Over a third of Canadians are planning to drastically reduce what they would normally spend this holiday season. And another third are seriously considering making cuts.
Spending less is actually a good thing and trust me, no magic will be lost in the process.
What a reduced budget will do is help you and your family focus on helping others, safely connecting with loved ones and giving, though smallish, from the heart.
Growing up, my parents legitimately didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and the holidays were still amazing. Gifts were second-hand or homemade (baking and crafts, primarily). Cards were handwritten letters on loose-leaf paper with sparkles glued to the edges. Anything that was purchased new was done so on sale and well in advance. All our activities were free — skating, tobogganing, carolling, hiking, driving to see the best decorated houses and trees in the city and so on. Parties and dinners were potluck.
Here’s how to keep the magic on a tight budget.
Make a plan to have fun while staying out of debt
Choosing to scale back on all the things will keep you out of debt and on budget! And yes, you need to set a realistic budget. There’s nothing like a whopper of a credit-card bill in January to ruin a great season.
Make that list. Check it twice. Trim it by half.
What remains on your list should be your fun and magical priorities: socially distant events, gifts, baking supplies, meals and more.
Worried about the social implications? Get your friends and family on the same page right now about where you are at financially. Maybe they’d be open to a Secret Santa or stockings only. You’ll probably find most are in the same boat, and will be relieved that the financial expectations are smaller on everyone!
You might be thinking your kids won’t understand your frugality or, worse, think they’re less loved because of it. However, they will understand if you root them in the principle that a magical holiday season can also be affordable. Then, everyone can take stock, knowing that better financial times are hopefully ahead.
Make gifting happen at no cost
Now is not the time to be sitting on loyalty points; especially given that travel isn’t going to resume to normal anytime soon, and statistically loyalty points become less valuable over time. USE THEM UP! Whether it’s for cash back on your credit card, actual physical gifts, groceries or credits toward RESPs for your kids … it’s all valuable, and FREE.
Unearth those partly used gift cards next. Can you complete your shopping with the leftover balances? Research shows adult Canadians have at least $ 50 in unused gift-card balances. Supercharge this strategy by taking advantage of “gift with purchase” deal that are prevalent throughout the month of November.
It’s a great time to get crafty, too … especially if you start early and give yourself ample time to put the finishing touches on homemade wreaths and more. Thanks to Etsy and Pinterest, you can find inspiration for literally any homemade gift. Heck, you may even discover a lucrative, crafty side-hustle.
Lean into the season of sales
This applies to everything; virtual event tickets, gifts, wine, groceries, etc. ’Tis the season for online coupons and price matching. Indeed, the deals that happen around Black Friday and Cyber Monday are comparable to, and sometimes better than, Boxing Week specials. Even local retailers are running promotions right now, so consider supporting them, too (or exclusively).
What you’ll want to be wary of are high shipping fees and, if you’re buying from our neighbours down south, account for the exchange rate in your budget, too.
As you spend, track every dollar using a spreadsheet (I like using Google because I can share it with my husband), and stop spending whenever you’re getting close to your budget limit.
There are two other magical gifts that reduced holiday spending give, besides no incremental debt. The first is an overdue focus on family time rather than “things.” The second is less stress. Those two gifts can be life-changing.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
What are some tips you have for saving money during the holidays?