It should be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday season can sometimes be the most stressful. Besides all the socializing, there’s the pressure to buy gifts, many of which are not usually in most people’s budget. Still, we simply close our eyes and swipe our credit cards or dip into our overdraft. I’m as guilty as anyone, even though it’s a no-no!
I don’t want to sound like the Financial Scrooge, but to be fiscally responsible, as with everything else in life, you need a good plan. Otherwise, you’ll spend the new year playing catch-up. To avoid that, I’d like to share a few tips I hope you’ll find helpful.
1. MAKE A LIST AND PRIORITIZE Have you ever made an invitation list only to find it’s grown way bigger than expected? If, like me, you’re a social butterfly, this can prove overwhelming. Therefore, you need to determine who gets a gift vs. a card, email, text or phone call—a greeting that, frankly, many people might simply prefer.
2. DEVISE A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT Check in with your financial adviser for guidance on holiday budgeting. Calculate an amount you think you can comfortably manage to spend over the season without going into excessive debt—or no debt at all. Allocate something for everyone on your gift list. If, after this exercise, your heart and pocket aren’t in synch, go back to Step 1 to re-prioritize or reduce your spend per person.
As discussed in a previous column (see Money$tyle, June 2015), cards like the TD Aeroplan or TD Cash Back credit cards can help you earn points and dollars. Using them for holiday purchases lets the cards work harder for you.
3. START SHOPPING EARLY It may seem obvious, but procrastinating will lead to impulse purchases. From my experience, you’ll end up overpaying for gifts. Shopping online could not only give you greater flexibility and convenience, but you may find lower prices, more deals and greater selection.
4. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
• Cash is King and a great way to stay on budget. My teenage nieces and nephews prefer money over gifts.
• Buy gift cards for redemption at a friend’s or loved one’s favourite store or restaurant.
• Score bonus points at the office by suggesting that “Kris Kringle” put a dollar limit on gifts to coworkers. You might also consider helping the needy, perhaps through one of several “Adopt a Family” programs where everyone helps to buy food or gifts, or simply donate to your favourite charity—in most cases you get a tax receipt.
• Recommend that presents be for children only and preferably educational toys or monetary gifts for education savings contributions, such as a Registered
Education Savings Plan (RESP), in which the government will match contributions up to a given amount (see Money$tyle,
• How about some DIY presents instead of purchases? There are numerous DIY websites you can use if you need advice.
The holidays are an occasion for you to focus on quality time with loved ones and helping those in need. As for the best gift, most times all that’s required is YOU being present.
A HELPER’S HAND
If you’re looking for some sound advice on creating a budget, you can find it by visiting the website www.tdcanadatrust.com, and then searching budgeting.
GOALS HAPPILY MET
As part of its support for this year’s Toronto Pride Week, TD and Aeroplan donated one Aeroplan mile to organizations that fight for LGBT rights worldwide for every dollar that TD Aeroplan Credit Card holders spent during Pride Week. That means each time cardholders used their card from June 19 to 29, they made a measurable difference in the quality of life everywhere.
The campaign achieved its donation goal, resulting in 21 million miles donated to Aeroplan’s Beyond Miles charity program. The Aeroplan miles have been split three ways (seven million miles each) and donated to Eagle, Rainbow Railroad and The Stephen Lewis Foundation. For some perspective, 21 million miles would translate into approximately 105 return flights to Africa or 650 hotel-night stays in downtown Toronto.
Al Ramsay is TD Bank Group’s regional manager, LGBTA Business Development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on twitter at AlRamsay_TD. Orlando Lopez contributed to this article. He is a Financial Planner at TD Bank and can be reached at email@example.com.