Have yourself a debt-free little Christmas

Sandra dissects news reports that say Canadians are worried about debt, and that they plan to spend more this holiday season

By Sandra E. Martin
Have yourself a debt-free little Christmas

We took the girls to see Santa at the mall on Sunday — not the wisest choice if one's intention is to find a parking space close to an entrance, avoid jostling your fellow man (or woman) and stand in line for as little time as possible. But our lives are so busy right now, with Bronwyn in Nutcracker rehearsals every Sunday in addition to her twice-weekly dance lessons, all of Isobel's little friends seeming to be celebrating birthdays in late fall (and, hence, having birthday parties every other weekend), plus in-laws set to descend upon us in a few weeks. We figured Sunday was pretty much our last chance to see Santa before the lineups really got out of hand. 
Yes, the mall was crowded. Yes, the stores looked busy. Yet, as Matt remarked, "I don't see a lot of people holding packages. Are they buying anything?"
If they were keeping their wallets close, that's reflective of a recent poll commissioned by ING Direct, the online bank, that found more than one-fifth of Canadians who earn less than $50,000 a ear are worried about how they'll pay their bills in the new year. And nearly one-fifth of poll respondents in all income levels said post-holiday debt was their biggest concern.
Yet, days later, news outlets were reporting on another poll, this one commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada, that found Canadians plan to spend more this year on holiday gifts, fun and visiting than they did last year — $1,252 this year, up from $1,136 during the 2010 holiday season.
So which gives the real picture? I always take polls with a grain of salt; they're a reflection of intent, and not necessarily an accurate picture of what's actually happening.
Matt and I are trying to keep our holiday spending in check, as we have the past four years since we bought our "forever home." We draw names among adults on my side of the family, where my kids are the only grandchildren, so that each of us only has to buy a gift for one other adult. On Matt's side of the family, where each sibling has a couple kids apiece, we've agreed to buy gifts for the kids only. I like this strategy, because it allows you to give a fairly substantial gift to each of the select few people on your list, and still not break the bank.
What about you — do you feel more financially confident this year than last? And what are  your tips for holiday shopping without racking up a ton of debt?

Photo by Dave416 via Flickr

This article was originally published on Nov 28, 2011

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