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Solving Spending Pressures of the Holiday Season

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You’re probably at the beach or spending time in the pool and snow and ice are the furthest thing from your mind. It’s only July but thinking about the Holiday Season early can save you money and help take the stress down a notch with a an early planning strategy.

The Holiday Season was special for my family in the UK and there was a feeling of  joy in the air every day in December. We celebrated Christmas in the UK but just not on the level as Mrs. CBB’s family does here in Canada. Looking back I think if we had the snow it might have had a bigger impact on us. You know how we are all dreaming of a white Christmas… well that is part of the experience but not all of us get it.

My father used to always say,”I was lucky if I got an orange son,you don’t know you’re born“. In other words you don’t know how lucky you have it now compared to life before you were born.

My Mum and Dad would always help us kids decorate a tree and we would all have gifts to open on Christmas morning followed by a traditional Goose Dinner. We never really had snow on the ground so no snowmen or snow angels on our front lawns. What we did have is love and although our gifts might have been far and few we can’t deny that money is the topic most chat about leading up to Christmas and thereafter.

I’m not kidding when I say my first Christmas in Canada was outrageous. Not only did I get to make a snowman but I got to drive highway 401 in a snowstorm as my first Canadian driving experience. I also got to feel the crisp cold air up me nose and feel my hands going numb. These times although we may have had them when I was very young were not memories in my mind.

I also got a glimpse of how empty my pockets were going to be if I didn’t start planning for the holidays in Canada. I believe that Christmas is much more Vegas compared to what I’m used to and I’m not a Mr. Money Bags. No, I’m no Scrooge either but I certainly wasn’t ready for the celebrations Mrs.CBB’s family were about to surround me with.

I figured for about 8 of us it took around 5 hours to open our Christmas gifts as it’s the one time of year the entire family is together and boy do they make it a good time. The budget for each person was $150-$300 and was a growing trend each year as if we all needed to deal with a shopping addiction. Although Mrs. CBB’s family is frugal with their money they spare no expense for Christmas.

Mrs. CBB and I didn’t spend that much on each other in fact after the first year we stopped buying gifts for each other. We saved our money to buy what we wanted once per year. Last year was our HD (1080p) Smart television that we envisioned for 3 years on our wall over the fireplace.

Since we were Newlyweds and needed a budget by the time we got round to it last year everything had changed. The family now had to listen to us say no we are on a budget and so we decided to pick names for Christmas with a $50 limit per person. If only more people realized it’s not the amount you spend it’s the love that’s given. So now we only spend $100 at Christmas as opposed to the almost $2000 we used to spend (not really but no one needs to know if you got a good deal, right?)

Stress for many creeps up during the holiday season when people are trying to sort out what to buy and if they can afford it. Sometimes this stress can turn into holiday depression. Some families turn to the food bank or rely upon Christmas hampers, community groups and donations just to see the kids smile. It’s these programs that take some of the stress away for many and continue to gain full support from communities around Canada. Tis, the season of giving, sharing and Love.

Then for others it’s after Christmas when the credit card bills start popping up that stress sets in. This can cause money fights and money problems in relationships. Most people spend far more on holiday shopping than they should and simple planning can help solve this problem. Stop the last-minute shopping and paying full retail price for items. Some people like to shop after Christmas to get boxing day deals, wrap them up and away they go, smart idea.

Not only are gifts and the grocery budget top of the list during the festivities there is also snow tires, under coating protection for vehicle maintenance, shovels, wiper blades, wind shield washer fluid, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, snow pants, ice scrapers, ice-melt etc….

All this can add up and if it is not being saved in the budget these expenses can come at a high price for some. These are not considered emergency expenses either.

