Avoid a holiday spending hangover
By, Carla Hindman, Director of Financial Education, Visa Canada
'Tis the season for indulgence, whether it's overeating, drinking too much eggnog at holiday parties or spending too much on gifts and decorations. Here are a few tips for managing holiday expenses to avoid a holiday spending hangover.
Make your list and check it twice. Financial planners recommend spending no more than 1.5 per cent of your annual income on holiday spending. Begin by listing every possible holiday expense you'll face – and don't stop at gifts. The holidays are also a peak period for spending on groceries, travel and entertainment. Establish a spending cap for each person on your list, with a little wiggle room for those inevitable last minute purchases. Need help tracking your spending? Check out Visa's Practical Money Skills comprehensive budget planner.
Build a bargain-hunting squad. Let friends and family know what key items you're looking to purchase and do the same for them. Make sure to watch for coupons and sales to maximize on savings. Encourage your group to find resources, check prices and share requests via social media to broaden your network. Results can come back in a matter of minutes.
Don't 'panic shop'. Waiting until the last minute to buy presents increases the chance you'll overspend in order to get a gift – any gift – in time. Shopping early allows you to conveniently peruse the best deals for every person on your list.
Draw names and create a spending cap. These ideas work particularly well for large families and groups of friends. This way, everyone gets a gift but only has to buy one. Make sure to put a spending limit on gift exchanges.
'Tis the season for online and mobile shopping. According to Google Canada's 2015 'Shopping Moments' survey, 72 percent of shoppers in Canada will go online for gift inspiration. Mobile apps are also becoming popular, with 44 percent of Canadians using them for their holiday shopping. The internet is not only a great resource for gift ideas but also provides a fast and easy way to compare prices. By ordering from the comfort of your own home, you also resist making in-store impulse purchases.
Leverage your creativity. Handmade gifts or even personalized coupons can be a special treat among the mountains of store-bought presents. Think about what the person may want or need, and then incorporate your own talents. Bake cookies; create a photo album; or give a coupon for a home-cooked meal. Decorating for the holidays? DIY projects can be a fun and cost-effective way to get into the holiday spirit.
Give the 'gift of time'. Stretched on funds? Give the gift of time. Join together with family members to help those who may be less fortunate. Alternatively, older relatives and friends don't necessarily need more chocolates, but they could probably could use help with chores, to-do lists or rides to doctor's appointments. Offer to babysit for busy parents so they can run a few errands or simply recharge their batteries.
Pay off your credit cards. If you plan to shop with credit, make sure you have enough money in your bank account to pay off the amount when the bill arrives.
Bottom Line: You do not have to go into debt to show how much you care this holiday season. With some careful planning and creative gift giving, you can enjoy the holiday cheer without the financial fear.
This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.