Canadian Tire deserves credit for having one of the most memorable holiday gift shopping taglines: “Give like Santa, save like Scrooge.” Who among us doesn’t want to seem unfailingly generous without going broke by doing so? With less than a month to go until the big day, though, stragglers may be tempted to just pick up the first relatively appropriate items they spot on the shelves. Here are our tips for helping you stuff those stockings without emptying those savings.
Plan Ahead, Pay Less
BMO’s annual Holiday Spending Survey found that Canadians plan to spend $674 on gifts this year. That’s nearly $100 higher than the $583 spent in 2011. The best way to not overspend on impulse buys is to plan your shopping ahead. “Putting a holiday-specific budget in place ahead of time that sets clear spending limits can keep Canadians from over-extending themselves, and ensure other financial responsibilities and goals stay on track,” says Su McVey, vice president of BMO Bank of Montreal.
Make a List, Check it Twice
Make a list of the people you want to buy gifts for, and come up with an option or three (and budget) for each person on it. Now add up the total potential expenses. If the result has you making those turkey leftovers last until March, it’s time to pare back the list. Start by either cutting people (do you really need to get your cousin’s boyfriend a gift?) or the value allocated for each. Better yet, if you have a large family or group of friends suggest that you initiate a Secret Santa, where each person has to buy a gift for only one other person in the group.
Make a Concentrated Effort
One way to save on your gift list is to buy multiple items at a single retailer. Many stores will try to lure you in with offers of saving X-number of dollars if you spend a certain amount. Toys R Us, for example, gives out coupons offering $10 off of purchases of $50 or more. That’s a fairly significant savings of up to 20 per cent.
Another variation is to offer a free item every time you purchase a certain number of products. Chapters currently has its “buy three, get one free” promotion on.
In either case, you save by shopping in one store. Just keep in mind that with the latter promo, the store will give you the lowest priced item(s) for free so if you have, say, four items in your basket worth $50 or more and four more in the $20 range, it’s probably worth making two separate trips to the cashier.
Bank On It
Feeling a little miserly with what you were able to give? Then start saving for next year well ahead of time. Open up a low- or no-fee account with a good interest rate and sock away a few bucks each month – and don’t touch it – so you end up with a decent amount on hand by the time next Christmas rolls around.
Don’t be a Basket Case
Here’s the exception to the advantages of early planning. Early in the New Year you’ll start seeing ads for “holiday hampers,” pricey gift baskets you pay for in installments so you can have all the fixings delivered to your door at holiday time. The reality is, those baskets are ridiculously overpriced. You’re better off saving your money in a separate account and buying the necessary items yourself when the time comes.