Agency: Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District
Topic: Tips for Christmas Spending
A Good Spending Plan for your Holidays
Has the prospect of holiday shopping become a dreaded chore with visions of bills instead of sugar plums dancing in your head? A few minutes of simple planning can prevent shopping headaches and alleviate the worry of paying off your holiday debts. Even the Grinch had to come up with a plan to steal Christmas, but you can save your holiday spirit without losing your savings. Here are some ideas from Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie to help make a difference in your budget this holiday season:
Your Blueprint: List the people you need to buy for and set a budget for each. Donít try to buy everyoneís gift on one shopping spree or you may get overwhelmed and blow your limit. And donít try to find the perfect gift or youíll be searching forever. If shopping for children, recruit the help of staff at toy stores; they can guide you to age appropriate gifts at your budget level and save you hours of wandering through the toy aisles. Teenagers can pose a challenge since their individual tastes are ever-changing. A gift certificate redeemable at their favourite music, clothing or bookstore can solve your dilemma and help you stick to your budget.
If crowded shopping malls are too much for you, you can always shop through the Internet. Sale flyers and your phone can also save money and time. However, if youíre brave enough to face the masses, donít forget your list, your calculator, as well as a preset spending limit. If you have children, barter babysitting time with your family or neighbours; both you and your kids will be happier. Avoid shopping during heavy traffic days and times. Fighting long lines and crowds can fray your nerves and cause your perspective and budget to go out the window.
Remember that gifts make up only part of your holiday costs. Your budget should also factor in expenses if you plan to host or attend parties. Food, drink, clothes and travel costs for these functions should be included as well. Avoid overextending yourself and watch your spending on stocking stuffers, wrapping paper, and even boxing day shopping sprees. These are hidden costs that can quickly escalate out of control.
Money Savers: You can never go wrong with homemade gifts since they add that personal touch. Plants, preserves, baked goods, hand knits, crafts, or offering your time and services provide wonderful and economical gift giving opportunities. If couples are on your list, consider buying one gift both people can appreciate such as magazine subscriptions, food baskets, movie passes, or video/book stores certificates. Gifts purchased at discount and warehouse stores or community bazaars can also dramatically cut your shopping costs. If holiday entertaining takes a big bite out of your wallet, replace elaborate dinners with potluck parties or host a simple open house, where you can serve coffee and dessert or punch and finger foods. If you canít afford to entertain or exchange gifts, send a personal card or note to express your holiday cheer to friends and extended family.
Is that Cash or Credit? Plan how you will pay for your necessary purchases ahead of time. Ideally you should pay for gift purchases with cash as they really are straight forward living expenses. If you are going to charge on credit, use only one or two low interest cards and leave the rest at home. Estimate how much you can afford to pay over a three month period and resolve not to charge more than that figure. No one should be paying off holiday season debts into the spring and summer months. Carry an envelope where you can place all of your receipts. This will help you keep track of your expenses and locate receipts if exchanges or returns are necessary.
Donít let the glittering displays and marketing hype dazzle you. Itís easy to get caught up in the buying frenzy, but remember, Christmas comes around every year. Most of us donít recall the wrappings and gifts, it is the special moments shared with our loved ones that linger in our minds for years to come. Happy holidays from Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie.
"Helping you manage your debt" is a series of articles provided by member agencies of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services. All member agencies provide a range of no or low cost services to help people solve their financial problems and improve their consumer and money management skills.For more information about credit counselling services in Sault Ste. Marie, please contact Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie & District, 298 Queen Street East, Suite 2, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 1Y7 or visit our website at www.soonet.ca/ccs.