By Sheila Walkington, BBA, CFP®
According to a recent article in The Toronto Star, on average, Canadians will each spend $885 on Christmas this year and that’s down $68 from last year. That’s a lot of money. But at this time of year, it’s easy to shop a little here and a little there, without realizing how much you’re actually spending.
If you want to avoid the January overspending hangover, write down the names of the people you’ll be buying gifts for and how much you intend to spend on each person. Also write down all your other Christmas expenses: new clothes, special food items, decorations, hostess gifts. Taking an honest look at the numbers can be the wake-up call to consider the following money-saving tips.
Be a Grinch. Be the one in the office or social circle to bring up the idea of not exchanging gifts. Many people may be relieved. Decide instead to go out for a holiday lunch or dinner as a group.
Be a Scrooge and watch the nickels and dimes. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of things and believe that the expensive napkins, with the cute retro Santa, will make the party better than the less expensive plain napkins. They won’t.
Use coupons. Not just the ones that come in your weekly flyers, (those can help you watch the nickels and dimes) but make coupons as gifts. You can find templates online and print them on glossy paper at an office supply store. The benefit of a coupon is that you don’t have to pay for the gift until later, taking some strain off the Christmas budget. You can give a coupon for lunch or dinner, for a night out at the movies, or for things that don’t cost a dime, like babysitting for friends so they can have a night out.
Shop online. There are often great deals online with free shipping, plus you save time and gas and the risk of impulse spending at the mall. And don’t forget to check out sites like groupon.ca for some great discounts.
Use your talents. If you’re a great baker give people cookies if you can knit or sew put your skills to use making truly personal gifts. If you’re a shutterbug print and frame some of your photos.
Remember that giving is not just about gifts. If you think about your own best memories, they probably include activities like walking at night and looking at the lights, making decorations, telling stories, playing board games and sharing a meal. Giving of ourselves, being in the moment and not the mall, is the richest gift of all.