Ways we reduce spending pressures of the Holiday Season

  • Budget monthly maintenance costs and save the money in our projected expenses account so the money is there when we need it.
  • Factor in the cost of winter attire into our clothing allowance when allotting money to the clothing category in the budget.
  • We draw names for gift-giving each New Years Eve so that way we know who we are buying for at the beginning of the year.
  • We talk to the person who we are buying for and ask them about things they like in advance so you have options.
  • Search for the best price on items that the person we are buying for wants, then buy it. The best part is we have all year to do this.
  • Save $25 a month in our Budget for projected expenses at Christmas Time and New Years (we don’t go out so not much to save for us).
  • Set a grocery budget that reflects the food we want to bring to the relatives as we don’t normally host. This includes baking as we bake for our friends and wrap up our Christmas Cookies each year.
  • Set a drinking budget-how much alcohol do we want in our home. festive season so we budget this ahead of time so we have the money.
  • We buy items at end of season for the following year. We are well stocked on wrapping paper, bags, Christmas cards, outdoor-lights etc.
  • We don’t buy for each other so we save for want we want and buy it on boxing day if we find an awesome deal.
  • Avoid the line-ups, shop early, time is money and we would rather spend it together than slugging around in the snow from shop to shop.
  • We also like to volunteer during the festive season with our local community groups.

Thanks to my Facebook Fan Mary Campbell for asking me to talk about this topic! I always appreciate listening to what my fans want to know and learn.

What ways do you prepare for the festive holidays? How do you save money? Do you budget your holiday expenses?

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  1. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always interesting to read through articles from other writers and practice something from other websites.

  2. It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions.

    Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read even more things about it!

  3. Hey Mr. CBB,

    To ease the pressure off, what you can do is to “investigate” your friends’ twitter accounts. Believe it or not, it’s easy to find what my friends want by just checking out their tweets. Twitter is actually a goldmine of knowing your friends’ wishes and wants. 😀

  4. I used to begin making gifts in January, to spread the expense over the year and I shared a lot of home canning and baking. Now we only give presents (and small ones at that) to the littlest of the littles and we ask friends and family not to give us presents. So much simpler, and kinder to the budget too.

  5. I used to plan for months for Christmas and work very hard to ensure that everyone received hand made cards and hand made gifts. I gave gifts of canning and baking, and hand-knit or home-sewn clothing or pyjamas for the kids. It took hours and hours of work to make them and much careful budgeting to pay for the materials.

    A reality check came along a few years ago, when one of my family members told me that my baskets of canning and baking were “Just a bunch of junk that no one uses anyway.” It caused me to stop short and reassess what I’d been doing. My husband and I had done without a lot to share those gifts, and put in hours of hard work. Clearly not a wise investment of our time, effort, and emotion. (I’d have come to a different conclusion if I believed for a moment that the recipients were happy to get those gifts.)

    Anyway, that was it. From that time forward, I budgeted enough to make a cash donation to the food bank on each family’s behalf, and sent them the receipt so they could use it for a tax deduction. I’m not sure how the recipients of those receipts feel about it, but this practice has made my Christmas planning simpler, my holidays happier, and helps some people in need in the process. I probably spend the same amount of money I did back when I was making gifts, but far less time.

    Since we are quite specific that we don’t wish to receive gifts ourselves, our Christmases are much less stressful and we are free to spend our holidays enjoying the good company of family and friends.

    1. Well that seems very rude of someone to say to anyone who offers a gift. I don’t blame you one bit for doing what you did and I’m sure that the food bank appreciates your donation. I would be thrilled to receive a gift like that. Good for you! Mr.CBB

  6. This is a great topic. I try to shop all year long for Christmas gifts, especially when things are on sale, and I find things suitable for people on my list! But I still have lots more to do yet! I am trying to cut down more, and more every year, and trying not to add anyone new.
    I love how you mentioned you and Mrs. CBB not exchanging gifts, and buying something you need. We actually talked about doing the same this year.

  7. We’ve really tapered off our gift giving. We’ve noticed most things just sit unused after a short while, so we’re focusing on the 20% of things that provide 80% of the happiness– Pereto principle wins again!

