Are photos with Santa a budget expense worth paying for? : The Saturday Weekend Review #96



Where is Santa right now?

With only 40 days left until Christmas Santa is everywhere but in the North Pole right now.  If you are using the Norad Santa tracker you will know that Jolly Old Saint Nicholas is at a mall near you waiting for the kids to get Santa pictures taken.

That’s right Santa is gearing up today in most malls across Canada to meet thousands of excited children with their Christmas list for Santa in hand.

This is the time of year where our families come together to share memories, create memories, eat lots of food and open gifts! I’m the one who decorates the Christmas tree and the decorations and lights up outside of our house.

My wife and I love driving around to see the other houses in our city all lit up. It’s just a great feeling that we now get to share with our son who was born in September of this year.


Holiday Photos


My wife and I decided to go to the mall last night to bring our son for a walk around to tire him out plus to find a “My First Christmas” Santa hat for his Christmas photos in December.

We are getting photo cards done for our his first Christmas so we send them to family and friends for the whopping cost of only$12. We thought that was a pretty good deal plus for another $9.99 we get an 8×10 Holiday photo with any props we’d like. Sadly there is no Santa at the photo studio nor does our son know that Santa lives in the North Pole.

While wandering around we noticed that Christmas is in full swing with decorated Christmas trees and decorations all over the walls and ceiling of the mall. It feels like we are walking through a winter wonderland. They waste no time to market the holiday season because as soon as Halloween is done out comes the holiday frosting.

With so many malls in the Toronto area there will be no shortage of Santa Clause sightings everywhere you go especially at the malls. I never did understand how we would explain to our child why he can see Santa on just about every corner and shopping mall we went in. Now that he is here I have a few years to come up with a good excuse. It really does make the kids at one point question, Is Santa Clause real?


Letters to Santa


While walking through Santa’s Village at a mall in the Greater Toronto area we noticed other parents with their children taking photos by the huge red Santa mailbox in Santa’s village.

The child said out loud to his parents, “Mom, Dad how will we know what Santa Clauses address is?” and we both laughed. The parents told him that the elves would come and pick up the letters to Santa and bring them to Santa so he could read them.

I thought it was brilliant that when our son gets older he can write a letter to Santa and some places even mail back a response. Not all malls provide this return Santa letter service but you might find your local newspaper might have something to this extent. Canada post always runs a “Write to Santa” service in which he write back all for the price of a stamp. I think we will send off a letter to Santa from our son and put it in his keepsake binder for him.

To cut down on the costs of the response from Santa in the mail and the time it takes to mail return letters technology has given us a modern take on communicating with Santa, text.

That’s right if you have a cell phone some mall Santa’s are offering to send a message from Santa right to your cell phone. I’m sure that comes with a price tag although I failed to find out that cost as of yet.


Santa Pictures


If you are bringing your children to the mall starting this weekend until Dec 24 in most malls be prepared to pay some cash for that photo with Santa. My wife remembers as a child her parents brought her a few times to meet Santa and it was a memorable experience for her. I never had this experience growing up.

Did I miss out? No. Would I have liked to see photos of myself on Santa’s lap? Sure, why not. My wife and I get a chuckle looking at photos of her on Santa’s lap although she still wonders exactly what she asked him to get her for Christmas. She says she wishes now that she had asked to win the lottery as she probably asked for a Barbie doll.

Some children forget the toys and ask Santa for other personal and in some cases emotionally filled needs for Christmas. Talking with Santa gives them hope and I don’t think I’d want to take that hope away from a child who desperately wants and needs it. Some parents don’t want their children believing in make-believe characters such as Santa but as parents we all have our own opinions to raise our children as we want to.

What I wasn’t to keen on was the cost to get a photo done with Santa unless of course the money was being donated to a charity which some organizations are doing. I think the entire Santa photo is becoming such a large marketing ploy that many parents fall into.

If you think you will just take your own photos with your smartphone or camera, think again as they don’t let this happen. One family last night took photos of their child at the Santa Letter Mailbox outside of Santa’s village which is free and perfectly fine to do but not with Santa.

Not all parents can afford to pay to put their kids on Santa’s lap so this is another way to have them participate even though they don’t get to meet the jolly man in person. If you dig around I’m sure you will find some places in your city that will offer free photos with Santa.

If the company where your work has a children’s Christmas party your organization might hire a Santa or someone will dress up and volunteer. This is a great way to get a free photo of your child with Santa Clause.

