Surviving the holidays without breaking the bank

Lists help you plan and break down your expenses.

Caroline Arbour | Journalist

It can be hard not to get swept up in the inevitable holiday spending. What can you do to avoid going overboard this Christmas? 

Here are 5 tips to help keep you and your pocketbook happy. 

1. Make lists

Lists help you plan and break down your expenses. They pinpoint what you need to buy and help you avoid impulse buying and detours that can lead to temptation. Your lists could include such things as:

  • Who you're going to buy for and how much you want to spend
  • Decorations
  • Holiday events you're going to attend (travel, overnight stays, food, etc.) 
  • What you're planning to cook 
  • Clothes

2. Draw up a budget

The lists you make will give you a detailed breakdown of your expenses, which in turn will help you draw up a budget. You can then can make any necessary adjustments or cut out certain things altogether. Do what feels right and what you can afford. You're not obligated to attend every holiday event or take part in every gift exchange (family, in-laws, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc.).

Ideally, you should be making your Christmas budget in January so you can put some money aside each month for your holiday spending. January is a good time to review what you spent over the holidays to see where you did well and where you could improve. It's obviously a bit late to do that this year, but it's something to keep in mind for next time.

3. Simplify

Once you have everything written down, see what you can eliminate or change.
  • Tone down the decorations
  • Ask everyone to bring a side-dish
  • Do your cooking in advance
  • Stay with your cousin instead of at a hotel
  • Carpool
  • Draw names rather than buying a gift for each person

4. Get creative

Give gifts that you make yourself: jams, candles, soaps, etc. The Internet is full of great DIY ideas.

Keep old shoe boxes and last year's gift bags and reuse them to wrap your gifts.

Buy second-hand items. Flea markets and classified ads can be a goldmine for Lego, vintage toys and unique decorations. Used books are also a good option. You can even give away your own books; being previously read doesn't make them any less enjoyable!

Give the gift of time. Devote a day to spend with your grandson, your niece or your grandmother. 

5. For next Christmas, start planning the party in January

Ideally, you should be planning for Christmas all year long. If you take your time, you're more likely to stick to your budget. Not only can you take advantage of sales throughout the year, you're not stuck paying for express shipping when you shop online.

1 According to a survey by Altus Group.
2 According to a survey by MasterCard Canada.  

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