5 Ways to Cut Spending over the Holidays

By Nadia Vommaro

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, but for many parents — especially single moms and dads or families on very modest incomes — checking off even a tiny fraction of their kids’ wishlists this time of year can be stressful.

Canadians are drowning in debt, spending an average of $705 on holiday shopping last year, according to a Retail Council of Canada survey. And, according to a poll by Rates.ca, nearly half of Canadians overspent on holiday purchases last year. As a single mom who was forced to become the sole provider for my young children after my separation, I can attest it isn’t easy to steer through the holiday season and come out financially whole on Jan 1. Luckily, my background as a wealth management professional provided some stability, but there are many easy, common sense strategies that anyone can implement to ease some of the burden of holiday spending:

Make a plan and stick to it. It’s never too early to make a budget and expense forecast. Consider all your potential spending. Costs even outside of gifts can easily get out of control. Think of all those baked desserts and trips to the LCBO every time you plan a visit or host family and friends. Also, keep in mind the kids are home all day for two weeks. If they’re anything like mine, they can deplete your fridge down to a half-carton of eggs and bag of carrots in no time. Plus, there’s the added expenses of extra-curricular activities and travelling costs during this time of year.

Make a list and check it twice. As part of your budget, make a list early in the year of everyone you have to purchase gifts for. Take advantage of great sales all year-long; grab those 80 per cent off clearance items as you stumble across them and stuff them in a closet until Christmas. Feel free to squirrel away a bit of money every month.  I know the penny jar is a relic, but you can also open up a separate holiday account and transfer a few bucks to it every month, year-round.

Get creative and be a sentimental spender. Sit down and spend time making gifts with your kids to give to close family members. Online image book services are a big thing these days, but I actually made my boyfriend one for free by simply using my saved images, uploading each one individually to Instagram ‘stories’ with a continuous message; then saved it on my phone as a video file to give as its own copy. He loved it! If you don’t have the time to make gifts or shop for multiple small items, check out mom groups on social media. There’s plenty of mompreneurs who have side businesses making and selling amazing jewelry, clothes and household items. And, you would be supporting your local community as well!

Use savvy shopping apps. I used to laugh at my mom who sat at her kitchen table for hours cutting coupons. Well, I didn’t laugh so much when I became a young, single mom and needed to save every dollar. Thankfully, today we have limitless apps like Flip that aggregate all the sales flyers for every store in your local area, so you’ll know exactly how much to spend and where.

Do an annual sell-off. If your kids’ rooms are a minefield of things they don’t look at anymore, sell them online on FB Marketplace or Kijiji. Price to get rid of it; do hassle-free doorstep pickups and money transfers. Whatever cash you can get will help fund the next wave of toys and games you’ll spend the next 12 months trying not to step on.

Finally, my last tip has little to do directly with your bottom line but reminds us what this time of year is supposed to be about: Next time you’re in the drive-thru, consider buying a coffee or tea for the person behind you. The only request: They should pay it forward and do the same for someone else. You’ll give someone the kind of smile money can’t buy.

Happy Holidays!

Nadia Vommaro (aka BossMom), is a GTA-based single mom, entrepreneur and financial services professional who helps families and small businesses navigate capital markets and choose customized, proactive savings strategies for achieving their own financial security and growth. Follow and contact her @Bossmomfinance on Instagram and join her Bossmomfinance group on Facebook.

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