Q: My family and I love the holidays. Everyone comes to our house for Christmas and younger and older, we all really enjoy our time together. This year a few cousins from out of town will be staying with us for a few days too. While all the togetherness is a lot of fun, it’s also nice when the house quiets down again. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is family time for just the five of us. The kids have asked to do some shopping, and then go skiing for a few days and to also visit with longtime family friends over New Year’s. My wife and I are looking at our finances and want to do these things with them, but we just don’t see how. What can you suggest? ~Kevin
A: Everyone celebrates Boxing Day in a different way. Some stay up late Christmas Day night or get up early on the 26th to check for online deals, or they hit the shops to pick up holiday clearance items for next year. There are those who can’t wait to get out with family or friends to enjoy a winter activity. And others have more of a lazy day and enjoy leftovers from a big meal the day before. However, top of mind for most people this year, regardless of how you choose to spend your day, are costs. As you enjoy Boxing Day and the week leading up to New Year’s your way, here are tips to keep in mind.
Watch prices not discounts
Retailers count on the hype of Boxing Day to encourage you to part with your cash or any available credit. However, whether in person or online, know your pre-holiday sale prices to determine if you’re getting a deal or being duped. Do as much research as you can before clicking or tapping and focus on the current price of an item. Whether it’s 40 per cent or 80 per cent off is irrelevant if you don’t need it or if buying it would leave you short elsewhere with your budget.
Turning gift cards into a gift
For those shopping with gift cards, and especially kids who might not normally have that much money available to them, make a plan to get what you want at the best possible price point. If you tend to set gift cards aside and even forget about them, make a note in your calendar of where you put them or when you plan to spend them if they are for something specific. It can even be worth putting them into your wallet if they are for retailers where you would normally do your shopping.
Tips to Help Teens Shop with Gift Cards
Don’t let inflation get to your gift cards
While it’s nice to save gift cards and treat yourself, the longer you hang onto them, the less buying power they have. Even without high inflation, prices tend to go up over time, yet the dollar value of the gift cards stays the same. This isn’t a licence to spend, but it is to your advantage to plan how best to use the money sooner than later. If it was for something special and you spent it on more routine expenses, set an equivalent amount aside in a savings account so that you’ve got the funds available when you need them.
Winter fun on a budget
Winter sports can get pricey. From the gear that’s needed to where the activities take place and all that goes with travelling there, many underestimate the wallop winter fun can throw their way. Rather than going big this year, consider staying closer to home. Participate in activities and events in your community or in one that’s within a short drive. Involve your whole family in researching and planning what they’d like to do.
Tips to Plan Family Fun Strategically and Frugally
Avoid overscheduling as January approaches
Many school-age kids had the week before Christmas off this year, so back-to-school in January will be here before we know it. It is worth keeping this in mind as you plan your New Year’s festivities. While a busy party with lots on the go can be fun as the ball drops, January can be a long and stressful month. The bills roll in from the holidays, workplaces set goals for the year, school-age kids face assessments and exams to end a semester, and many post-secondary students are starting a new term with new courses. Be sure to include some downtime in everyone’s plans so that you’ve got the energy to face whatever January brings your way.
The impact of a lazy day on your finances
A lazy day could mean a Netflix marathon in your Christmas pyjamas, unpacking and assembling gifts for yourself or the kids, taking down the tree, or finding recipes for leftover turkey. Don’t underestimate the power of rest and relaxation and its positive impact on financial decisions. It is also a way of enjoying what we have without yearning for or acquiring more. Gratitude is a powerful inoculant against spending.
The bottom line on money management on Boxing Day
Boxing Day is the beginning of the end for many people. Christmas is over and the décor can come down. Holiday sales give way to year-end clearance events and New Year’s preparations take shape. It’s been a stressful year for many Canadians and as we prepare to turn the page on 2022, a renewed focus on our priorities and what is truly important in our lives will provide direction as we look ahead to 2023. Take some time to consider what you need to do to improve how you manage your money. Then start the new year organized and ready to follow through with your resolutions.
Scott Hannah is president of the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit organization. For more information about managing your money or debt, contact Scott by email, check nomoredebts.org or call 1-888-527-8999.