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Managing your Budget

Managing your budget between Thanksgiving and the holiday season

Some tips for avoiding the post-holiday heartache of opening your credit card statement

Thanksgiving is upon us. Then comes all the December holidays. Then, of course, there’s New Years. It’s all around the corner and it all costs enough money to set your savings strategy back years.

But there are ways to avoid starting off the New Year in a weaker – and often quite stressful – financial situation. Here are five ideas we recently put together:
1.Set a firm budget
Seems like a no-brainer, but many of us continue to spend money through the holidays on events and gifts without even tracking how much we’ve spent … until that dreaded credit card statement shows up in January.

This holiday season, we recommend putting aside a certain amount of money – exactly what you can afford, and only spending that much. Think about how many gifts you need to buy and any groceries that will be required for festive meals, and then divide those expenses up within your budget. But know that when you hit your limit, the party’s over and the spending needs to stop.

2.Make your next dinner event a pot luck event
Have you seen how much a massive turkey costs these days? Along with drinks and sides, the cost to host a big family meal can be more than we contributed to our registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) during the entire calendar year.

Ask your friends and relatives to bring a side dish, a bottle of wine, or some appetizers. No one will mind doing a bit of the cooking, as long as they get a great meal and a fun night out of it. And, your total cost to host the meal will be far less than if you cover the entire cost of the meal yourself.

3.Make gifting a family affair
When buying gifts for a family of four or five, even lower-priced gifts can add up to a big expense.

This year, why don’t you coordinate with others to buy family gifts? Something fun, like a board game or a swimming pool, can be enjoyed by everyone. Don’t worry, we were just kidding about the swimming pool. We just wanted to be sure you’re still paying attention to our list!

4. Try the classic “staycation”
The flight. The hotel. The meals and extras. If holiday vacations seem expensive, it’s because they are. All prices go up during prime season.

Stay home this holiday season and save a bundle. They may not be a beach, but skiing and other winter sports are a great (and generally cheaper) alternative to a sunny destination.

5.Brown bag it
We tend to enjoy a few extra lunches, dinners and/or drinks out around the holiday season. Be sure to balance these extra restaurant visits by bringing a few more lunches to work on other days.