    1. It’s so true mate, we see the same thing. Some people simply go overboard during the Holidays and tend to forget what the reason for the season is all about. We are saving alot more than usual now during the festive season and we are happy about that. Cheers and thanks for dropping in Mike! Mr.CBB

  8. This is my first year where I started budgeting in May for Christmas and so far it’s paying off. We went over a proposed plan for how much we want to spend on each person if it’s a “buy immediate family something” or if we are going to concentrate on my fiance’s sister’s daughter this year as it would be her first Christmas and than my family (they are farther away so I also have to factor in postage). Either way, we have a Christmas budget that will work. As we are going to be moving around Christmas this year we decided not to buy a bigger tree (we currently have a 3′ one from when we were rooming with people) and other little stuff as we would rather have a nicer place. Like any budget, it takes open communication. We don’t see eye to eye on everything but we’re able to come up with a compromise.

    1. Hey!
      I think the more we plan for the holidays the more we see what we don’t need. Same goes with a budget but if we wait last minute and rush we just buy anything to make it work and make people happy. Christmas is one of those holidays that make or break the budget for some and should be planned. Good for you! Cheers and thanks for dropping in mate… Merry Shopping! Mr.CBB

  9. Christmas wasn’t really celebrated where my parents are from, so Christmas was never a huge occasion. I used to be really envious of my friends who seemed to have the who holiday experience. Their whole families came together (I lived in Ohio and the closest relatives distance-wise lived in Toronto–and those were my third cousins!), their houses were full of decorations while mine just had a Christmas tree, and of course, all my friends got a boat load of presents with all the latest toy while I would just get some cash.

    A spent my first Christmas with my in-laws last year and had the Christmas I wanted as a little kid, but this time it seemed over the top, but I still had a great time. I definitely spent a lot more money than usual, since there was an unspoken expectations about gifts. As soon as last Chrsitmas was over I definintely started planning for the next one. I don’t want to be caught by surprise again. For the most, I’ve been putting money in a Christmas fund and buying a few gifts here and there al year long. As for wrapping paper and gift bags, I saved everything I could from presents from my wedding in May

    1. I hear ya, sort of sounds like what I went through but it’s sorted itself out. If you are not used to the grand scheme of the holiday season it can be overwhelming. That is why we started to budget and the plan has changed from that unspoken rule to $50 and drawing names. It makes it so much easier. How did that make you feel when your mates had the full experience and you didn’t? If you are interested in sharing that story with my fans in a guest post send me an email I would love to share what Christmas meant to you and how not celebrating like the other kids affected you or if it did at all. Were you envious your mates got new gifts etc and how do you look at the holiday as an adult?

      Cheers and thanks for your comment

  10. My biggest thing has been cutting back – we basically buy for my nieces and nephew and my parents. That’s it. Makes things easier and less expensive. I don’t want much, so it also cuts down on receiving unwanted stuff!

    1. Hey,
      That’s another good point, getting unwanted stuff. So many times we go to garage sales and the vendor says oh we got it for Christmas and haven’t used it, or we didn’t like it etc. Why waste money on crap if people aren’t going to use it. Planning is key and keeping it simple, sometimes just love and smiles is all that is needed.. oh and a stiff drink haha.. Cheers mate. Mr.CBB

  11. A great topic for this time of year. Gets us thinking and looking out for deals. In the past I have always tended to be a last minute shopper. Have tried to change that a bit since having a daughter and keep my eye out for sales on toys and things I want to buy for her. My biggest problem is trying to figure out what to buy everyone, especially my dad. We used to buy for everyone and I have a pretty large extended family. We’ve since decided that it was becoming a bit much so we now pick a name among the adults and buy one gift for no more than $50 and then buy for the kids. I get a bit of the short end of the stick as I only have 1 child and my siblings have 2 and 3 so more for my to buy for than for them. Since starting my budget I have made sure to budget for gifts. I think I may have to increase it slightly as my daughter seems to be invited to more and more birthday parties, I swear my 6 year old has a much more active social life than I do. I tend not to go overboard at Christmas, I more enjoy the time spent with family then the opening of gifts, I only tend to get one or two anyway. Thanks Mr. CBB

