Money Matters: Holiday Debt

The painful truth amongst many parents is that we break the bank over the holidays to make our kids happy. The commercialism of Christmas puts tremendous pressure on families to open their wallets and buy toys and gadgets that will keep everyone content for a little while. Toronto is a wealthy city, and whether or not we feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, research has shown we try. Christmas spending can easily spin out of control before we know it.

Keeping Christmas Spending in Check

According to a study done by the Bank of Montreal in 2011, the average Canadian household plans to spend $582.70 on holiday gifts. Another study by the Toronto Dominion Bank found that one third of Canadian households knew they would be buying gifts they could not afford. In 2006 a study performed by EKOS Research Associates for the Toronto Star found that the average Canadian household budgeted $861.00 for Christmas spending, 46 per cent planned to pay by credit ,and it would take an average of seven weeks to pay off debt.

Do we want to teach our children that the holiday season is about buying lots of stuff and squabbling between parents once the bills start rolling in? Whatever we consider to be the true meaning of Christmas, there will always be an element of giving involved. Here are five ways you can give gifts to our children without breaking the bank.

Five Tips for Keeping Christmas Spending in Check

1. Loonie Store Loving

A friend once told me a story of travelling home for the holidays, and not being able to spend a lot of money on gifts for their three young girls. Instead of breaking the bank, on their road trip they stopped at a dollar store and gave each child $20.00 to spend. $20.00 can go a long way in a dollar store, and my friend told me it was the most fun the girls ever had receiving gifts. The element of surprise was still there because the kids did not know what they would discover walking into the store.

2. Draw Names From a Hat

Within your family (this works well for extended family too) put everyone’s name in a hat and have each person select one person they will buy a gift for. Set a reasonable spending limit. This should mean paying for everything with cash. Encourage your children to think carefully about what their sibling, parent or other relative might need or value. It’s a lesson in giving, and it will curtail your Christmas spending.

3. Pass By Debt With a Pass

Give a season Pass to Canada’s Wonderland, the Zoo, The Science Centre, or a Water Park. This is the best way to give something to your kids which will keep them entertained all year round. You probably will already buy them a season pass to something so this is a good opportunity to spend and save.

4. Hit The Attic

How many times have our parents reminded us they are storing boxes of our favourite childhood toys in their attics and crawlspaces? By taking a walk down memory lane we can find the toys that were special to us growing up,and pass them along to our children. If I ever have a girl she will be receiving a whole town of original Polly Pockets. Giving retro gifts is one of the latest trends, so don’t feel bad about making old things new. You’re keeping Christmas spending in check, and doing what the cool kids are doing.

5. Give A Goat

Establishing a tradition of giving to others will influence your children for a lifetime. There are many organizations that offer catalogues of ways to support families in need, and other worthy causes, during the holidays. Here are a few to consider:


  • Oxfam Unwrapped
  • World Vision Gifts
  • Food for the Hungry Gift Guide
  • Save The Children Holiday Gift Guide Catalogue

Welcoming the New Year Stress Free

If we avoid breaking the bank by keeping Christmas spending under control, we can celebrate the New Year without the fear of holiday debt creeping up on us.

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