The holiday season is one of giving, which often means it is also the season of spending. Help take the stress out of the holiday season by creating and sticking to a holiday budget plan to keep you from overspending.
You’ve made your gift list and checked it twice – but have you calculated how much all your holiday shopping is going to cost?
According to a 2019 spending outlook complied by PricewaterhouseCoopers it is estimated that Canadians will be spending as much as $1,593 each this holiday season (up 1.9% from last year’s numbers). The good news is that there has been a a slight decline in the number of Canadians who spent more than expected on their holiday shopping from 2017 to 2018 (42% vs. 40%), according to a study from CNW group/RBC Royal Bank.
This holiday season, keep your spending in check with these eight practical tips:
8 Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Spending in Check
1. Set a spending limit
Setting a budget should always be your starting point. Make a list of everyone you wish to purchase gifts for. Don’t forget about including other holiday expenses such as additional food and beverage costs if you’re hosting, decorations, travel and accommodations, donations etc. to keep it as realistic as possible.
Review your finances to determine how much disposable income you can comfortably spend on holiday purchases without overstretching yourself. Do not plan to spend more than you have saved with a plan to pay it off later. Paying for holiday gifts on a credit card is never a good idea.
2. Start early
Try considering shopping for the holidays throughout the year. Reviewing your list and the sales ahead of time can help you maximize your savings. Capitalize on Black Friday sales (which is one week today!) on November 29th, and Cyber Monday on December 2nd. With that being said, doing your holiday gift research online will not only allow you to compare prices instantly and find the best deals, it will also save you time as you’ll no longer have to go from store to store to track down what you’re looking for. Maybe you’ll even finish your holiday shopping before they start playing Christmas music in the malls!
3. Envelope method
Divide your budget according to the different spending categories you'll have this holiday season. Create an envelope for each category (gifts, food, decorations, etc.) or for each person you buy for and put their name on it. Allocate cash to each of the envelopes and use that for the purchases. Knowing how much you have to spend on each gift will help you narrow down ideas before you shop. Think you still might be tempted to over spend? Only bring the envelope into the store with you and leave the credit cards at home.
4. Put away the plastic
Unless you are using your credit cards strategically to earn rewards, don’t put your holiday purchases on them. Unless you have the means to pay off the balance right away, don’t make the purchase. Wait until you can afford it or forgo.
5. Track your purchases
Once you begin the holiday shopping, keep track of all your purchases. Bring your gift list, along with your budget sheet, with you on every shopping trip.
As you begin to purchase gifts and spend money, be sure to subtract the amount from your running Christmas budget total. This will let you know how well you are sticking to your budget and will make it easier to adjust between categories if needed. Tracking your spending is the biggest key to sticking to your budget.
6. Redeem your rewards
If you’ve been saving up rewards points/dollars, you might be sitting on a sizeable sum of money that could be put towards offsetting a portion (or even all) of your holiday purchases. In fact, a recent report from Ontario-based market research agency Bond Brand Loyalty has estimated that Canadians are sitting on approximately $629 worth of rewards points, per collector. Take advantage of your rewards and/or cash back features to help offset your holiday expenses.
7. Suggest Secret Santa
If you have a large group of friends or family and feel overwhelmed with the pressure of buying multiple gifts, suggest doing a gift exchange like Secret Santa. You can set a dollar limit everyone is comfortable with, everyone walks away with a gift, and once recipients open their gifts, they can try and guess who their secret Santa is, adding to the fun! Be sure to check out our Holiday Gift Guide for our team's picks all under $75.
8. Be realistic
Our last and most important point. It’s so easy to get caught up in the materialistic world that the holiday season has become. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and remember what’s truly important; spending time with loved ones, making memories, being kind, giving back etc. You’ve heard it before – it’s the thought that counts.