If you’re getting ready to hit the malls for the holiday shopping season, you are among British Columbians expected to spend more than $500 on average on gifts, plus nearly $890 more on travel, entertainment, and other related purchases, according to a recent bank survey.
While holiday spending has dropped nationwide – the average Canadian consumer is expected to spend more than $1,500 this holiday, compared to $1,800 last year – there is still reason to rein in the desire to go on an uncontrolled yuletide splurge that may leave a sleigh-sized dent in your finances next year. Credit card use in particular takes a jump in November and December – in fact, the study showed 28 per cent of Canadians took on debt to finance their holiday spending in 2013.
Speaking of “reining in” holiday spending, who else to turn to for advice than jolly old Santa. As it turns out, Saint Nick loves to have a good time, but word has it he also keeps a pretty tight lid on his finances. How else could he deliver all those toys and gifts to boys and girls around the globe without going bankrupt? So, for my next two columns, I’ve asked Santa to share some of his holiday financial secrets with readers. Here goes.
Even Santa has a budget
Yes, Santa keeps a holiday spending budget. Although he wouldn’t disclose exactly how much, he says the amount is one that he and Mrs. Claus have to agree on so there are no surprises. Does Santa get tempted to add items to his bag that exceed the budget? Yes, but he says always resists the urge, because Mrs. Claus wouldn’t be pleased! Readers can learn from the wise elf by starting off their holiday shopping with a reasonable dollar amount for their family spending and sticking to it.
He makes a list, and checks it twice
Santa says one big secret that allows him to manage the holiday demands from children all around the world is the careful lists that he keeps. Being the kind hearted Grandfather Frost that he is, Santa obviously wants to get a present for all kids, young or old, but he is also selective. You don’t need to keep a good and naughty list, like Santa, but plan ahead by deciding what fits or does not fit your pre-determined spending list, based on your budget. And like Santa, check your list twice – you may discover items you could change to reduce costs, while still bringing delight to the recipient.
Kris Kringle is a do-it-your-selfer
Although Santa makes the occasional trip to the North Pole Mall during the holidays (he’s careful to shop around for the best deals, with his list, of course), he saves a ton every year by working with his elves to make the toys and presents he distributes around the planet.
You may not have a fancy toy workshop like Santa, but perhaps you can think of imaginative, home-made gifts to help reduce your spending. If you’re good at crafts, you can design a memorable present that’s all the more special because you made it yourself. Baking is another good option, if you’re up to it. The key is to be creative and to think of an idea that will be meaningful to the person receiving the gift. To get started, search “homemade holiday gifts” on Google.
Santa avoids being in the red
If you’re planning to go into debt to finance your holiday purchases, take a leaf from Santa’s book. The man in the red suit has been running his business for hundreds of years and he’s never been in the red. Because Santa never makes holiday purchases on credit, he says he’s able to spread Christmas cheer without worrying about auctioning off his reindeer to pay the bills when the holidays are over. Santa’s advice: Do your very best to avoid putting your holiday spending on a credit card. Perhaps you need to amend the items on your shopping list, or consider one of those do-it-yourself choices. In any case, you’ll have a much happier holiday knowing you won’t have to pay for it for several months to come.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these fun insights into holiday spending from the man who sure knows a great deal about it. I’ll be sharing more holiday financial tips from Santa in my next column.
Kathy McGarrigle is Chief Operating Officer for Coast Capital Savings, Canada’s largest credit union by membership size.