The Holidays on a Budget
Yes, you can have a credit-free holiday season!
Though most may not be ready to think about holiday shopping and spending yet, the earlier you can get started, the better!
Spreading out holiday shopping over a longer period of time helps to control debt, control overall spending, and allows you to take advantage of timely promotions and deals (this is usually when sale season starts!).
We’ve rounded up the best ways to control spending and come out of the holidays without a mountain of debt.
Did you know that borrowing on credit surges over the holidays?
Holiday shoppers in Canada spent an estimated $1,276 per person in 2020* and 55% of Canadian millennials exceeds their holiday spending budgets.
1. Determine how much you can afford.
You can’t create a budget without knowing what you can afford. Go back to the budgeting basics and look at your ancillary spending limits. Review what you spent last year—was that reasonable? What can you afford to spend between now and the end of the holidays? That is your starting point.
2. Make a list (check it twice!)
Make a complete list of all the people you intend to buy gifts for including (but not limited to):
- Service providers (cleaner, dog walker, healthcare aide, etc.)
Look back at previous years to see if you’re missing anyone OR if you can remove someone (i.e. that friend that you buy for that never reciprocates). It’s OK to pare back!
3. Set a budget.
We know, we’re beating a dead horse, but creating a budget truly is the best way to get started.
When making gift-giving plans with family and friends, set a limit. Create a spreadsheet that details who you need to buy for and what your budget is per person.
Other things to include in your holiday budget:
- Wrapping accessories such as wrapping paper, boxes, bows. TIP: Save money by shopping at the dollar store, painting newsprint, or decorating a roll of Kraft paper. Newsprint and Kraft paper are also recyclable!
- Dinners & parties. Start that holiday meal plan and remember, the more people you host, the more expensive it will be. TIP: Cut down on your own expenses by making your dinner or get-together a potluck.
- Décor (including tree!). TIP: If you celebrate Christmas, invest in a faux Christmas tree after the season has ended when they go on sale. This will save money year after year if you don’t purchase fresh ones each season.
- Think: holiday parties and dinners (stretchy pants, anyone?).
- Donations and other expenses. TIP: Include a buffer! You may forget about a gift you need to buy for someone, or something may end up costing more than you had originally estimated.
Take your total budget amount and divide that dollar amount by the number of weeks you have between now and the holidays. This will show you how much you should spend per pay period (or per week, depending on your circumstance) towards the holidays. Compare this to step 1. Is there alignment or do adjustments need to be made? Be realistic about what you can afford!
4. Plan ahead
Research your intended gifts before you ever step foot in a store. It pays to comparison shop! Check flyers, look for coupon codes, and plan ahead for upcoming sales (like Black Friday) when your items might be cheaper.
Once your shopping list is good to go, schedule accordingly. TIP: Eat before you leave! Don’t shop on an empty stomach and spend your budget at the food court.
BONUS Gift-Giving Tips
- Re-gift! No one will know, especially if it’s never been used or opened. Better that someone else enjoys it rather than it taking up space in your home.
- Create it! If you’re crafty and enjoy making things, handmade gifts are heartfelt and meaningful, especially from kids. Ideas include physical items like clothing or trinkets or home-baked goods like cookies and cakes.
- Give experiences! Instead of purchasing gifts for each member of a family, consider combining those funds to give a family experience instead. Ideas include an outing to a museum, zoo, water park, etc. or a year’s subscription to an online streaming service. Monthly subscription boxes of activities they can do together is another unique idea!
- Cut the paper! If you are one of those folks who sends holiday cards, consider sending e-cards instead. They are inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
*Statistics from https://reviewmoose.ca/blog/holiday-spending-statistics/