Avoid the Ghost of Christmas Past: Important tips to guide you through your holiday shopping from Money Mentors

CALGARY, Dec. 13, 2012 /CNW/ - Christmas is a time when children hope to see their dreams become reality, families reunite, and friends, neighbours, and coworkers engage in festivities of gift-giving and merrymaking. However, while Christmas brings joy to every heart, it can also bring added stress. Christmas shopping and related festivities can cost people more than they bet on if they do not partake in the necessary budgeting and planning for a successful season.

While most people think a costly Christmas is unavoidable, an affordable holiday is only a plan away. With a proper budget, a stress-free environment is easily achievable, and you will not be haunted by the thought of having to pay back borrowed money in the New Year.

According to RBC's Canadian Consumer Outlook report released in November, consumers in Alberta intend to increase spending during this year's Christmas period. The report also indicated that Albertans will spend close to $700 this year on Christmas gifts. If you have not saved up for this kind of spending, this is an excessive amount of money to borrow, whether it is on your credit card or another borrowing program. To avoid wasting your wallet when it comes to holiday gifts and festivities, Money Mentors advises Albertans to:

  1. Make a list - You have to make a list of all the items you want to buy in order to stay focused. Whether you are shopping in the malls or online, prioritize what is important and what is not. You also need to consider if all of your listed items can be bought within this set budget.

    We also recommend that you set a dollar limit on what you can afford to spend on each person. You may have to ask yourself some tough questions. Is it important to buy presents for all of your relatives? Can you afford it? Are there creative ways for you to give gifts that are still heartfelt, but also economical? Remember, this is your hard-earned money, and as much as you may want to be, you cannot be Santa Claus. Even with a budget, though, you can still show people that you care. We suggest that you draw names out of a hat or develop other creative ways for gift-giving to help offset some of the cost. Secret Santa is a fun way to stay within budget, and baked goods are a popular way to show that you are thinking of someone this season without breaking the bank.

  2. Festivities (Parties and Social Gatherings) - For social events, you need to know the expected cost, set your budget accordingly, and stick to it. For example, are you hosting or attending an event? Each of these responsibilities comes with a price, so you need to determine how your position will affect your finances and influence your budget.

    If you are attending an event, are you contributing food or drinks? Both can add up, so knowing what is expected of you makes it easier to set aside the correct amount of money. Remember, this is your money at work, so spend wisely.

  3. Shopping - Gift-giving adds up quickly, and so planning becomes essential. Knowing what you are going to buy before you even enter the store or go online makes it easier to stick to your budget. First, define your budget. Be honest with yourself about what you can actually afford. Second, shop around for competitive prices. Some stores promise price-matching or other competitive pricing systems, so take advantage of these. Third and most importantly, stick to your budget! Stay focused on your budget now and you will stay happy with your bank account once the carols have ended.

  4. Use Cash - If you do not want the Ghost of Christmas Past to hunt you down in a few months' time, use cash. Pay in cash whenever you can and, if possible, stay away from credit cards. Remember, gift giving does not need to be a competition. You can find or create thoughtful gifts that will delight your family and friends without spending a fortune. Avoid putting yourself into debt by buying only what you can afford. Using cash is an easy way to remind yourself of what you are spending.

At Money Mentors, we believe that Christmas is supposed to be fun, exciting, loving, and centered around creating new memories with close friends and relatives. This season is not supposed to be stressful or put financial strain on you or your relationships. These steps will not only give you peace of mind before, during, and after the Christmas season, but they will also help you stay on top of your finances.

If you find yourself getting into debt over Christmas and holiday spending, Money Mentors is here to help. We welcome your calls at 1-888-294-0076, or you can visit our website at moneymentors.ca.

Money Mentors is the only Alberta-based, not-for-profit credit counselling agency. Through a number of services, we help families and individuals recover from financial crisis and move forward. From credit counselling and money coaching to retirement planning and community financial literacy, we are creating a healthier financial future for the entire province.

Written By: William Akoto - Marketing and Communications, MoneyMentors.ca

SOURCE: Money Mentors

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