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Holiday shopping on a budget

Holiday shopping on a budget

The arrival of December usually means one thing: the holidays are upon us.

You may have already opened up a few doors on your advent calendar. An influx of festive parties and events are filling your evenings and weekends. Twinkly lights and holiday decorations cover the streets, shops and houses.

But it also means epic lineups at the mall, mad dashes for last-minute gifts, and a potentially racked up credit card in your stocking. ‘Tis the season, right?

While holiday shopping can be overwhelming, it is possible to maintain your cheer without making a massive dent in your wallet. Here’s how.

Make a list (and check it twice)

Follow the jolly man in the red suit’s approach this year. Include everyone you plan to shop for and how much you plan to spend for each person, making sure the total fits your pre-determined holiday shopping budget. You may need to tweak your budget, list, and individual spending amounts as needed.

Be sure to allow room for a little flexibility, as well. It never hurts to have a generic gift or two on hand (chocolates, wine, or a nice soap set) for when you unexpectedly run into your great aunt twice removed at a family fete.

Virtual window shopping

Hey, we all love a little window shopping. And believe it or not, a great place to ‘window shop’ is online. Thanks to some search engine setups, you can easily research and compare prices for many products without leaving the comfort of your bathrobe. And in many cases, special deals may only be offered online and come with perks like free shipping and returns. Just be sure you order it early enough so it arrives in time for the holidays.

If you’re going the online shopping route, be sure that you’re doing your due diligence to prevent any fraud. Always be sure to buy from a reputable retailer or seller. And go to the website by typing it directly in your web browser, and not through a link. A secure site will have a padlock icon in the address bar.

Start as early as you can

We know this one is easier said than done. But starting early has many benefits.

For starters, prices on ‘hot ticket’ items tend to get higher the closer you get to the holidays. You can also avoid rush shipping costs on online shopping if you place orders early enough. Here’s a tip: most websites post their Christmas ordering deadlines, so pay attention to those dates (give or take a day for any unexpected problems leaving the warehouse).

Starting early also gives you the ability to spread out your spending. The holidays can come with a hefty cost when you factor in the entertaining, travel, or meals out in a short time frame.

Oh, and try to avoid FOMO – fear of missing out. If you wait until the last minute, you might not find items on your list, or you’ll have to compromise with an item that is missing features or that isn’t exactly what you wanted. Like settling for a knockoff princess doll with questionable hair for your niece instead of the Princess Elsa one that she wanted.

How to pay

Ideally, using (pre-saved) cash should be your first choice. If you’re not in a position to do so this year, consider putting money into a savings account that you can draw on for expenses like holiday shopping next year.

The second option for paying for your holiday shopping is debit – cash that you have available, or can free up in your monthly budget. Look closely at your spending plan for what you could temporarily trim to free up dollars for your holiday spending budget.

The last option should be credit. Use the card with the lowest rate and pay off your balance as quickly as you can. We all love rewards points, so see if you can apply them towards your purchases to help you save a few bucks.

Track your spending

Stay on top of your finances and tally all your holiday expenses as they rack up. This includes how much you’ve spent on gifts, holiday outings, potlucks or anything else that that comes up as a result of the holidays. It’ll put things into perspective and perhaps help you treat yourself a less to $5 eggnog lattes. It’ll also help you budget for next year.

Consider priceless gifts

Priceless gifts don’t have to be pricey, or even have a dollar tag.

Handmade or homemade gifts allow you to be creative without being extravagant. Cook your uncle his favourite casserole, bake a tray of cookies, write a heartfelt card or give out crafts made by the kids. In reality, the thought and thoughtfulness of the gift is what makes it special. We recently shared our top five holiday gifts that will fit any budget – check it out for ideas.

Ultimately, the holidays aren’t about big-ticket items like hot wheels or a fancy crockpot – it’s about spending time with the people you love. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to empty your wallet.

Charlotte Pecknold

Charlotte Pecknold

Assistant Manager, Member Services

Charlotte holds a BA in Psychology with a minor in English Literature. When she’s not helping people with financial advice, you can find her helping her students perfect their tree poses as a certified yoga instructor, or trying her green thumb as an amateur florist. She’s also a regular contributor on CTV Morning Live, explaining finances in an easy-to-understand way.

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