How to manage your spending this holiday season


✔ There are lots of ways to celebrate the season without spending a lot of money. 

✔ Whether you’re looking to save money decorating, buying gifts or entertaining, creating a list with a budget will keep your spending on track.

✔ Great savings come by planning ahead. Prep this year for next year and save money.

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, décor and entertainment, it’s an expensive time of year — and the anticipation of bills coming due in January can make the season feel more stressful than festive. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce your spending and have a wonderful time. Here are some tips and ideas to help you manage your holiday spending.

1. Save on decorations

The best way to make your home inviting for the holidays is just to let people know they’re welcome and that you want to spend time with them. The rest is just decoration. So don’t feel the need to overspend on things you may not need. Here’s how:

Reuse and recycle

One of the best places to find inexpensive décor is at your local thrift store. When people move, they sometimes part with treasures. For example, the inventory at your local thrift store could include anything from strings of lights to artificial trees, ornaments, and loads of other seasonal items, all at prices that could beat the dollar stores.  

Do-it-yourself (DIY)

If you find everything at the store a little too expensive or boring, turn around. Go home and make your decorations instead. Let the kids deck the halls with fingerpaint art or use old family photos to build collages. Here’s a list of fun, cheap, and memorable ways to spruce up your space on a small budget.

2. Save on gifts  

The past year has been challenging for most Canadians, with everything costing more. Manage your spending by setting the right tone with your friends and family and kick off the season by suggesting everyone keeps things simple and low-key. You may be surprised by how warmly they accept a suggestion to forgo expense or extravagant gifts in favour of sticking to a lower spending limit. Here are some other ways to help manage your gift list:

Make a really good list before you shop 

Running out to buy last-minute gifts or trying to buy for too many people will likely force you to spend more than you want to this year. To keep costs down, talk to your family and friends – chances are they’re in the same situation. You may decide only to buy gifts for the kids. Or suggest a new gift-giving tradition where each adult buys a gift for just one other person. Here are some year-round budgeting basics to help get started. 

Consider donations instead of gifts

The adults on your list may have favourite charities, organizations, or faith groups they want to support. You can easily ask them which causes they want to help out and then donate on their behalf. This way you have total control over how much you spend, with no chance of going over budget. Many Canadian charities will send cards, gifts, or email thank-you notes to the people on your list. 

Choose thoughtful gifts over expensive stuff

Once you’ve made your gift list, and committed to sticking to it, you can spend more time and energy thinking about what each person might like. Then, you can take the time you need to shop for deals or order a personalized gift online. Better yet, you can give gifts of kindness or effort – such as weekly backrubs for your special someone, a full housecleaning for your busy sister or babysitter or your harried neighbour. With time on your side and a complete gift-giving list, you’re sure to spend less and put more thought into each present.

Save on wrapping and shipping

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 be sure to take advantage of free shipping for online purchases when you can. 

3. Entertaining

The holidays can be a whirlwind of activity, with plenty of parties and gatherings. Entertaining and being entertained is the best part of the “most wonderful time of the year”, but expenses can mount as you host friends and family and get multiple invitations to events. With a little planning and a few money-saving tips, like how to save on groceries, you can enjoy the season without going overboard with your holiday spending.

Make it a potluck

Most people are happy to bring a dish or pick up something ready-made the day before. It’s a great way to get everyone involved and share the costs. Start early by asking each of your guests if they can help out. Once you’ve gotten a few volunteer chefs, you can assign dishes to friends or family members so that you stay in control of the menu, and you won’t have to make everything. Even those who may not want to cook or are truly lost in the kitchen can bring beverages, dinner rolls, or snacks. 

Plan a brunch instead of dinner 

Brunch is a less time-consuming and less formal way to entertain on the big day. Kids can open gifts, you can serve a lighter meal, and family members with children can get home early. You won’t need to serve cocktails or wine or create a multi-course menu, and many brunch dishes can be prepped ahead of time, allowing you to enjoy time with your guests. Hosting brunch instead of dinner means you can serve less expensive egg-based dishes and provide baked goods and spreads that will not break the bank.

Pitch in and order in

The traditional holiday dinner might not be your thing. And spending the entire day cooking may be the last thing you want to do. Many local restaurants are open and ready to offer all of your favourite foods. Chip in with a few relatives and share the cost. 

4. It’s never too late to start early

It’s a good idea to plan ahead by starting at the end of this holiday season. A great way to prepare and save for next year is to use your receipts from this year’s holiday shopping to help you understand your spending. Here are some ideas for year-round holiday planning:

Shop the sales for post-season items

Holiday gifts, décor, wrapping paper – those items get marked down by huge margins as soon as the holidays are over because stores want to clear out the inventory. Go holiday shopping on Boxing Day, and you could get 70% off or more on these items. Save them for next year.

Start a holiday budget – in January

By saving for next year’s holiday ahead of time, you’ll have the money on hand so you won’t need to use a credit card. This will save you money on interest charges in January when it’s time to pay off your credit cards. Secondly, by saving up throughout the year you will have already defined a budget that you can afford to shop with.

Holiday celebrations don’t need to be stressful or financially challenging. By setting expectations with friends and family, sticking to a budget and planning before you hit the stores, you’ll find that you can enjoy the season without breaking the bank.

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice on any subject matter.

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DIY Holiday Gift Guide: ideas to help you save money this holiday season
DIY Holiday Gift Guide: ideas to help you save money this holiday season

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