Agency: Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District

Topic: Tips for Christmas Budgeting and Credit Use

Phone: 705-254-1424

Date: December 6, 1999

Launch Your Millennium without Holiday Debts


The sounds and sights of the holiday season may bring forth squeals of delight from children but they can trigger silent screams of anxiety in adults facing the annual rituals of crowded malls and the temptation to overspend. To help you enjoy both the spirit of gift giving and entry into the millennium Christmas-debt free, Greg Elsby, Executive Director of Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District offers the following advice:!

Shopping without a plan is like travelling without a map: without one, you can easily wander into dangerous territory. A few minutes spent planning will save you hours of headache at the mall and months of the burden of repaying debts that result from overspending. Write out your gift list and include other expenses you may expect over the holidays. Remember to include hidden costs such as special meals, travel, hostess gifts, work-related functions, decorations and cards.

Evaluate your list and budget realistically for each item. Try to limit gift giving to family and close friends. To those for whom you are unable to buy, send a personal holiday card or note. Decide how much you can spend on each person and remember that the most thoughtful gifts cost next to nothing. Your "gifts" of time and services (such as babysitting), handcrafts, or home baked gifts can mean more to the recipient than a store-bought item. Christmas craft shows organized by your local community charities and senior centres can offer up a treasure trove of affordable, handmade items. For those hard-to-buy for people on your list consider a donation to a charity such as a food bank.

Carry your list and take a calculator with you when you shop. Remember that 15% taxes can make a big difference in your purchases. Tally your bill as you go and write it at the top of your list. Seeing this amount can keep your spending in check and prevent you from getting swept away amidst the bright lights, tempting displays, and frenzied shoppers. Donít start adding "just in case" gifts, and resist the temptation to add in goodies for yourself. You will be much happier and more relaxed when you get home knowing you havenít spent a kingís ransom on gifts that will have been forgotten by next year.

Shop smart. Never buy in a rush or under pressure because that can lead to overspending. With extra time, you can comparison shop and search for the best possible deal. Your phone can be your greatest ally and save you many trips if you have a specific item in mind and want to check availability and price from different stores. Donít feel compelled to get everyone on your list done in one spree. Ask yourself if you shop better alone or with a partner. Sometimes, shopping with a trusted friend can make the trip more enjoyable and help you stick to your plans. Donít "power shop" with kids or pets ó bringing them along will make everyone miserable. Instead, families with young children can offer to "trade-off" shopping and babysitting nights with each other.

Use cash whenever possible and use credit wisely: 1) limit your credit card usage to one or two cards with the lowest interest rates 2) keep track of your credit purchases by writing them down and clipping your receipts together 3) monitor your credit purchase totals so you know how much you have charged 4) donít charge more than you can afford to repay within 90 days or less.

Remember the true meaning of the holiday season. Who got what, or how the gifts were wrapped will soon be forgotten. The best holiday memories come from the simple moments we share with the people we care about.

This advice is brought to you with our best holiday wishes from Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District, a not-for-profit community organization offering free cost budget counselling and money management education. For more information on not-for-profit credit counselling nearest you, check your local yellow pages for the Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District or call 1-888-7-IN-DEBT.

Contact: Greg Elsby, Executive Director

Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District

298 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 1Y7


"Helping you manage your debt" is a series of articles provided by member agencies of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services. All 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