A recent report from Google found that Canadians plan to spend on average of $711 on gifts this year, while Deloitte says the average holiday spending is expected to be $477. Either way, not a lot of Canadians have that kind of money just lying around. Many of us will turn to our credit cards, thinking (perhaps wrongly), "That's OK, I'll pay it off soon." But it doesn't have to be that way. Before you reach for the plastic, consider these alternatives to spending more money than you have.
1. Edit your gift list
Write down the names of everyone on your holiday shopping list, then take a good, hard look at them. Do you really need to buy everyone a gift? And do you really need a gift from all those people, too? This could be the opportunity to narrow down your list and help your friends and family cut down on holiday spending, too. After all, do you really need to exchange gifts with your second cousin once removed?
2. Talk to family and friends
It's not an easy conversation, but do talk to family and friends and and explain that you're attempting to be save cash this year. Suggest alternatives to individual gifts or even no gifts. You might be surprised to discover that they have similar goals in mind.
3. Suggest alternatives to gifts
Consider making a group donation to a charity with your friends and family, or a group Secret Santa gift exchange, or even making something for them. (An extra-large batch of ginger cookies can go a long way.) If someone has children, for example, offer a set amount of babysitting time. There are many ways to make friends and family feel valued without spending money.
4. Put some money away -- now
You should have been doing this already, but if you haven't, there are still one or two pay periods between now and Christmas Day. Put aside some money and keep that for gifts -- and if holiday spending is really important to you, build a gift budget into your savings plan next year.
5. If you have to buy, buy smart
Yes, it's the B-word -- budget. Create a gift budget and stick to it. Retailers are smart -- they know this time of year creates excitement and stress and that can an extra push can lead you to spend more than you planned. Every time you say to yourself that an extra five or 10 dollars won't hurt, think about the number of times you think that. The next thing you know, you've spent an extra hundred dollars or more. Where is that money coming from?
6. Coupons and flyers, oh my!
There's no reason to pay full price for just about anything. Between coupons, sales, flyers, deal websites, price matching and just plain asking for a discount, you can find almost anything you want for a deal. It takes some effort and a little research but it's worth it when you see how much you can save.
With these six tips there's no reason for you to reach for your credit card when doing your holiday shopping. All you need is a little planning and some research and you'll sail into the New Year without the dreaded holiday credit card hangover.