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How to Avoid a Bulging Budget this Holiday

By December 1st, a third of Canadians have yet to begin their holiday shopping, according to a recent survey conducted by Visa Canada. Quebecers and men tend to shop later, while those in Atlantic Canada and Alberta, and in particular women, get out the earliest. Despite what seems like a mad rush, most Canadians plan to do their shopping ahead of the 21st. Only a small few will wait until the last minute.

Last year Canadian households spent $31.5 billion* during the busy Christmas season. If the festive spirit moved you to buy extra gifts last year, now's the perfect time to develop your holiday financial plan.

Shoppers who tend to go overboard during the holidays can learn a great deal from their saving-savvy counterparts. While you're making your Christmas card list, take a few minutes to develop a Holiday Shopping Budget to keep spending in check.

  • Be realistic with your spending

    Spend no more than 1.5 percent of your household annual income on holiday gifts and entertainment.

    Still think you may have trouble sticking to your budget? Limit your spending by purchasing a prepaid card. Load up a card with your allocated holiday spending, and use only what's on the card.

    Staying within budget is one of the most important things you can do to ease holiday pressures. "Before the season's festivities begin, spend some time budgeting and planning to help ensure when the ball drops on New Year's Eve, you start 2012 financially healthy," says Melissa Cassar, head of corporate & public affairs for Visa Canada.

  • Create a 'micro-budget'

    Make a list of everyone you plan to buy for and estimate how much you would like to spend on each of them. Have a 'micro budget' – a specific spending limit– for each person on your gift list.

  • Track, trim and target

    If the amount you'd like to spend is more than what you can afford, take a second look to see where your costs are highest. Save money by getting creative. Store-bought gifts are great, but when you make a gift for someone they truly appreciate your time and effort.

    Getting together with friends for a night out in lieu of gifts is a popular choice. That way, everyone can relax and enjoy each other's company without the stress of hitting the malls. You can also consider a gift exchange

  • 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 online allows you to conveniently peruse the best deals for every gift on your list – visit www.visaperks.ca for over 70 different retailers with coupons and daily deals.

  • 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.

    More money management tools and tips can be found online at www.practicalmoneyskills.ca.

* Colliers International: http://www.lfpress.com/money/2011/10/13/18820011.html

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