How To Survive The Holidays On A Budget

2014-12-17

Laura Ryback

The holidays are just around the corner. The tree is up and decorated, the baking is done, cards and letters are ready to send. The kids have provided their ‘wish list’ which seems to include every item from every flyer imaginable, never mind that you have your own parents and siblings and nieces and nephews to buy for. Just the thought of the holidays can be overwhelming.

Collection of red and white gift boxes

This is a time of year that can be costly, as we shop for the perfect gifts and those special treats that grace our holiday tables. You’ve set a ‘gift’ budget and an ‘entertainment’ budget that you are comfortable with, now it’s just a matter of sticking to it. If you want to avoid that queasy feeling in January when the holiday bills arrive, here are a few tips that will help you stick to the budgets you have set:

  1. Keep track of your spending. Plain and simple. Allocate a portion of your ‘gift’ budget to each individual on your list and as you pick things up, deduct what you have spent against what you have budgeted. Stop once the budgeted amount has been reached, no if’s, and’s or but’s!
  2. Make a list and check it twice. Think about what it is you are going to buy for each person on your list and make sure the cost is within your budget for that person. Stick to the list to avoid the pitfall of overspending and have a Plan B in the event the item you want is not available.
  3. Watch for sales. This is the season of flyers, flyers and more flyers. You’ve made your list, now make sure you get the best deal you can.
  4. Manage your stocking budget. When it comes to stocking stuffers, the dollar store can be a great place to pick up craft items, toys and knick knacks at minimal cost, helping you stretch your dollar even further.
  5. Showcase your talents. A homemade item is not only a unique and meaningful gift from the heart, it can be inexpensive to create, and only you know how little it actually cost!
  6. Do you have a large family? It can become very expensive to purchase a gift for every member of an extended family. In an effort to keep everyone’s costs in line, try drawing names and put a reasonable limit on the amount to be spent on the gift, keeping in mind that it is the thought, not the dollar amount, that counts.
  7. Have a Boxing Day shopper on your list? They might appreciate receiving their gift in the form of cash or a shopping card so they can hit the stores - and the sales - on Boxing Day.
  8. Hosting a holiday dinner? Make it potluck. Not only do you reduce your costs, you also have an opportunity for friends and family to share their favourite holiday dishes.
  9. Take advantage of free events. Outdoor skating, tobogganing, snowshoeing in the park and community-run New Year’s Eve events can be a fun and inexpensive way to gather with friends and family over the holidays.

Plan for next year now

If possible, set your 2015 holiday budget now, and set aside an amount each month that will result in having the cash available when the next holiday season arrives. Put the money in an account that is not accessible with a debit card to avoid the temptation of dipping into it during the year.

Take advantage of after-Christmas clearance sales to stock up on cards, gift wrap and any decorations you may need. Just remember it is only a great deal if the item is something you will actually need next year.

Need help setting a budget? Set up an appointment with your local not-for-profit credit counselling service and set the course for a financially stress-free holiday season.