CREDIT COUNSELLING SERVICE OF SAULT STE MARIE
Many Canadians spend impulsively over the holidays and approximately 50 per cent of us exceed our holiday budgets according to a recent survey conducted by Rates.ca. They also found that 40 per cent of those using credit this time of year don’t have a repayment plan in place to deal with their debt after Santa’s gone home.
Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District would like to offer the following tips to help reduce the financial stresses of the holiday season:
Moderation is the key: Before starting your Christmas shopping, you should determine exactly how much you can afford to spend. It is important to develop a workable holiday spending budget. To do so, start by listing all holiday-related expenses; start with the obvious gifts and decorations. However, remember the extras such as postage, eating out, charitable donations and travel. Add up the total and compare with what you have available to spend. If it’s more than you can afford, look for areas to trim expenses.
Check your list twice: Your list should be limited to family and perhaps close friends. For those you are unable to buy for, send a personal holiday card or note. In today’s electronic world, a thoughtful card can make a big impact.
Shop smarter not harder: Never shop in a rush or under pressure because that can lead to overspending. With extra time, you can comparison shop and search for the best possible deal. Before you buy, take a “time-out” and ask yourself if the gift is appropriate for the recipient and within your spending limit.
If you are concerned about being able to cover additional holiday costs, consider paring down your expenses: If you can’t travel to be with the ones you love, send a video or a letter, this can mean a lot and costs very little. Cull your gift list and suggest that family members exchange names rather than buying for everyone. Invoke a “make it or bake it” rule for gift-giving, adults often appreciate such gifts.
Although kids may still need the thrill of purchased gifts, they can help keep family’s costs down by giving homemade gifts such as crafts or “coupons” offering to complete a special chore. If time and money are at a premium over the holidays, skip the fancy dinner parties and organize a pot-luck. Recycle decorations - remember they sit in a box 11 months out of the year and new decorations can be picked up for a bargain after Boxing Day. Gift bags are also a great item to recycle.
Use credit to your credit: Ideally, you shouldn’t be financing your Christmas gift-giving. If you do use your card, try to use the card with the lowest interest rate. Keep track of your credit purchases by writing them down and keeping receipts together. Maintain a running total so you know how much you have charged. A good rule of thumb is to not charge more than you can afford to repay within three months. This will ensure Christmas 2019 is paid in full long before Christmas 2020.
Talk about expectations: If you have children (young or grown), have a discussion about what’s happening in the world and how moderation and charity can make an impact. Ask them for suggestions on how the holiday season can be made more meaningful and affordable for the family. Don’t let limited funds take away from the true meaning of Christmas.
A smile costs nothing but can be priceless. The spirit of peace and hope has remained triumphant for centuries and will renew itself again this holiday season. We wish you happy holidays and a prosperous New Year on behalf of Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District.