without Going Into Debt

Holidays and Money

The holidays are here, and while they may look a bit different this year due to COVID-19, many of us will still be celebrating – and spending money. While reports show that Canadians are planning on saving money during Christmas and other holidays due to the pandemic, we’ve put together a list of some cost-saving ideas you might not have thought of to help you avoid the dreaded “holiday debt hangover.”

The New Normal: Holiday Spending in 2020

This season, Canadians are expected to spend an average of $1,104, down 30% from last year. Studies show that on average they’ll spend $630 on gifts (vs. $647 in 2019), $308 on travel (vs. $743 in 2019), and $166 (vs. $204 in 2019) on entertainment. Another major trend accelerated by the pandemic is curbside pick-up, with 33% of shoppers choosing this method for their online purchases, compared to 13% last year. 

How to Save Money for the Holidays

If you're looking to make some cuts like a lot of Canadians, here are some ways to do it! While some may feel like a sacrifice, just think about how good you’ll feel when the holiday bills roll in come January and you’re not struggling to make payments! So, here’s our list of 20 ways to do Christmas on a budget.

  1. Establish a Budget. The best way to avoid overspending is to know how much you have to spend! You’ll need to take a look at your income and expenses to make sure you don’t spend more than you have available. While it’s tempting to simply put it on a credit card and worry about it later, interest quickly piles up and can become overwhelming – so be sure to do your Christmas shopping on a budget.

  2. Track Your Spending. We recommend tracking your spending year-round, but even if you don’t, you should definitely practice it around the holidays. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the yuletide and go over-budget if you’re not tracking your expenses. Be sure to download our free Budget Planner + Expense Tracker to help you practice safe spending!

  3. Make a List. Just as you tend to buy grocery items you don’t need when you shop without a list, the same thing can happen when you’re holiday shopping. So, it’s best to always make a list and stick to it. 

  4. Go in on “Group Gifts.” If you have a large family or a circle of friends you buy gifts for, the cost of individual Christmas gifts can quickly add up. Instead, get friends, siblings, cousins – whoever – to go in on a special, more expensive gift for certain people. 

  5. Hold a Secret Santa. Wondering how to save money on Christmas presents? Get your family or friends to agree to a Secret Santa, where you all draw a name and set a limit on how much you’ll spend on gifts. It’s a great way to ensure everyone gets something and no one breaks their budget. Check out our list of 10 Secret Santa Gifts That Won’t Break Your Budget. Another great idea is to have a White Elephant Gift Exchange where everyone provides a wrapped gift of about equal value, and each person can either open a wrapped gift, or steal one that has already been unwrapped by someone else (each gift can only be 'stolen' once). Check out this list of hilarious, and in some cases impractical White Elephant Gift ideas.

  6. Regift. While some people may balk at the idea of regifting (Seinfeld did a whole episode on the topic), it can be a money-saver and help you avoid clutter. Think of it as “gift recycling.” After all, while you may have no use for the gift, someone you know may love it! But there is one important rule to remember when regifting: make sure you know who the gift originally came from, so you don’t accidentally give it back to them!

  7. Have a Virtual Gathering. Travel can get expensive, and right now, some people may not be able to gather in large groups anyhow due to COVID. Instead you can host a virtual gathering online! It costs nothing and can be a lot of fun. Kumospace is a great alternative to regular virtual chats because it lets you create an environment where multiple chats can happen in different areas of a room or location. So you can move around and have different conversations with different people, just like a real gathering.

  8. Accept Only Realistic Santa Lists. You may be tempted to spend more on the kids this year since they may be feeling down and unable to see friends due to COVID restrictions. However, they still need to be realistic with their Santa lists. By setting the stage early and talking with your children sooner rather than later, you can avoid their disappointment when they don’t get the newest PlayStation 5.

