9 simple ways to save money this holiday season

The holidays can be fun, but they’re also expensive.

According to Shannon Lee Simmons, a financial planner at the New School of Finance in Toronto, even though people have good intentions when it comes to budgeting during the holidays, it’s easy to spend more money than intended.

“One of the things we forget is the cost of making merry,” she said, explaining that budgets tend to focus on gift giving and leave out other costs most people don’t consider, like bringing alcohol to parties, buying holiday outfits, and even taxi fares.

“All of those extra costs should be things we take into account, even extra groceries [or] decor if you want a nice table,” Simmons told Global News.

Because the holidays can get pricey, it’s important to find creative ways to save money wherever you can. Here, Simmons and Toronto-based personal finance expert Barry Choi share their insider tips on how to spend less this season.

Host a Secret Santa gift exchange

If you are seeing a group of friends during the holidays, swap giving gifts to individuals and opt for a Secret Santa (where gifts are personalized) or a Yankee Swap (where everyone is guaranteed to walk away with a gift), Simmons said.

This way, you are buying one gift within a reasonable budget instead of buying multiple.

Be honest with friends/family

Simmons said if 2018 isn’t the year for you to buy something for everyone, make sure you are honest about this with family and friends.

“A lot of people feel pressure going to different holiday parties,” Simmons said. “Some people you are excited to buy for… others you are doing it ’cause you have to.”

Choi echoes this sentiment, and told Global News it’s important to really think about who should be on your gift list, and who can be cut.

“Do all your co-workers really need a gift?” Choi said. “It’s really important for people to talk with your family and friends and decide what makes sense. Because odds are, if you’re struggling to come up with funds, they are also.”

Set up donation gifts for children

This is more work on the gift-receiving end of things, but for families with a lot of children or nieces and nephews, Simmons recommended asking family members for a $10 RRSP or university fund for children, instead of boxed gifts.

You may also inspire other members of your family to do the same.

Buy second-hand

Choi said that marketplace sites like Kijiji or Craigslist often have great deals on new or nearly new things like electronics. Purchasing something from a person vs. a retailer can save you serious cash.

“Kijiji put out this index report at the beginning of this year which talked about how much you can save and make buying and selling second-hand, and the [total] average is close to $2,000,” he said.

Selling gifts you received but don’t want or need is also a great way to make money to buy things for others.

“I’ve gotten gifts I didn’t want and then sold them on Kijiji,” Choi said. “Obviously, I’m not going to get full-market value for it, but I’m going to get something.”


Choi said that while re-gifting is a hotly debated topic, it’s a perfectly fine thing to do if the gift you’re giving would be appreciated by the person receiving it.

“If you’re getting a gift that you just don’t need but it’s a solid gift, or it’s something you already have, re-gifting it makes sense,” he said. “But I wouldn’t re-gift things you know people wouldn’t like.”

Context is important, he stressed. If you’re not sure if you should pass along something you’ve been given, ask yourself if it’s something you would normally gift that person. If so, re-gifting it is OK.

Pay attention to timing

Retailers often have significant sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is a great time to buy discounted items. But brands have started extending their offers longer, Choi said.

“For quite a few retailers, it was Cyber Week this year — not just Cyber Monday,” Choi said. “I think retailers are getting smart, and offering more online discounts. ”

He also pointed out that many brands offer even bigger discounts on their websites than they do in-store. “My wife quickly realized that when Gap [products] are on sale, they’re always cheaper online than in the store.”

Shop online

Not only do certain retailers offer discounted products online, many brands will offer free gift-wrapping, too. This is a great way to save money on wrapping items yourself, Choi said.

Another perk to shopping online is saving on shipping. If you’re buying a gift for someone in another part of the country, it’s often cheaper to have it gift-wrapped and mailed to their address instead of your own. That way, you aren’t paying twice for shipping.

Take advantage of credit card points

For those of you with credit cards that have this option, cash in your points for either gift cards, luxury items or electronics. Simmons said this is a good time to go through unused gift cards to see if you can re-gift them.

While using your credit card points for gifts is a smart way to limit spending, Simmons actually recommended using cash or your debit card to pay for holiday purchases. That way, you’re more aware of your spending, and less likely to make impulse purchases, she said.

If you don’t trust yourself to keep your credit card in your wallet, stick a reminder on it telling you not to use it. “Every time you take out your [credit] card, you see it … and it’s a mindful check before you swipe your card,” she said.

Get the right apps

Apps like ShopSavvy and Flipp make finding deals easy, both Simmons and Choi said. It’s also helpful to browse the web, too, and see what discounts are available online.

“One good website is Redflagdeals.com,” Choi said. “It’s basically a crowd-sourced thing where people post the deals they see.”

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