The winter holiday season may well be Northwest Calgary’s most magical time of year. The glistening snowy white flocked trees in Edworthy Park, splendour of University District’s winter scene and all the dazzle of holiday decorations throughout the quadrant.
While the holiday season comes but once a year, for many people it can be an expensive time of year. Gift giving, ugly sweater parties, work festivities and flights to see loved one can really add up, making the holidays a prime time for conscious spending to fall by the wayside.
Thankfully the pros at Scotiabank, Canada’s international bank and leading financial services provider in the Americas and a future University District local resource have some tips to help keep you on track so that you don’t get your tinsel in a tangle.
With enough planning, savvy and creativity – and a holiday savings plan to boot – your Yuletide can go from frenzied and frazzled to fun and fabulous. ‘Tis the season to start trimming – your budget — not just your tree! Let’s get started.
Gift giving can be a real budget-buster if you don’t have a plan. Make shopping for the holiday season easier by developing a solid strategy an elf would be proud. Start by setting out a holiday budget that you can afford. Remember to include those small and often forgotten expenses. These include holiday photos, wrapping paper, travel, stamps, cards, decorations, specialty foods and holiday-themed activities (Ugly sweater party. Need we say more?). They can pile up faster than the presents in Santa’s sleigh.
Next, set money aside or open a holiday spending account with your financial bank. This will help you stay on budget and will separate holiday spending from regular, day-to-day expenses. Just make sure it’s a free checking account!
Pro Tip: Get a head start in 2020. Start saving in January to make shopping during the holiday season easier. Manually put aside money each month or create an automatic transfer into a separate savings account so you’ll be better prepared for next year.
Here’s your chance to think about all the important people in your life! From the moment you walk into a store, potential gifts pull at your senses and vie for your attention and dollars. With a list, you’ll be less likely to impulse shop and more likely to stick to your budget. Create a list with the names of the people you plan to treat, how much you will spend and a rough idea of what you plan to buy them. The process will be smoother and your holiday savings potentially a lot higher. Things just got merrier!
Pro Tip: Always add a few extra gifts to your shopping list. These gifts should be generic in case you receive a surprise gift or forget to buy for someone. It can ease your mind and save you from scrambling to find something at the last minute. Also consider using an app like Santa’s Bag or GiftPlanner to help keep track of your holiday list.
Christmas Market at Spruce Meadows in Calgary. Photo Credit: Bow Valley Crag and Canyon
Stretch your holiday budget by becoming a surprisingly smart and savvy shopper. Once you have an idea of the gifts you will be purchasing, research where you can find the best deals. Take advantage of specials and Black Friday sales where you can snag cheap essentials at heavily discounted prices.
Pro Tip: Always comparison shop and sign up for e-mail notifications from retailers you are most likely to buy from and check their website frequently and use couponing sites such as Save.ca, Websaver.ca and Smartsource.ca to find current deals to help you deck the halls with boughs of savings!
Get to know your old friend “cash” again! Sticking with a cash diet during the holidays will make you more mindful of the money you’re spending and naturally keep you on budget.
Once you have determined your budget for each person, keep a running tally on paper, on an app or create an envelope system (one envelope per person). It’s old school but it works! This means you may only be able to buy one new tacky sweater for this holiday season, but your holiday savings will thank you.
Pro Tip: If you choose to use a credit card, try to use only one and preferably one where you can accumulate points that can be used towards holiday purchases. Always try to stay within a total that you can afford to pay back in full to avoid interest charges.
The key to sticking to a budget is to track your spending. Whether you choose to bring your gift list along with your budget sheet on every shopping trip or use a digital app or spreadsheet, using a spending log is essential during this time of year. From extra Ubers to last-minute gifts, expenses can add up quick but by keeping track of the cost of your holiday-related outings and expenses, you’ll be able to keep your spending in check and budget more accurately for next year.
Pro Tip: Consider an app like Spendee to help track your holiday expenditures and even your everyday expenses. It’s easy to use, intuitive and free!
*Note: Tip 5 was provided by a local financial advisor and not by Scotiabank.
Don’t get caught up in the spending frenzy this season – follow these creative ways to save to get you through the holidays with money left in your pocket, while still being able to enjoy all the seasonal festivities with family and friends.
‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, but sometimes playing host or hostess during the holidays can feel more like a burden than a blessing. If you’re hosting a holiday event, embrace the idea of a good ol’ fashioned potluck! Let your guests know you’re going to make the main dish, but that you’d appreciate help on sides, appetizers, desserts and drinks. Spread the holiday cheer and even assign Christmas games and activities to nieces and nephews!
Two words: Gift Exchange
From an office Secret Santa to a bash with good friends where no one can remember the White Elephant rules. Make gift giving feel joyful again with a gift exchange experience to remember! Not only do they make for a fun holiday activity, and a great way to connect through experiences, they are great for those on a tight budget.
Holiday traditions make the season a magical time of year. While traditions are important and admirable, they don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. Consider activities such as baking together, watching a movie with hot chocolate, touring the neighbourhood for holiday lights, or check out daily deals on Groupon or Livingsocial for discounts on local attractions, Christmas festivals and performances. By making inexpensive traditions part of your celebration, you can save money without skimping on the festivities and memories!
Get creative and make it personal
This year instead of purchasing a gift from a big box store, give a gift that lasts! Perhaps help a friend or loved one by offering to babysit. Allow the creative side of you to flourish by making gifts like handmade soaps, jewellery and jams for friends and baked goods for your neighbours or your kid’s teacher. Or take a page out of University District’s book and build meaningful connections by spending quality time with an elderly relative, shovelling a neighbours sidewalk, or helping a friend clean her home the day after a holiday party. Remember being thoughtful can have a lasting and more memorable effect than breaking the bank.
Focus on giving back
In the midst of the holiday scramble, make it a priority to give back to your community. Give your kids a break from the “gimmes” and focus on someone less fortunate. Volunteer at nearby Ronald McDonald House, assemble care packages for nearby hospitals, perform random acts of kindness or make a donation. After all, ‘tis the season for a little merry-making!
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the spending cycle during the holidays. However, with a plan in place, tips on how to stretch each holiday dollar, a focus on family and making connections, and a sensible spending plan, you’ll be able to firmly sit in the driver’s seat of your own sleigh.
Disclaimer:This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as financial, tax or investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article, including information relating to interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information.
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