Following several months of high inflation rates, this holiday season may be especially stressful for Canadians looking to cut back on spending.
A recent report published by Deloitte Canada shows holiday spending is expected to drop 17 per cent this year, to $1,520 per household. This is compared to $1,841 per household in 2021. The company’s 2022 holiday retail outlook also shows Canadians will likely spend about 10 per cent less on gifts and gift cards this year, for a total of $510.
“[This is] not a huge surprise when we think about what’s happening around us,” Marty Weintraub, a partner and national retail consulting leader at Deloitte Canada, told CTVNews.ca. “We have prices rising quickly with interest rate challenges coming, [and] there’s still some supply chain issues.”
According to Weintraub, the main reason behind this presumed pullback in spending is fear around Canada’s current economic climate. About 41 per cent of those surveyed by Deloitte Canada said their household finances have declined this year, while 48 per cent said they expect the economy to worsen in 2023. This comes as economists from the Royal Bank of Canada predict the country will enter a recession early next year.
“We have a looming economic downturn,” Weintraub said. “[Based on] public sentiment and the messaging we’re looking at, it looks like it’s going to happen … and that drives anxiety even higher.”
It can also create some tension for those eager to celebrate the holiday season after years of COVID-19 public health restrictions, said Anne Arbour, a financial educator with the Credit Counselling Society.
“There’s a desire to … get out there, to spend and to have a good time again,” she told CTVNews.ca. “But there’s also the reality of food and gas … costing considerably more.”
Weintraub and Arbour are two of several experts who spoke with CTVNews.ca about how Canadians can cut back on spending this holiday season. Whether hosting friends and family members, or purchasing gifts for loved ones, below are some tips on how to make the most of the holiday season without breaking the bank.
CREATING A HOLIDAY BUDGET
In order to limit spending this holiday season, Canadians should start by determining their existing cash-flow situation, said Kelly Ho, a certified financial planner with DLD Financial Group Ltd. based in Vancouver.
This involves identifying mandatory expenses – non-negotiable payments such as those that go towards housing, transportation and debt, for example – and discretionary costs, as well as the amount of money saved on a monthly basis.
From there, it will be easier to lay out a holiday budget based on what they’re comfortable spending on gifts, food and other expenses throughout the holidays, she said.
“When you know what your true situation is, you can be a lot more realistic when it comes to what you decide to do for the upcoming holiday season,” Ho told CTVNews.ca.
Ultimately, the goal is to spend less than what you have saved up, said Émile Khayat, a senior regional manager with TD Wealth Financial Planning.
Another useful strategy would be to look at how much money was spent over the holiday season last year, Ho said. From there, you can decide whether those same items or events still make the list, or if there are opportunities to cut back on spending.
“There’s a lot of homework involved in this but when people are in tight money situations, you have no choice,” Ho said.
GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR GIFTS
Economic challenges can present Canadians with an opportunity to come up with unique gift ideas – ones that include more than just tangible items, said Evelyn Jacks. The Winnipeg-based financial expert is the president of Knowledge Bureau, a financial education institute.
“Think about this holiday season as an old-fashioned one,” she told CTVNews.ca. “Sometimes, the best gift that we can give to one another is the gift of time.”
Instead of spending money on expensive products, Canadians can invest in shared experiences that may not cost nearly as much, Khayat said, such as going to a restaurant or spending an afternoon together. Homemade gifts can also be a cheaper alternative to buying presents for loved ones at the store, he said.
Another way to save money while gift-giving involves organizing a gift exchange between a large group of people, where each person purchases a gift for someone else, Khayat said.
“It’s definitely cheaper than buying a gift for every person,” he told CTVNews.ca.
One last option, particularly for parents, involves setting money aside for their children in a tax-free savings account or a registered education savings plan as a present. This also acts as an investment for the future, Jacks said.
“This brings an education culture to the family, where the kids know that every year, Mom and Dad are saving for me,” Jacks said. “What a wonderful gift that is.”
