In the last couple of months there have been a plethora of surveys on how much Canadians spend on Christmas shopping.

Unlike our neighbours to the south (who are spending less), we apparently are more confident about our economy and plan to increase spending this year by 2 to 3.5 percent.

Related: Saying, “I Can’t Afford It”.

Holiday Shopping: How Much Do We Spend?

Polls show an average of $899 (Scotiabank) to $1,610 (BMO) planned for gifts alone, and total holiday spending of $854 to $2,183 for gifts and other incidentals (Deloitte Canada).

I sometimes wonder if people take into account all the extra spending they do at this time of year.

Gifts – This is the obvious first item on our holiday budget list.  But, what a list it can be!

We buy gifts for:

  • Our children, spouses and partners, immediate and extended family
  • Workplace “secret Santas” (I once pulled the name of someone I’d never even heard of, let alone knew.)
  • Our employer.  This must a new trend.  It used to be that a company gave its employees holiday gifts and bonuses.  My husband used to get an annual, well received Safeway grocery voucher (this was before gift cards).  Being a bank employee, I received the heart-felt thanks of the current president for all my hard work during the year, which resulted in his $5 million bonus (although I did once receive a bottle of home-made wine from our janitor – don’t ask!)
  • The mail carrier, newspaper deliverer, doorman, school bus driver, teacher, house cleaner, babysitter, and neighbours
  • Staff at the bank, library, doctor’s office, and hair salon get the obligatory box of chocolates
  • Hostess gifts for the many parties and open houses we attend

Restaurant/Fast Food meals – so we can keep on shopping and to pacify the kids for a time

Greeting cards

Annual holiday photo package

Visit with Santa (kids and pets)

Postage and shipping: to send gifts, cards and photos to loved ones who live out of town

Travel expenses: road trips to airline tickets, to get you and your family out of town.

Parties and entertainmentworkplace, neighbourhood, friends and family

You need:

  • New clothes for the festivities, something sparkly or the latest fad of ugly Christmas sweaters – and everything in between
  • Accessories, including hairdo and festive finger nails
  • Cab fare in case you overindulge
  • Groceries for the big meal as well as snacks, finger food, and liquor
  • Baking supplies

Home décoreither new items, or replacements for those worn out

Some people spend hundreds of dollars on their outside light shows, alone.

Charitable giving – Nine out of 10 people feel good about giving to charity at this time of year (Ipsos Reid).

Not only do we send a cheque to our favourite charity, we like to give to:

  • Salvation Army Santas
  • Toy and food drives
  • Christmas hampers
  • Adopt-a-Family
  • Buy a goat

These are all worthwhile, feel-good, causes.

And don’t forget a new calendar.

Final thoughts

The Scotiabank survey indicates that almost half of us (49%) have saved enough money for our holiday spending and 41% of shoppers plan to use credit (I’m assuming they will pay off the cards as the bills come in).

Unfortunately, 10% do not have enough to pay for their shopping expenses.

Related: The Burden Of Debt

These last few days are “crunch time” when many of us have a tendency to panic because we can’t find something suitable for the price we wanted to pay.  That’s when we scrap the plan and end up blowing the budget.  If you are part of the 10% that don’t have enough money anyway, your credit problems will exacerbate throughout the year.

I have always had a savings account I use specifically for our annual expenses.  At one time, the period between September (school costs) and January (house insurance) used to be a minefield of extra expenses.  I total them up and divide them into twelve monthly payments.  By January the account is pretty meager, but my bills get paid.  I then recalculate, add an extra 5 – 10% for “just in case” and then start all over again.

How do you handle the extra expenses you have at this time of year?


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