The holiday season can be tough on children and adults alike. Toy manufacturers and retail outlets start their advertising campaigns early, and kids are increasingly bombarded with dozens of advertisements for the latest and greatest toys or gadgets they “absolutely must have”. Kids then begin their own campaigns with their parents. “Everyone will have this…” or “I’ll die if I don’t have that….” or the tried and tested, “Please, please, please, please.”
While most of us will assess their children’s requests and buy wisely and appropriately, we too can fall prey to the pressures of the season. Did you know, each Canadian spends on average almost $1,200 every holiday season? That’s not a problem if we’ve budgeted for our purchases, but most of us don’t. In fact, 20 percent of Canadians say they are not sure how they will pay for the season.
So, with a little planning, we don’t have to start the New Year in debt. Here are a few tips on how to stay on budget this year.
Make a list.
Write down a list of each person, family member you want to buy gifts for. Beside each name, write the maximum amount you are willing to spend. If your kids are old enough, have them create a similar list of their friends and siblings.
If your list is too long, get in touch with your family and friends and suggest secret Santa or drawing names to give one gift per person. Another way to bring the list down is to suggest to friends and adult family members that each of you just buy for each other’s children or buying a single family gift, rather than individual, gifts.
Set a holiday budget.
Look at how much you can spend this year without having to rely on credit. Include expenses such as gift wrapping, entertaining and charitable donations.
Set expectations for your kids.
Older kids often have unrealistic expectations, communicate with them about your budget. Let them know how much you intend to spend this year and what they can expect. I usually tell my boys, I am spending $XX per person – so, create a list that fits within that budget. I like to tell them the dollar amount less than my actual spending amount, this way there will still be a few surprises.
Give homemade gifts.
This is the time of year that you can channel your inner Martha Stewart and make gifts for teachers, friends, co-workers and neighbours. Bake cookies, knit sweaters, or make them gift baskets. Your children will enjoy helping while learning that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to show your love and appreciation. Pinterest will be your best friend when it comes to DIY gifts.
Use cash whenever possible.
No, not as the gift itself but for your holiday purchases. Only use a credit card if you know you can pay it off right away.
Do not wait until the last minute!
Allow time for comparison shopping. Shop around to get the best price. Take your kids with you and make it a fun learning experience by having them keep notes on what store charges for each item.
Take the “I” out of the holiday season.
Cheesy, I know but think about it! A great way to teach your kids about social responsibility (and the true meaning of the holidays) and allow older kids to explore different causes, is to make a family donation to a charity. Ask the kids what charity they would like the family to “adopt” and why. Then have everybody give a certain amount to the cause.
Plan ahead for next year.
Reduce financial stress next year by planning now! Put a small amount into a savings account every week – even $5 a week will result in a tidy sum of about $250 come next December. Put in $25 a week away and you’ll have $1,300 by the time the holidays roll around again!
Finally, It is a good idea to shop for gifts throughout the year. This way you take advantage of great sales and avoid the holiday rush! These are just a few ways to make the holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable!