Christmas Shopping on a Budget

With Christmas just a few weeks away, we have abruptly entered the “shopping season” that special time when you look at all the people on your Christmas list and compare them to the amount of money you have available. It’s time to create a budget and stick to it. The following ideas will help:

Comparison shop: Check prices at different stores, and don’t forget the online stores. Many online stores have great prices, but be sure to figure in any shipping costs in the total price of your gifts.

Making a list, checking it twice: Christmas shop in the same way that you grocery shop: create a list and stick to it. If you shop without a list it’s too easy to get caught up in the hype and you’ll buy items you hadn’t planned for compromising your budget. Download our handy holiday gift budget planner to help you get organized.

Plan a “homemade” Christmas: instead of buying the fancy cookies this year, buy the ingredients and make your own. Homemade goodies generally taste better and are less expensive than store-bought varieties. But, don’t stop with just baking. There are hundreds of things that you can make to give as gifts that won’t break your budget.

Time: Elderly persons would love to receive a gift card stating you will clean their house for them once a month (or once a week), while a young couple with children would consider free baby-sitting services for an evening (or weekend!) away, to be an extra special treat.

Bartering: Basically, you offer a product or service to someone who offers a product or service that a person on your gift list would enjoy. For example, your mother gets her hair done on a weekly basis. You could barter a certain number of up-do’s for a couple oil-changes.

With careful planning, you will be able to provide gifts for everyone on your list this year without breaking your budget.

Holiday Gift Budget Planner

Knowing how much money you have for shopping is one thing, being able to allocate where that money goes, when contemplating your holiday shopping is something else. That’s where a planner can help.

Start with a general statement of how much money you will spend. Or rather your limit, such as: “I will spend NO MORE than _____________ amount of money on Christmas.” Then you may want to allot different amounts of money for different categories such as gifts, food, decorations, other entertainment, etc.

Once you’ve decided how much you will spend on gifts you can create a list of gift recipients.
This can be tricky; do you give a gift to each person in your sister’s family or do you give a “family” gift? Or, maybe you give a “group” gift just to the kids and individual gifts to the adults. Whatever you decide, while taking your budget into consideration, it’s a good idea to write it down so you don’t get side-tracked while shopping.

Once you’ve decided the “who” on your gift list, you need to decide the “what.” Here’s where you pull out that hidden wish list you’ve written on every time you’ve heard someone say they “like” something or “want” something—right? The ongoing list notwithstanding, you’ll need to brainstorm ideas and maybe come right out and ask your gift recipients what they would like.

Then it’s on to the “where” can these items be found. List stores and their locations; don’t forget online options and the actual shopping begins.

You might also want to include on your Planner a space to write where the items you have bought are “hidden.” This is especially important if you tend to shop for gifts all year. You don’t want to forget where that special gift is stored and buy duplicate items in December.

Feel free to download and use our Holiday Gift Budget Planner. Keeping lists of recipients and ideas together will make your Christmas shopping easier, fun and budget “friendly.”

Is money causing stress in your life?

Is your relationship with money causing stress in your life? If so, then it may be time for some financial therapy. Winnipeg-based psychologist and life coach Dr. Moira Somers specializes in financial psychology, an emerging field that explores people’s relationship with money (and why they may treat it the way that they do).

Dr. Somers maintains that our behaviour towards money may stem from our childhood experiences including exposure to money management beliefs and culture. These beliefs in turn causes many disordered behaviour in our adult lives such as chronic debt, overspending, under-earning and using money as a means (whether consciously or not) to exercise power, control or to fill a void.

You can read more about Dr. Moira Somers in the Winnipeg Free Press article by Carolin Vesely, or visit her website at

Finance Minister kicks off Financial Literacy Week

Canada’s Finance Minister was in Toronto last week to kick off the Financial Literacy Week.  This initiative is a nationwide campaign aimed at helping Canadians increase their financial knowledge so that they can make more informed decisions when it comes to their personal finances.

Many Canadians have taken advantage of the low interest rates since the recession and the government warns of the dangers of piling on too much debt, and especially at this time.  With a clearer understanding of financial matters and stronger financial literacy, Canadians will have greater control over their own finances and collectively build a more stable economy.

Financial Literacy Week was started in 2009 with that aim in mind.  Many resources are now available online, and events are being held across the country.