Holiday shopping that won’t deplete Santa’s bank account

'Tis the season to be jolly... and sometimes spend too much.

The holidays are fast approaching and ‘tis not only the season to be jolly, ‘tis also a time we spend much more than in other months of the year.

According to the latest numbers available from Statistics Canada, Canadians spent $3.9 billion on food and beverages in December 2009, up 19 per cent from the previous month. More staggering is the $13.2 billion we spent on everything from sporting equipment and kitchen appliances to cosmetics and bake ware. These figures only reflect purchases made at large retailers so the total would actually be higher if you add smaller merchants.

If these numbers are any indication, we can expect to see a spike in spending this month and in December, in spite of all our attempts to resist the urge to splurge. So, for all you Santas out there, here are my tips to help ensure the holidays don’t leave an igloo-sized hole in your bank account.

List, budget and track your spending. It may sound Scrooge-like, but this is the most effective way to ensure there are no surprises when you open up your December statement. With all the parties, shopping expeditions and meals out, it’s easy to spend more than you can afford. Decide on gift purchases in advance and set yourself spending limits for all items. Then stick to them. You can even set dollar limits as a family on the maximum each person will spend on gifts and have a challenge to see who comes up with the best gifts for that amount. If you find this helpful, track your expenses in an Excel spreadsheet – having a visual record of your spending against your budget will make you more accountable. And you’ll feel great if you are able to come in under budget.

Research and shop around for the best deals. Prices can vary widely from one retailer to the other and from one brand to the next. Before you hit the mall, spend some time researching online and comparing prices. Check to see if you need all the features listed for a product and, if not, a different brand or model might save you a few dollars. Look out for special promotions and deals. You may also want to visit a few of the locations that sell the gift you are seeking so you can ask questions about features and pricing. Take down notes without making a purchase. Then evaluate what your learned so you can make the best decision on what to buy and where to purchase it.

Reduce or eliminate transaction fees. Unless you have a no-fee chequing account, paying with a debit card can become an expense in its own right, especially with the higher number of transactions you’ll likely complete over the holidays. Where possible, use a chequing account that doesn’t charge fees for debit card purchases, or shop in bulk instead of making several trips to the same retailer. This will help you avoid repeat fees as you check items off your holiday shopping list.

Choose debit (or cash) over credit. This will lessen the balance on your credit cards and in turn your monthly interest payments in 2012. If you use credit, do so sparingly and be sure to pay your balance off as soon as possible. Use credit cards with the lowest interest and those that offer insurance protection for gifts that require a warranty. Also, many retailers and credit cards offer loyalty points that can be redeemed for any number of household goods, electronics and cosmetics. If you have one of these cards, check to see if you’ve accumulated enough points to help with some of your holiday purchases.

Be fraud alert. As you make debit card payments, be on the lookout for debit-card skimming. This is where fraudsters capture the banking information of unsuspecting customers at point-of-sales terminals. Be extra vigilant when holiday shopping at retail locations you’re visiting for the first time and keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious on or near the payment terminal. This type of fraud can also happen with compromised ATMs so it’s best to use secure ATMs at financial institutions you trust. For both ATM and debit card transactions, be careful to shield the keypad when typing in your PIN.

Online shopping is another avenue for potential fraud so as much as possible, make purchases from retailers you know and trust. If the site is encrypted to protect your information, it should display the padlock symbol in the address bar. Double-check that you have the correct web address for all businesses that you purchase from online and don’t proceed if you see anything unusual or suspicious.

I wish everyone a smart and safe holiday shopping season!

Kathy McGarrigle is Chief Operating Officer for Coast Capital Savings.



Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey man found guilty in West Kelowna killing of common-law spouse

Tejwant Danjou was convicted of second-degree murder in the July 2018 death of Rama Gauravarapu in West Kelowna

New collective debuts with Crescent Beach show

Nela Hallwas and Lyn Verra-Lay team for ‘Flow’

Former students’ mural showcasing Delta elementary school’s new logo on hold, for now

Ashriya and Karam Purewal painted the spirit logo last spring; formal logo mural delayed due to COVID

Police ask for help to identify suspect in alleged Surrey break-and-enter

Surrey RCMP say two men ‘kicked down the front door’ of the home

Surrey monitoring traffic as vehicles again clog city streets

Compared with city’s 2019 weekly average, deepest volume reduction was in late March with up to 46 per cent less vehicles

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

35,000 doses of fentanyl part of huge Maple Ridge bust

Largest seizure in RCMP detachment’s history included submachine gun, body armour

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read