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The holiday season is quickly approaching and if you’re like most Canadians, you’re looking for ways to save money without sacrificing any holiday spirit. Between gifts, food, decor and entertainment, it’s an expensive time of year — and the anticipation of that dreaded January credit card bill can make the season feel more stressful than festive. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce your spending and still have a wonderful time. Here are our tips for enjoying the winter holidays on a budget.
The key phrase to remember when planning for the holidays in 2020 is “low key.” As in, “let’s keep things low key this year!” Say it to your partner, your friends, your family members and anyone else who needs to hear it. This magical phrase will help set expectations with loved ones while setting the stage for a minimalist Christmas. And, it makes perfect sense! After all, the past year has been challenging for most Canadians, not just you. You may be surprised by how warmly your friends and family accept a suggestion to forgo large gifts or stick to a lower spending limit.
When shopping for presents, look for sales, coupons or bulk buying options. For example, it may be worthwhile to buy a case of wine (often sold as six or twelve bottles) directly from a winery instead of buying the same number of individual gifts. Everyone will receive a nice bottle of wine and no one will know that you saved money by buying in bulk. (And if you want, you can keep a bottle for your own household to enjoy on Christmas day!)
From homemade ornaments to baked goods and more, DIY presents are an affordable and heartfelt way to celebrate the season. Framed photos are an inexpensive and personal gift. It’s also worth considering a secret Santa swap between friends or family members instead of purchasing individual gifts for everyone on your list. Suggest it to your circle and see how it goes!
Another element to consider is how you wrap your gifts. Instead of buying fancy wrapping paper from a department store, look for discount or bulk options. Many dollar store gift bags look just as nice at a fraction of the cost! Or, go for a trendy, homey look by wrapping your gifts in plain brown kraft paper and twine. Add a red blow, a couple of small pinecones or a sprig of greenery for a festive touch.
If you’re mailing packages, do it early to avoid the added cost of rush shipping. This can save a significant amount of money, particularly if you’re mailing a number of items. The earlier you mail things, the cheaper it will be! Bonus tip: consider a holiday e-card instead of a tangible card in the mail. This will save on printing as well as the cost of stamps.
Again, the phrase to remember is “low key.” Most families will be having smaller than usual holiday dinners due to the COVID-19 pandemic, often just with their own household. While many of us will miss gathering with friends and extended family, take advantage of a smaller group. Skip appetizers and go straight for dinner. Consider a turkey breast instead of a full turkey, or go with a small ham instead. Make a few simple side dishes (mashed potatoes and a vegetable or two) instead of a big spread. Dessert can be a small pie or homemade cookies. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy to be festive. Keep it small and simple, and enjoy!
When it comes to decorating on a budget, DIY is your best friend. Look to nature and add sprigs of greenery and pinecones (they make a great centrepiece). Make a beautiful holiday bunting with dried oranges and rearrange things you already have, like candles or pretty lanterns. If you have children, spend some time making paper snowflakes together and hang them from doorways or windows in your home. Secondhand stores often have some great holiday finds, and a strand of inexpensive twinkle lights really goes a long way! Be creative and have fun with it.
Many holiday traditions will be put on hold this year, from parties and photos with Santa to annual holiday concerts. This means finding new, safe ways to enjoy the season with your loved ones. If you have kids, consider making elaborate hot chocolate at home, with plenty of whipped cream, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and sprinkles on top. Cozy up on the couch with some classic Christmas movies on TV or your favourite streaming service. Go on a walk or a drive through the neighbourhood at night to see the Christmas lights, build snowmen or have a snowball fight at the park. Have a holiday sing-a-long over video chat or bake cookies as a family. No matter what you do, do it with love and you’ll find yourself feeling as festive as ever. Happy holidays!