    1. Hi Joanna,
      Absolutely it can get very expensive and planning a list early in the year is important. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get a list from the kids or adults on items they would love to have so you have options. We do this and it makes it easy. It’s mainly items we would not buy ourselves so it’s a real treat when we get it. I like to go overboard on the gathering, chatting, food and drink.. the gifts are just a perk, holidays from work and spending it with family and my mates are more important. Cheers and thanks for sharing. Mr.CBB

  12. Things have changed for us in the last few years at Christmas. We used to spend $50 on each person =$450-500 plus what we spent on eachother (about $200 each). Two years ago we changed this and now we buy for my parents $50 each, Ken’s mom $50, and then we draw names among siblings so I get one $50 and Ken gets one $50. We no longer exchange with Ken’s siblings. We don’t really have a “limit” for eachother but we try to just get things that we need (I will buy Ken the essentials like socks, underwear, jeans, etc) and the same goes for what Ken buys me. I also buy for my friends two kids but stopped buying for her and her hubby a few years ago as well. I spend under $50 on each of them. I do end up buying for my friend for her bday which is the day after mine (the 29th). I have a birthday at Christmas time (the 28th) so I usually end up with a combo gift with Christmas or something big 🙂 Last b-day I got my steam mop from Ken 😀 and my parents bought me a remote starter for my van as a combo Christmas/b-day. Our first Christmas with Adam he was still in the NICU so we didn’t buy him anything and last year I didn’t really buy him anything either. I just wrapped up a few things I bought at yard sales in the summer. I probably won’t get him anything this year either as everyone else spoils him. He doesn’t really need anything anyways. I try to use reward points to purchase gifts when I can. I use PC points, Petro points, HBC rewards and RBC rewards. I also try to find deals during the year, at yard sales or at the end of the previous Christmas season.

    1. Hi Jen,
      This time next year you will be well on your way to having your Christmas fund all ready to rock and roll. I think it’s smart when people talk about the Holidays and expectations otherwise it just gets out of hand. There is always the ‘who bought the most’ or ‘spent the most’ and it’s silly. Finding deals all year long cuts down on end of year expenses and will keep the budget on track. You will see my darlin.. keep at it… you are doing so well.

  13. What a nice article Mr CBB!

    The orange reminded me of my Christmas when I was little…the stocking would magically move from the fireplace to the foot of my bed while I slept. Inside there would be a Christmas orange, a few walnuts, a new pair of socks, a new toothbrush, a candy cane and a comic book. My parents figured I would be wired anyway, so a little candy and a comic book would keep me in my room temporarily and buy them possibly another hour’s sleep. There were rules to Christmas in my house…1. you could not go downstairs until Mom & Dad got up & went with you – so as soon as the comic book was finished it was time to go fetch them & 2. oh and this one was murder, you couldn’t see the tree nor the presents that Santa had brought until AFTER you ate your breakfast and Mom & Dad had that first cup of coffee. Do you know how slow a parent can sip that first coffee?!!

    Christmas was simpler when I was young but I watch what it has exploded into with the arrival of my sister’s children & I am not sure that it’s any more fun for them because of the excessive gift giving. In fact, there are so many gifts that they have their immediate family gifts on Christmas Eve and then have all the gifts on Christmas Day from Grandpa. I have watched them actually tucker out & not want to open any more gifts. They want to play with something new that they have already seen…and occasionally the hit of the day is not the toy, it’s the box!!

    Isn’t there something comforting too about the fact that I got to pick my special birthday supper on Boxing Day on behalf of the whole family and I always chose cold turkey sandwiches…white meat, white bread, Miracle Whip, salt & pepper. I am not a fan of warm turkey so my birthday dinner was more of a highlight for me than the actual Christmas Day dinner.

