The holidays can derail your budget faster than you can unwrap your presents. Between parties, buying gifts and festive attire and decor, the average Canadian spends $1,563 on the holidays, according to a report by the accounting firm PwC. 

There's no need to stress over the impending gift costs. Instead, use these four strategies to help you stay on budget. You can shower your loved ones with thoughtful presents without entering the New Year with debt baggage.

Tighten Your List

It's important to remember that your generous spirit doesn't always match your bank account. While you might have many friends and family members you want to shop for this season, it’s smarter to tighten your gift buying list.

Most of your school friends and roommates are probably feeling the same budget crunch too, so don't feel awkward about bringing it up. Propose a group gift exchange between your close friends and roommates. As far as family members go, they also probably remember living on a limited student budget and might enjoy your gift of time over a physical present. For example, offer to clean the house for your grandparents or take your younger cousins ice skating for the day as a gift to them and their parents.

Shop Smarter

No matter what your gift budget is per person, don't pay retail price. You can save 30% to 50% off of quality gifts by pairing coupons on top of a sale. You can also purchase discounted gift cards from sites like CardSwap and use them to shop.

Don't forget to do a quick online price comparison when you are shopping. For example, you might find the latest headphones on sale for 10% off in-store. A quick internet search can show you that another store has the same headphones for 20% off. Even better, you might be able to find a new pair sold at 30% to 40% per cent off on eBay or Amazon because they are a return item or have damaged packaging.

Buy in Bulk

If you still want to spread the holiday cheer among your long list of loved ones, start thinking in bulk. You can give thoughtful gifts for under $5-6 per person by gifting similar presents to similar groups of people. Here are some fun examples:

  • For the art lovers, buy journals or blank books in bulk and pair with art supplies also bought in bulk.
  • For spa lovers, pair bulk facial masks, nail polishes, and bath bombs.
  • For the coffee lovers, tie a smaller bag of coffee beans together with biscotti or cookies.
  • For the grill master, pair a bottle of fancier barbecue sauce with a container of do-it-yourself meat rub.

Give the Gift of Food

Gifting homemade food is also a great way to show others you care while staying in budget. Favourites like maple fudge and shortbread are affordable to make and tasty to share.

Consider making gluten-free cookies or low-carb brownies for an individual with certain food allergies or diet preferences. Tailoring your baked goods for their needs will make it easier for them to be surrounded by all the other holiday treats they can't have.

While the holidays might feel like a push to spend money, remember the real reason for celebrating. The holidays are meant to be a much-needed break from school and work, as well as a time to make memories with your family and friends.

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