Santa pictures and packages at a mall can range anywhere from $5 for a photo up to $42 for a package of photos and there’s more than one package at some malls. If you want to have a high-resolution CD plus a photo of Santa created you can add another $10 to that cost. If you just want the photo of Santa on disk that will cost you a further $7 out-of-pocket but you must by a photo package to have this done. Not all malls and organizations are charging the above prices but for the most part they aren’t free.

How many photos of Santa do you really need?

You could easily scan the photo to share on social media if you’d like. Most people could care less on Facebook how professional the photo is all they want to see is the photo. Some malls are even offering photos of Santa and your pets. Oh ya, if you want your pet to get in on the festivities you can chime in and get some photos taken.

Although we are getting professional photos done at the photography studio my wife and I agreed that we would make our way back to the mall to introduce or baby boy to Santa for the first time in his life.

Although some photo prices are expensive it’s important for us to start creating traditions for our little family. Most parents would pay just about anything to get in on the Santa action with their kids and likely why the costs are so high, or part of the reason.

How much are Santa pictures worth to you and your child? Some of you may say nothing and won’t bother getting photos with Santa done but for many of you getting photos done with Santa is a must for the holidays.


 Around our house and the blog


The blog has been busy but I’ve had to deal with another issue with spam behind the scenes which was quickly resolved. I thought to myself.. “not again” but that’s behind me now.

A big thanks to my new friend Kipp from Frankly Frugal who shared the Grocery Game Challenge in his Budget Update  post for Sept/Oct for all of his fans. The best part is Kipp is from the USA and he participates in the Grocery Game. You don’t have to be Canadian to save money!

My friend Dan from Our Big Fat Wallet shared my post about paying a fee to view a rental unit with his fans this week as well. Thanks Dan.

This week has been crazy busy for me and even though I didn’t accomplish all of my goals I did manage to get the vehicle undercoating done by Krown for the winter. Winter maintenance of our vehicle is important to us and our safety. Next week I’ll be putting the snow tires on the van and I have to replace the lock mechanism on one of the doors.

Now that the snow has made touchdown in Ontario I’ll be shutting off the water outdoors and bringing in the garden hose for the winter. All of our plants are finally indoors in the front window soaking up the sunshine. I was going to put up our Christmas wreathe over the garage but that is not priority at the moment but if I can find some time that is what else I will get done.

Our baby had his first shots this week at the doctors office and he took them like a champ. I have to say that I wasn’t sure how he would be having 2 needles in his legs but other than a first cry he quickly started smiling. Phew!!

We managed to get his passport application in the mail too so hopefully he will have his Canadian Passport soon so we can book a vacation to the UK to see my family.

It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve been home so I look forward to seeing them next year. I will have to update my British passport too very soon so while I’m at the Toronto UK consulate I’ll look into getting our son his EU passport as well. You can never have too many passports. 🙂

That’s my week.. how was yours?


CBB blog posts this week


Just in case you’ve missed any of my blog posts this week I will link to them all below. If you have a question that you would like to ask Mr.CBB fill out the contact Mr.CBB form on the Home Page and send in your questions. Mr.CBB will look in his mailbag weekly and pick a question to answer on the blog.


Fan deals and inspirations


Submit your Brag or Inspiration If you have a brag that you want me to share email me at canadianbudgetbinder (@) [yahoo] [.ca] or fill out my contact form by Friday each week to have your brag considered for the Saturday post.


chandra grocery deals

This week Chandra shares just how much she saved with this huge grocery haul costing her only $183.20. Below is the breakdown of just the deals she picked up. Thanks for sharing Chandra!

Coupons, price matching and sales the above photo of products cost me $183.20. A woman behind me was shocked as she believed that the total out-of-pocket was going to be around the $250.00 without coupons. Whoop!

