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How to Keep Your Holiday Budget in Check

by:
Sandra Sherk

The holidays are only two months away—are you ready? Maybe you shop year-round for your holiday gifts, snatching something up when the price is right, or perhaps you wait until the last minute hoping to catch a deal. Either way, a recent survey reveals that Canadians will be spending more this year—about 3.7 per cent more than they did last year, to be exact—for an average of $1,563. The poll also indicated that nearly 75 per cent of respondents will use their credit cards to make their purchases. We don't want to deter anyone from the gift of giving, but here are 12 tips to help you reel in your spending just a bit and avoid the dreaded debt hangover come January.

12 Ways to Curb Holiday Spending

1. Create a Spending Plan

Review your ongoing income and expenses to see what you can realistically afford to spend this holiday season. Then, establish a holiday spending plan and don’t forget to include things like stocking stuffers, cards, wrapping paper (always save what you can for next year), postage, holiday clothes, travel expenses, and extra food and baking supplies.

2. Decrease the Number of Gifts

To help stay on budget, consider decreasing the number of people you buy gifts for. Does your kids' crosswalk really need a box of chocolates, or your neighbour a fruit cake? Does your sister really need a gift basket when she's been purging her house for the last few months? What about Grandma? Does she really need another Christmas ornament, or is it more thoughtful—and cheaper—to spend an afternoon or two with her instead? To help keep your Christmas list down to a minimum you can also consider drawing names for a gift exchange.

3. Cut Out the Cards

Greeting cards are getting to be as expensive as the gifts themselves, especially if you’ve got a large family and a lot of friends! Consider cutting out some of the cards and simply send emails, e-cards or make a phone call. (If you have the time, you can make your own personalized cards.) But if you can't say no and need to purchase cards, always buy a variety pack to save money.

4. Keep the Kids in Check

Once you know how much you can afford to spend on your kids for their holiday gifts, make sure you keep their Santa list focused. You can keep their wish list in line with your budget by simply talking to them. (Maybe Santa has fallen on some hard times this year and had to downsize his sleigh or workshop, so he can only bring one gift per "good" kid.) This stops them from building up their hopes only to have them crushed on Christmas morning.

5. Start Shopping Now

We tend to spend more when we are rushed or in a hurry. So, start shopping sooner and slow down, this will help you spend less and maybe even enjoy the holiday shopping experience a little bit more!

6. Shop with Cash

It's easier to stay on budget when you only have cash in your wallet, so consider leaving your credit and debit cards at home.

7. Be Careful Shopping Online

Digital shoppers are on the rise in Canada, with 22.5 million making purchases online in 2018. It's certainly convenient, but dangerous; it’s easier to spend more with just a tap on your phone than having to go to the store, look for items, compare and evaluate, and then finally wait in line to make the purchase. Also, be sure not to fall into the “free shipping” trap. That’s when a retailer will offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount. This hook persuades many people to spend more than they normally would, and more than what the shipping would cost.

8. Make a List, Check it Twice

Keep track of what you need to buy and mark it off as you purchase it. By making a list and sticking to it, you can prevent last-minute and often expensive shopping trips and impulse purchases.

9. Watch the Stocking Stuffers

When did the Christmas stocking become a gift in itself? Consider going old school to a time when the stocking held some candy and an orange, or some fun school supplies and a small kitschy toy from the Dollar Store. You can also use the stocking as a way to provide some needed toiletries.

10. Start New Traditions

The annual Christmas party doesn't have to be a full course meal. You can do an "appetizers and dessert only" holiday get together. Or, if you’ve got family and friends within walking distance, you can consider doing a travelling holiday party where each course is eaten at a different house. (It's also a great way to walk-off those holiday pounds and work up an appetite for the next course.) This way, no one family has to cover the cost of the entire meal, and you get to try a variety of tasty goodies while enjoying everyone’s holiday decorations and the Christmas lights in your neighbourhood along the way! (You can even throw in some Christmas caroling.) But, if you’re determined to do it all yourself, check out our tips on How to Shop for Meals on a Budget.

11. Make it a Potluck

Make the holiday dinner a true family affair and ask others to help with the meal. Maybe Deb makes a great sweet potato casserole and Daphne does a tasty mincemeat pie. When everyone pitches in, it makes for a better variety of eats.

12. Buy on Boxing Day

Finally, put some money away from this year’s holiday budget so you can go out on Boxing Day and get up to 75 per cent off greeting cards, wrapping paper, and decorations. That will put you ahead for next year’s festivities!

Remember, the true meaning of Christmas is spending time with family and friends—not what's underneath the tree. If holiday spending or everyday budgeting has you stressed out, remember, Credit Canada is only a phone call away. One of our certified credit counsellors will be happy to help you with your budgeting needs, as well as any other financial concerns you have. Just give us a call at 1.800.267.2272 and we'll set you up with a free appointment. The counselling session is completely free and confidential.

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Topics: Holidays and Money

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