From the obligatory gift exchange at work to the swanky New Year’s Eve outing, the holidays have become an extended whirl of parties, indulgent meals and gift-giving – even for those who don’t actually celebrate Christmas. Here are five tips for saving money over the holiday season.
- Resist the impulse
As the holidays approach, make a budget for gifts, outings and home entertaining, and stick with it. Don’t give in to the temptation of picking up extra gifts, food items, decorations or wrapping supplies: the little things add up! Use cash to avoid big January credit card debt. Force yourself to stay within the limits you’ve set by budgeting for an entire week and withdrawing just that amount at the beginning of the week, since even your debit card can encourage spur-of-the-moment splurges.
- Build memories… for free
Challenge yourself, your friends and family to see who can come up with the most fun for the smallest cash outlay. Once you’ve added up the tickets, popcorn and parking, even a family movie outing can cost $100. Instead, explore what your community has to offer free of charge, from skating and tobogganing to music concerts. Take a drive to see the festive lights, build a snowman, visit a museum or volunteer for a charity. You may just start a new tradition!
- Play your cards right
Open your wallet and pull out your loyalty cards, then get online to see how you can cash in on all those points you’ve amassed over the year at the department store, the bookstore and the grocery store. An air travel card may allow you to redeem points for gifts. Points at the drug store may be perfect for stocking stuffers. Your frequent-moviegoer card may entitle you to great discounts on DVDs or Blu-Rays. Some programs allow you to translate points into gift cards; there probably won’t be a better time to take advantage of these perks.
- Become a fixer
Both for your pocketbook and for the planet, there’s nothing healthier than repairing a broken or worn-out item instead of tossing it and buying a new one – even when it comes to gift-giving. This doesn’t have to feel like deprivation; imagine spending $25 to repair a valuable piece of heirloom jewellery or resize a ring that might be worth ten times that amount.
- Go home
Escape the markup on holiday drinks by holding some of your seasonal soirées at home. Invite friends to bring over one bottle per couple for a themed wine-tasting night. Explore Canadian sparkling wines, which are becoming just as delicious as imported bubbly at a fraction of the cost. This goes for non-alcoholic drinks too; if you’re addicted to those special festive drinks at the local café, invest in some good cocoa powder, a few crushed candy canes, a can of whipping cream or some marshmallows, and enjoy all the flavour for pennies a mug.