How to survive the holiday season without going into debt

For many people, the holidays are the best time of the year. And while December can be relaxing, it can also be one of the most expensive months. From buying presents to potentially attending social gatherings, it’s not hard to go over budget. However, if you follow these steps, you’ll make it through the holidays without acting like Scrooge.

Set a budget

Many people come from families or social circles where giving presents is an essential part of the holidays, but if you’re short on cash, you shouldn’t feel obligated to carry on this tradition. Coming up with a holiday budget is simple to do, and it forces you to be creative with your funds.

For example, let’s say you only have $300 to spend, and there are 10 people you need to get gifts for. Therefore, you can spend no more than $30 a person, or you need to make sure the total amount you spend doesn’t exceed $300.

Of course, you also need to come up with that $300 to begin with. The easiest way to do that is to build presents into your monthly budget. Since the holidays happen at the end of the year, your gift budget should be fully funded by December.

Start shopping on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Some people start their holiday shopping early while others wait until the last minute. I personally think the best time to begin buying gifts is during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend in late November.

Over the years, Black Friday/Cyber Monday has become huge in Canada, with just about every retailer taking part. The deals have been getting better every year, and there’s no need to line up at stores since you can get all of your shopping done online.

Unofficially, this weekend is the start of the holiday shopping season, and since it comes with huge discounts, why not take advantage of it?

Slash your list

This should be obvious, but if you slash people from your nice list, that’s fewer presents you need to worry about. Do you really need to get your boss, hairstylist, and massage therapist something? They may be important people in your life, but that doesn’t mean you need to get them a gift just because it’s the holidays.

Also, think about your social circle: Do you hang out with mainly one group of people? Instead of getting an individual present for all of your friends, why not propose a gift exchange where everyone only buys one gift with a defined price limit?

By doing this, there’s no pressure to get fancy or personal gifts for each of your friends. If you’re struggling with money management, there’s a good chance that someone in your social group is too. They’ll likely welcome the proposition.

Final thoughts

Admittedly, watching your budget is no fun over the holidays. It’s easy to get FOMO when everyone is in a festive mood, but the last thing you want is to have your bills arrive in January with no real plan to pay them. Be smart with your spending and happy holidays.

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. As a completely self-taught, do-it-yourself investor with no formal training, he makes money easy to understand for all Canadians. His specialties include personal finance, budget travel, millennial money, credit cards, and trending destinations.

Barry Choi is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.

Make sure you’re covered with the best insurance plan for your home and auto.