A colleague of mine showed up at the office this week with a new designer purse and designer wool coat. "It was an extra 20 per cent off at the outlet," she told me. They were purchases she couldn't afford to pass up. She's also booked a last-minute, all-inclusive getaway to Mexico and is shopping for resort wear. She still needs to buy Christmas gifts. Her bank balance is quickly dwindling and she's feeling guilty for splurging. "I had saved up a stash," she said, "and now it's almost all gone."
All around me, the signs of recession repression are fading. My friends who have been saving all year are going on winter vacations and hitting the malls with an abandon normally reserved for the box of office holiday chocolate.
Remember the days when we traded coupons for diapers and exchanged cheap crockpot recipes?
I'm still doing my best to be budget-minded, although it's not easy when I'm the only girl I know wearing last year's boots. I gave my daughters play dough, books and a board game for Hanukkah. I'm trying to think of a craft I can master this week so as to save on gifts for my friends (are sock monkeys hard?).
Canadians still have 51 per cent of their holiday shopping left to complete, according to a recent survey by Maritz Research. If, like me, you want to avoid overspending this holiday season, here are my best scrooge-inspired tips.
Don't buy stuff for yourself: When you open the purse strings for the holidays, it's all too easy to start spending on yourself too. Several of my friends have admitted to blowing most of their holiday budgets on new clothes for themselves. Keep in mind that this is the season for giving.
Start with a plan: Make a list and check it twice. When you put some thought into what you want to buy before you go shopping, you are less likely to fall for those impulse purchases and overspend while browsing aimlessly.
Stay away from temptation: This is one rule I try to live by - I do my best to avoid the malls unless I go in with a specific target in mind. The sales signs in the windows are like siren calls that can lure even the most budget-minded consumers. Remember that even when you're saving, you're still spending.
Just give a gift card: The beauty of gift cards is that you can control exactly how much you spend. Most people don't like the presents they get anyway, according to Maritz Research's survey. When asked what type of gift respondents would most like to receive, gift certificates came out on top with 20 per cent. If you're not sure which stores your intended frequents, consider giving a supermarket or gas bar gift card. It is, admittedly, unlikely to elicit gasps of thanks, but at least you know it will be used. It's hard to go wrong with a gift card.
Give a group gift: If you're worried about your thrifty gift looking too cheap, consider teaming up with friends and family members to give a group gift to someone on all of your lists. You can stick to your budget while making an impressive impact.
Partner up: Instead of shelling out on a present for your significant other or best friend, agree on a joint gift for the both of you. It could be a dinner out, tickets to a play, or a weekend getaway. You'll likely end up spending less than you would on an individual gift for each other and you'll have the shared experience to remember.
Get crafty: This is certainly easier if you happen to have a talent for crafts, such as knitting wool or whittling wood, but homemade gifts score higher on the warm and fuzzy scale than something mass-produced. If your best efforts at craft-making look like something your three-year-old produced, try your hand at baking or cooking holiday treats. Wrap your creation up in cellophane and a colourful bow and it will make a big impression. Interior designer and Globe and Mail columnist Sarah Richardson offers up some helpful holiday DIY ideas on her website.
Use loyalty card points: If you collect Airmiles or Aeroplan points, you can redeem them for holiday gifts. Everything from electronics to furniture, to books is available on both loyalty cards' sites. One of the most popular loyalty card programs among Canadians is the Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum card and you can redeem points for gifts such as fragrances, cosmetics sets and housewares.
Re-gift: That vase you got from your great aunt may not go with your décor, but could be a perfect accent in your neighbour's living room. Personal finance blog Thicken My Wallet has tips on how to properly re-gift and avoid getting caught.
Give a family memento: The holidays are a good time to pass down a family heirloom. It doesn't have to have to be valuable to be meaningful. If you don't have a dresser drawer filled with family treasures, check out local pawn shops for deals on interesting pieces of jewellery and start a new family tradition.