Summer flew by, and before you could even say “Halloween” or “pumpkin spice latte”, we’re now staring down the barrel of the holiday season – two months today is Christmas Eve. And whether or not you celebrate the actual holiday, chances are you’ll be spending a lot more money in the upcoming weeks. From office parties to hosting family and friends on days off, you may already be feeling the financial pressures that seem to pile up towards the end of the year.
But fear not: Christmas can be a lot more fun and less financially stressful. You just need to prepare for it well in advance – kind of like those department stores that have already set up their holiday displays. Here are ways you can ensure you’re breathing easy without looming debt on the morning of Dec. 25.
Put away $50 per week
There are still nine full weeks before jolly ol’ St. Nick makes his triumphant return. If you can manage to set aside $50 every weekend to specifically put towards Christmas presents and parties, you’ll have $450 by Christmas Eve. This might involve some compromising, such as reducing the amount of meals you eat out per week, or maybe entertaining at home instead of meeting friends at the bar. You can also find savings in your grocery bills: stick to items that are on sale and hold off on any cookies, cakes or other desserts for a few more weeks – you’ll have your fill of these in the days leading up to Christmas anyway.
If you can afford to save more, that’s great! But if money is still tight and $50 isn’t possible, aim for a lower target such as $30 or $25 per week. Anything you can put away is better than nothing, and it’s a great habit you can carry well into the new year.
Shop around for a savings account
Now, you need a practical place to put the $50 you’re setting aside each week – not a jar on your kitchen counter. Maximize the value of your money by putting it in a high-interest savings account. You’re essentially signing up for free money.
In today’s rising-interest environment, you can still find rates around two per cent at smaller institutions, such as EQ Bank, Implicity Financial or Oaken Financial. And though these types of accounts are best-used for long-term savings, you can easily earn up to $10 before Christmas Eve. It doesn’t sound like a huge amount of cash, but it’s still $10 more than you had before.
However, ensure you’re not paying any fees on your savings account. Doing so will defeat the purpose of using one – especially when the money will be needed in two months’ time or less. Do your research and compare accounts to find one that best suits you.
Re-evaluate your current bills
Spend an hour or two inspecting all your monthly credit card bills. Are you making a regular payment for something you no longer need? Do you have a subscription to a music or video streaming service you don’t use? Is there a gym membership that you’re sitting on? Put a hold on or cancel any unnecessary services, at least until the holidays are over.
When it comes to your phone bill, ask yourself where you can cut back. Perhaps you don’t need unlimited minutes if you only use your phone for texts and Snapchat. Or maybe you’re paying for five gigabytes of data when you usually don’t go over three per month. Call your service provider and ask how you can lower your monthly bill. Do the same for your TV and internet service, or consider ditching cable all together and just stick to your streaming subscriptions.
Cash in on those credit card rewards
While you’re shopping, cashiers will often inform you of a store credit card just as you are getting ready to pay. Some people may be weary to sign up for store cards, but there are cards out there that reward you for spending money. And since groceries will likely take a large bite out of your budget during the holidays, why not put it on plastic for something in return, such as cash back or points towards free groceries?
A few cards to consider:
- The Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card offers multiple opportunities for cashback: four per cent cashback on eligible gas and grocery purchases, two per cent on drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and one per cent on just about everything else. There’s also no annual fee for the first year.
- For the first six months, the SimplyCashTMCard from American Express offers five per cent cashback on eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants in Canada. After that, you’ll get 1.25 per cent cashback in those categories.
- President’s Choice® also offers two credit cards that work just like a points card, making it a great choice specifically for grocery rewards. While the President’s Choice Financial MasterCard offers 10 PC points per $1 spent, the President’s Choice Financial World Elite MasterCard offers 30 PC points per $1 spent at participating grocery stores where President’s Choice® products are sold, on top of 10 PC points per $1 everywhere else. PC points can then be used towards groceries and any products at participating stores where President’s Choice® products are sold. And for a limited time, you can get a $100 e-gift card and up to 20,000 PC points when you sign up through RateSupermarket.ca and activate your card. That’s $20-worth of free groceries!
Sell items you don’t need
Let Craigslist and Kijiji be your best friends. If you have valuable items in your home that are simply collecting dust – furniture, appliances that are still in the box, electronics – there’s no better time than now to sell them online. When pricing your own items, research what similar items are selling for and use it as a ballpark figure. Then sit back and wait for inquiries to come in. Not only can you earn extra cash, but this can also free up some space in your home – for all those new Christmas gifts, of course.
If it’s on sale and you can afford it – buy it now!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday now undoubtedly rival Boxing Day when it comes to sales, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to find a deal. Halloween is a week away, meaning all chocolate and candy will be discounted immediately after the Oct. 31, and can thereafter be stuffed into stockings.
It’s also a great time to purchase spring and summer items that are still on the racks. If you have friends or family that enjoy camping, gardening, or just being outside, there’s no better time than now to stock up on garden tools, camping/fishing equipment and lawn furniture to give as gifts. Shopping now will not only save you money, but it will also reduce the amount of time spent in busy stores and malls later on in the season.
In retail terms, Christmas is just around the corner, so it’s not too early to start planning and set aside some money for the season. Doing this well in advance can prevent the overspending that often comes with the holidays, leaving you stress-free without a monstrous credit card bill hanging over your head in the new year.