Reign in Your Holiday Spending

Posted 18 Dec 2014 by Natalie LeBlanc

Sticking to a budget isn’t easy, especially at this time of year. Many psychological factors influence our spending, and those effects are amplified for many people around Christmas, the time to treat others, and often yourself, using the justification that “it’s only once a year”. While this may be the time of giving, the credit card bill that comes after the fact can be painful if you aren’t careful!

Here are a few tips to keep your spending under control:

Purchasing a “deal” on a credit card isn’t really a deal

The frugal-minded find it hard to justify buying that new gadget at full price, but the moment it goes on sale consumers line up with their credit cards to take advantage. But is pulling out the plastic going to end up actually saving you money? If you purchased a high-end TV for $2,000, on sale from the original price of $2,500, but then took the next year to pay it off on your credit card at 19% interest, you would end up paying about the same as if you had purchased it at the original price! If you’re going to shop the sales, be sure you can pay off your plastic before the interest piles up to wash out your savings.

Limit your self-gifting

The transition from the “giving” state of mind to the “give-to-yourself” state of mind is a quick one when you hit the malls during the holidays. The thrill of finding the perfect gift for yourself can be just as pleasing as (if not more than) the thrill of finding the perfect gift for someone special to you. If you know you need or want to treat yourself to something, budget for it and stick to your plan. Otherwise you could blow your gift budget on yourself!

Make memories, not clutter

The joy and wonder of the Christmas season affect your ability to say “no”. There are lots of excuses we recite to ourselves like “it’s more about giving than receiving” that help us justify spending too much on gifts or entertaining. While it is a cheerful and heartwarming time of year for most of us, that holiday cheer, as the Grinch taught us, “…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more”. Instead of overspending on a fancy gift you aren’t sure your friend will like, consider something small they’ll appreciate and simply spending time with them instead.

Think back to your favourite holiday memories. How many of them are of gifts you received, and how many are of the time you spent with your family and friends? Now think of how your spending can help make more memories, instead of closet clutter and yard sale stock.

Stick to a budget

Finally, holiday shopping can go a lot more smoothly (and add up to much less) when you have a plan, and stick to it. Just like grocery shopping, it can be easy to miss items (or people) you are shopping for, or end up with three presents for one person while you’ve forgotten others! Place a limit on how much you are willing to spend on each person and you’ll keep your overall holiday spending under much better control.

… But don’t be a Grinch

All of this being said, it is a magical time of year. Not everyone gets as into the holiday season as the die-hard fans (I might be included in that category!), and we all celebrate our own holidays differently. My advice is always to pinpoint the traditions, events, and people that mean the most to you and spend your time, energy, and money on making the most of the season’s traditions that you look forward to each year.