START PLANNING EARLY
By developing a spending plan ahead of the holiday season, Canadians can start setting aside money in advance to pay for gifts, food and other expenses throughout the holidays, Arbour said.
Deciding on which gifts to get and for whom ahead of time can also help you take advantage of bargains throughout the year, whether in-store or online, Khayat said. Additionally, by shopping in advance, you can avoid running into situations where items are out of stock due to high demand over the holidays.
When it comes to planning for the 2023 holiday season, Ho said she recommends starting as early as this January.
“Lay out the costs and average it out over 11 months to see how much you would need to save to make sure that happens next December,” she said.
Taking a strategic approach to spending can help Canadians avoid stressing about their finances, particularly when credit card bills arrive in January, said Jacks.
HUNT FOR DEALS
According to Weintraub, one tactic Canadians are likely to implement this holiday season involves purchasing gifts from brands with cheaper prices.
“Instead of buying a certain brand at a certain price point, I’m still going to buy you the same thing but I’m going to buy from a cheaper brand at a lower price point,” Weintraub said. “The choices we make will likely be towards value for now.”
The same goes for grocery store purchases, he said, particularly for those who expect to host over the holiday season. It would be wise to shop around and buy items at the lowest price possible, said Weintraub.
“Buying more store brand or private label [food products] is another way to save 10, 15 or 20 per cent right off the bat,” Weintraub said. “Canadians always love deals and bargains – there’s going to be that much more love over the next six to 12 months.”
Signing up for email alerts from stores you normally shop at is another way to stay on top of the latest deals, Khayat said. He also recommends taking advantage of loyalty programs. Points accumulated from shopping at different retailers or by using different credit cards can be redeemed for discounts, gift cards and more, Khayat said.
“There’s always ways to get that cash value from these points and use them towards something else,” he said.
AVOID USING CREDIT CARDS
Another way to limit spending over the holiday season involves making payments in cash rather than using credit, Arbour said. Doing so can help prevent you from overspending, something that is easier to do when tapping a piece of plastic versus paying with a finite amount of cash in hand, she said.
“The pain point of separating from our cash is real,” she said. “It can feel a little less concrete when we’re using credit.”
Jacks also advises Canadians to think twice before paying with a credit card during the holiday season. While using credit may allow them to pay for expenses at a later date, they should still consider whether they can afford these purchases now, she said.
“If you can’t afford to pay for these expenditures today … chances are you won’t be able to afford it when the credit card [bill] comes through,” Jacks said. “Then, what you’re going to be facing is a high interest charge on top of your expenditure.”
SHARE HOSTING RESPONSIBILITIES
For those who will be hosting guests over the holidays, one way to curb spending may be to organize potlucks, where each guest brings a different dish. This can help lift some of the burden of making food off of the host, Jacks said.
For families who may be looking to order in, splitting the cost between guests is a money-saving option as well, Ho said.
This year may also be a good opportunity to reconsider the kinds of get-togethers you’re having with friends and family members throughout the holiday season. Perhaps organizing a brunch or cocktail party instead of a formal, sit-down dinner is easier on the wallet, Arbour said. It’s also worth considering whether it’s necessary to attend these kinds of events in the first place, Ho said.
“Whip out the December calendar and see what you actually want to commit to,” she said. “You don’t have to go to everything.”
OPENLY DISCUSS EXPECTATIONS
With many Canadians feeling the pinch of high inflation and rising interest rates, it may be useful to have a conversation with friends and family about what kinds of holiday plans are affordable, Ho said.
This can involve talking to relatives about having fewer get-togethers, or speaking with friends about whether it’s actually necessary to buy gifts for their children.
“It just takes one person to break the ice … and go, ‘Hey, no pressure, everyone’s in different situations, let’s talk about this,” she said. “Because the last thing we want is for someone to get themselves into a bad [financial] situation.”