  • Family size pork chops-$10.00
  • 2 x Deli meat family pack $5.00 each-me $10.00
  • 2x potatoes $3.47 each-$6.54
  • 2x prime chicken thighs reduced
  • 2x prime ground chicken reduced total for all meat $22.83
  • 4x 5.00 off coupons my price $2.83 for all the prime meat
  • 2x breakfast bars on sale $3.00-me $6.00
  • 2x rice packs on sale $2.00- me $4.00
  • chewy mini bars reg $7.49-me $1.75
  • 4x hot italian sausages 2 packs for $8.00-me $16.00
  • 2x ground pork 2 packs for $8.00-me$16.00
  • 10x Yoplait drinks on sale $1.00-me $10.00
  • 5x margarine on sale $1.00-me $5.00 (I can’t believe it’s not butter freezes great)
  •  omega eggs $4.56-coupon me-free
  • 18 pack eggs $4.69 price match No Frills me $2.77
  • 4x Greek yogurt $3.97- me $15.88
  • 3x mushrooms sale $1.47-me $4.41
  • 3x Stonemill bread $4.29- 3 coupons me=free
  • 4 packs of gravy $2.00
  • 4x 5 alive juice sale $1.00-me $4.00
  • big bag shrimp-$9.00
  • 24 royal toilet paper-$8.00
  • 3x cherry tomatoes $1.00-me $3.00


Making A Difference


If you know a personal finance blogger that is making a difference and want to nominate them please send me an email canadianbudgetbinder (@) so I can reach out to them for a feature story.


the wallet diet

Hey everyone! My name is Christine and I blog at The Wallet Diet.

The Wallet Diet is all about making personal finance simple for 20-somethings. I’m big on making things simple because it was only four years ago that I had just graduated university with over $35k in student debt. The idea of paying off this huge sum of money was so daunting to me that I didn’t even know where to start.

I mean, savings? Investing? STOCK MARKET?? These terms were so foreign to me, you might as well have spoken in Dutch.

I spent the last few years learning about personal finance and taking in everything that I could. Here’s the thing though: I still wanted to live my life. I didn’t want to call my parents roommates or eat instant noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I absolutely love to travel – does debt mean I have to give that up too? There had to be a way to balance it all.

Luckily for me, I’ve discovered the way. Since then, I’ve paid off more than $30,000 of my student debt while navigating her career, living in an apartment in downtown Toronto, and traveling to over 15 countries.

The Wallet Diet blog is a way for me to share the knowledge that I’ve accumulated throughout the years and journalize the highs and lows of my financial journey. I also like to “decode” the most common personal finance concepts. No idea how credit card interest work? No worries. I’ll break it down into bite-sized morsels you can chew.

My advice will be simple and easy to understand – no financial background necessary. These tips will be practical to put to use in your everyday life and will help you manage your money better.

Let the journey to financial wisdom begin!


Top recipe


Orange Liqueur Holiday Cookies

If you don’t already know I have a second Facebook page called The Free Recipe Depot where I share recipes from other Food Bloggers from around the world.

From now until the end of the year I will be sharing holiday recipes with all of you!! Today my friend at Baking in a Tornado shared this lovely Holiday Orange Liqueur cookie recipe.


Editor’s Pick


Every week I will pick a blog post of the week from around the web that I found interesting and want to share with you and an Editor’s top blog post pick.

Editor’s blog post pick of the week

This week I enjoyed reading Mark’s post about Retirement Perspectives. He always gives me the push I need to keep thinking about our retirement and ways to make sure we are maximizing on the ways that are available to us. Enjoy the read.

I’m not near “retirement age” yet but I think about it often.  I suppose for individuals in their 50s and 60s, they are forced to think about retirement and how to fund it more often than they care to admit.  No doubt recent stock market volatility has forced many people to question if they can retire at all, if so by when and how much might be enough.


Google search terms


Every week I get thousands of people visit Canadian Budget Binder because they did a search online and found my blog. Keep in mind any spelling errors below are because I share with you the exact way they typed their search engine query to land on my blog.

  • How can a single mom afford a nanny?– I don’t know you tell me. If you have to ask you likely can’t.
  • Best way to make money in Canada– One answer- Get a job!
  • How much should I pay to have someone prepare meals weekly– Hmm, good question. I might look into that for a GGC post! Hiring a personal chef likely is not that cheap.
  • Clothes envy from neighbours– Now that’ new!


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  1. We tried santa pics this year for our 2 y/o and 6 mo old. One cried and refused to get up there, the other smiled and happily took the shot 🙂 So one way to save money is to only pay for 1/2 the kids – hah!

    1. Haha.. I guess that saved you a bit. Next year all you have to do is say the word Santa and your little one won’t want to go again! I’m curious to see how our son will do. I’d like to get some photos and video especially of him while he’s young. That’s something I wish my parents had more of so I could see myself as a child. In a way I feel like I missed part of my life because I can’t remember it. Is it worth it? Sure it is.