  9. Get Creative. Some people might think homemade gifts are hokey, but for those of us who don’t bake, knit, or do any kind of woodwork ourselves, we can really appreciate these homemade goods. Plus, it takes more time and energy to create something versus just picking something up at the store, so your homemade gift will really show you care.

  10. Hold a Holiday Potluck. If you’ll be gathering safely with loved ones, why buy all the food yourself? That can get expensive fast. Start a new tradition and encourage others to prepare and bring some of the food. It makes for great variety, and some people actually like to showcase their culinary skills.

  11. Gift Your Time. Not every gift has to have a price tag attached! Consider offering your services. Depending on your skills, you could offer to shovel snow, do someone’s hair or nails, give someone a massage, or run some errands for them.

  12. Mail Letters Instead of Cards. Christmas cards are nice, but they can be expensive. And simply sending an email can seem dismissive. Instead, write letters and mail them out. It’ll mean more to someone than a fancy card!

  13. Wrap Gifts Creatively. The cost of all that wrapping paper can add up–and it just winds up in the trash as soon as the gift is opened. Remember, it’s what’s inside that counts, so you can wrap your gifts in items you have around the home, like nice store bags, reused gift bags and tissue paper, magazine pages, anything goes!

  14. Avoid Bank Gift Cards. When we don’t know what to buy someone, we tend to reach for a gift card. However, those Visa, Mastercard, and American Express gift cards may come with an “activation fee” that can be as high as $4.95 depending on the value of the card. If you’re going with gift cards, purchase them directly from the store or restaurant, as there generally won’t be any additional fees other than the value of the card. Also try to purchase gift cards from local stores if you can.

  15. Avoid Buying Holiday Clothes. Sure, that dress would look great for the holiday party, but remember, most holiday clothes are worn for a short period of time. So if you are attending a holiday get together, pull something from your closet instead. As for the kids, last year’s Christmas sweater may still fit them, or look into hand-me-downs from other friends and family. 

  16. Shop Online Marketplaces. You can often find what you’re looking for, either gently-used or gently-worn, on one of the many online marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy.

  17. Shop Rakuten. This online site is an easy way to earn cash back on purchases you were going to make anyway! You simply click through the Rakuten website to the store you were planning on shopping at and they automatically give you a set percentage back. Saving money on Christmas gifts really is that easy – check it out!

  18. Only Buy Necessary Items. This is a good one, especially when it comes to stockings. Instead of buying knick knacks, purchase items your family will actually need and use, like toothbrushes, socks, nail files, nail polishes, etc. and use these as stocking stuffers. Sure, they’re not the most exciting gifts, but they’ll definitely appreciate them when they need them, eventually. (And who doesn’t love a new cozy pair of socks during winter?)

  19. Combine Your Orders. When you shop online, you’ll often have to pay a shipping fee. If you can, buy in bulk from one online retailer. When you combine products and reach a certain amount of money, shipping often becomes free (just don’t spend money on something you don’t need just to reach the free shipping threshold).

  20. Plan Early for Next Year. This may not help you now, but we’d be remiss not to include it! Prices get hiked up for the holidays, so try shopping throughout the year and tucking the presents away. Additionally, consider buying cards and gift wrapping supplies on Boxing Day and never pay full price for them again!

Don’t Go Into Debt This Holiday Season!

The true spirit of the holiday season doesn’t mean collecting a lot of debt. It’s about spending time with family and friends – safely during these times – and making memories with them. We hope you’ve found our tips for saving money during Christmas helpful (and if you’ve got some Christmas spending tips of your own, be sure to let our readers know in the comments!).

Still feeling stressed over the idea of spending money this holiday season? Worried about an impending holiday debt hangover? Download our free guide Christmas & Money or give us a call to book a free appointment with one of our awesome Credit Counsellors. One of our certified Credit Counsellors can assist you with all of your budgeting needs. We’re always happy to help at no cost to you. Simply call 1.800.267.2272 to book. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and debt-free holiday season!

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