Managing your money

Holiday fun – without breaking the bank!

Practical steps for managing holiday finances

The holidays – it’s a time for festive decorations, delicious indulgences and happy get-togethers. But despite all the joyous tidings surrounding this special time of the year, the holidays can be stressful – especially when you consider the financial costs associated with entertaining and gift-giving.

If you’re planning to play host this holiday season or are worried about having enough money to buy gifts for your loved ones, here are some ideas that can help you keep your finances – and sanity – in check.

Budget and plan

Budgeting is a no-brainer but it can be easy to overlook amidst the holiday season excitement. Here are some tips:

The spirit of the season is about celebrating; it doesn’t have to be about breaking the bank.

  • Limit your guest list to 10 to 12 people. This will help you control the cost as well as the arrangements.
  • Come up with a theme for your party. Sticking to the theme will allow you to plan better and stay within budget.
  • Write down the total amount you want to spend on gifts and make a list of people you’ll be buying for. This will give you a realistic idea of how much you can spend on each person, and prevent any costly surprises when the bills start to arrive.
  • Give yourself time to look for sales and do comparison shopping. By doing so, you can buy items of your choice in advance and don’t have to compromise to simply fit your budget.
  • Consider putting a cap on the spending limit for family members. When buying for a couple, get a shared gift that would appeal to both partners. Providing gifts for children only under certain ages is another option that can shorten your shopping list.

Get creative and practical

The dazzle of retail items and advertisements can trick us into spending more, but a little creativity can go a long way to help check this urge. Here’s how:

  • Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive to be appealing. Use items around your house or yard to decorate. Light tea lights and put them in glasses or on plates. Use evergreen branches and pine cones to decorate jars and create your own wreathes.
  • Make your dinner a potluck party. Request that guests bring their choice of food or desserts. Not only will that allow you to save, but it will also give your guests a wide variety of dishes to sample.
  • Make your own gift baskets. Combine bargains to create exciting themes.
  • Reuse and recycle ornaments for an ornament exchange with your friends.
  • Give your child a registered education savings plan (RESP) or a practical lesson in personal finance as a gift this holiday season. Purchasing activities for children, such as swimming lessons, rather than items is a good idea if you’re stumped on gift ideas.

Share your time and talents

As much as material gifts are a vital part of the holiday season, your time and special talents can prove even more precious. A few ideas:

  • Organize a brunch or a homemade pizza party where the focus isn’t so much on food as on having a good time.
  • Teach your child the importance of giving by choosing a cause that means something to them to donate to. Help them decide how much to give and encourage them to deliver the donation.
  • The best gifts are thoughtful, not extravagant. It can be as simple as a scenic drive or watching a movie together.
  • Use your talent or skill to create inexpensive but priceless gifts. You can cook or bake delicacies, knit or sew items or make crafts or jewelry. You can even impart lessons using your talents in areas like music, arts or sports.
  • Offer the gift of time and companionship, especially to those who might need it, like the elderly. Helping out with their shopping, laundry or cooking, or just spending time listening to them might be the best gift you could give.

In the end, keeping things simple can help you get the most out of the holiday experience. The spirit of the season is about celebrating and being thankful – it doesn’t have to be about breaking the bank. An open discussion with your financial security advisor can help you make wise budgetary decisions this holiday season.


The information provided is based on current laws, regulations and other rules applicable to Canadian residents. It is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Rules and their interpretation may change, affecting the accuracy of the information. The information provided is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for advice in any specific situation. For specific situations, advice should be obtained from the appropriate legal, accounting, tax or other professional advisors.