    My husband and I have chosen not to exchange gifts with each other or others at Christmas time. What I do is arrange to give each of our dear friends & family something no amount of money can buy…our time & trying to do something with each of them that they enjoy & will remember far longer than it takes to unwrap a gift. We have little lunches, dinners, caroling, attending a service, Christmas window & tree competition sightseeing get-togethers, taking them out seeking out the best Christmas lights in the city and hopefully this expresses the love we feel for them. I believe it is appreciated by some but not by others. Some folks feel it’s only Dec 25th that’s important but that’s not the Christmas Spirit in my heart. I do an annual Christmas email that summarizes how our year has shaken down for all those we care about & it allows them a glimpse into our daily lives, not just when we are dressed to the nines for a fancy dinner.

    All of these holiday sharings are done in the first three weeks of December though because I am deeply committed to a nice warm holiday season for Larry & I. Let’s be honest here too, I have tried the home Christmas thing – a week’s worth of cleaning both before and after because every room of the house must be spotless, three days to set up all the decorations and three days to take them all down and then restore the house to normal, plus absolutely every room in the house must be decorated (yes all three bathrooms too), then there’s a month’s worth of cooking and baking for “an army”… even though we are only two. And when all is said and done, I am so exhausted when the actual day arrives and I dissolve into a puddle of tears & it’s no fun for either of us. This year will be something different for us, we are not going to a warm destination but it’s somewhere new where we can make some new holiday memories together.

    I like the freedom to buy a gift because I see something and I think it’s absolutely fabulous and I give it to the friend or family member when I find it for them. Last time I was in Palm Springs, I saw some delightful things for a girlfriend and shipped them to her. I gave my aunt some things when I went to visit, but I plan to put together a little parcel to ship to her in about two weeks time. I don’t need to be there to be thanked or gushed over – just the knowledge that I am making their life a little nicer and/or easier is enough for me. Budgeting all year long allows me to take advantage of these “perfect” items. If I had wee ones, would I feel different – no doubt!! But as I don’t, I have built a set of holiday traditions that make us happy.

    As I said earlier today, I save for the holiday season all year long but as anyone who knows me can tell you, my favorite holiday of the year is St. Patrick’s Day. I love the music, the dancing, pass on the green beer though but of course there has to be a meal of corned beef and cabbage. More than all the fun and frivolity, I love the lack of expectations from others. A little budgeting, a little understanding of myself and the support of my spouse guarantee that no matter where we are the Christmas season will be happy & bright.

  14. I shop all year for gifts and have a large bin up in the bedroom where things get stashed. My hubby’s favourite thing is to go through the chapters bargain book section and order cheap books which go in the stash when they arrive. Nine times out of ten he has forgotten he ordered it and it’s a surprise. I talk to our kids all the time with my ears open for ideas and such that get filed away in the computer between the ears. Then with some ideas I go over the sales and such looking for the deals all year. I ask the kids for their “wish list” to double check with my lists. Plus I try very hard to have some money in cash hidden in my wallet that I can use to get some really great deal I just found for some one for Christmas with out having it show up in the bank book or M/C bill. Now I get to check the kids stuff as we have an almost 3 grandson (Always looking for Cars, Thomas and Chuddington and books on same!!!) As for wrapping paper… when ever I hit the fabric stores I check out the Christmas fabric and if I find something I really like I grab, maybe, a meter of it. Then I make up “Santa Sacks” in various sizes to use for gifts….so nice for the hard to wrap things like the tools that have been bought for the hubby and all three kids (yes our daughter has her own tools and toolbox as do I ). I have things like Airmiles to cash in. HBC points, Canadian Tire money…. all handy….. Oh and when the kids were in school….we used book orders. The kids would get to pick a month in the early part of the school year to order books to use as gifts for the rest of us,as well as shopping the school book sales! The kids were happy as could be and so proud of the gifts “they” bought at Christmas to put under the tree and the school got funds to help everyone….

    1. Wow, lots of great ideas Christine. Sounds like you have it all down to a science for your family. I love the Christmas sack idea, brilliant. I might have to think about that one. It’s unique and people love when things are home made as well. Thanks for sharing your story Christine, much appreciated. I always love to read personal stories. Cheers Mr.CBB

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