  2. Our children don’t believe in Santa, but they love the fun of pretending! I remember how betrayed I felt as a kid when I found out he wasn’t real. My wife does too, so we agreed to do it this way. Not that there is anything wrong with them believing in Santa. It’s personal preference. I do think that the pics with Santa are important, but we don’t do it every year. We have 2 or 3 over the 8 years. That seems like enough to me. lol

    1. That’s true they could turn out crappy but with technology today I’m sure they will have the option to pick and choose the key is to hope you have at least one good shot!!

  3. I never bothered with the Santa shots when the kids were small, hubby was pretty handy with a camera and preferred to take any pictures himself. We did get the odd one from the plant Christmas party as there was usually some one taking each child’s picture as they sat on Santa’s knee and would then post the developed pictures on the board in the cafeteria to help yourself.
    We always told the kids that Santa needed lots of helpers to talk to the kids and get the wish lists for him as he had to be up at the North Pole getting ready for the big ride!! I used to turn on the radio in the hallway Christmas Eve as the local station ran the NORAD Santa Tracker!!!! They just loved that!!!!!Kept them in bed too while ‘Mrs Claus’ got the presents out of hiding and under the tree. Hear tell you can track the dear old boy online now!!! Once the kids were a little older I had them help me carry the presents to/from family to put under the tree before bed. This was the time for them to get out the gifts they had for each other and their Dad and I. Every Christmas Eve I read The Night Before Christmas. Did this for years!!!!
    One year when the kids were a little older we had fun writing a letter to Santa Claws from our cats and we did get a reply as we mailed it at the post office!! Gunky and the girls asked Santa Claws for cat treats, new toys and some nice catnip!!! Got them too!!!!
    I have always been the one to do the tree and all other decorating here. Hubby will help get the tree in the stand with me as we have a real tree every year. Once that is done I do the rest with help from the boys. Should be very interesting this year with the new puss!! Not sure how Molly will react to the tree!!! It will be very well anchored!!!! We love the smell of a real tree!!! After the big day the town collects the trees curbside to be chipped and used for mulch around town.
    Chandra got some sweet deals!!!! That cookie looks mighty good!!!!
    Hope the Little Mr is feeling better after his shots!!!! Have a great weekend!!!
    Looks like I have another blog to check out!!!

    1. Haha, you wrote a letter to Santa CLAWS from your cats that’s hilarious. It’s always important to include the pets. I know when our boy was alive we would buy gifts for him and let him unwrap them out in the snow every year. He loved it!!

  4. I think here anyone can meet Santa. You only have to pay if you want a photo taken. Our daughter is two and I’m pretty sure trying to get her to sit on a stranger’s lap would probably bring on a pretty big tantrum. So we might wait until she’s a little older for her first official visit with Santa.

  5. I did not raise my children to believe in Santa. To me it is about lying to your child about an imaginary image no matter how we spin it. I realize many do not share my sentiments and feel free to raise your offspring how you desire.

  6. Mr CBB, if you are looking into the cost of someone making meals for you… there are also companies like Meals On Wheels that deliver to the infirmed & elderly and others that do “organic or vegetarian meals” that sell them in monthly packages. Sure it would be wonderful to have a chef in your kitchen, but there are cheaper & more efficient means by which to have meals prepared for you when and if the need arises. 🙂

    1. If I do a blog post on that topic I’ll be sure to look into Meals On Wheels. My wife just said she knows what you are talking about and it’s been around for a long time now. I agree if there are cheaper ways then certainly it’s a route worth travelling or at least exploring. Have a great day Mary!!

  7. When my older kids were little I took them to Santa a few times and only have two pics of them with him, one was 2/$5 and the other was free because it was inside a festival that was very costly to enter. Not sure if we will take our little miss this xmas as she plays strange with anyone she doesnt know.

  8. $42 is crazy! LOL, maybe it’s a small town thing, or we just got lucky, but each year we always were able to get pictures of our little one done with Santa at no cost!
    They’d give us a professional copy, and we could also take our own, which we would upload to an online photo site like Kulapix and create our Christmas cards that way:)
    It’s unfortunate for those that can’t afford it, every kid deserves the chance to chat with Santa!
    Hard to come by anything that doesn’t come with a price tag anymore.

  9. I raised my daughter not to believe Santa. She did have one or two years of sitting on the guy’s lap but she knew that it was somebody in a suit and I was “Santa”. I know people think that I recked her childhood by not allowing that belief but I was raised not to belief in it. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth and not the monetary hoopla thats it has become.

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