alison griffiths articles
Me and My Money
Sign on for my debt-free holiday challenge...
Posted November 25, 2011
Originally Published November 22, 2010
Two facts are on a collision course. Fact one, according to the Canadian Payroll Association, 60 per cent of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque and admit they would be in serious trouble if even a single one were missed. Fact two, a recent Moneyville.ca on-line poll found that readers were intending to spend just over $600, on average, buying holiday gifts.
So what happens when the two facts collide? Debt, that’s what. The presents get bought anyway because we humans are, well, human and the festive season is masterful at separating us from our money. The $600 plus, which probably isn’t sitting handy in a savings account, ends up as debt and 2011 begins with an attack of buyer’s remorse.
According to a just released TD Canada Trust Holiday Survey, 33% of Canadians buy gifts they know they can’t afford and 27% are financing their festive season expenses with their credit cards. Some even intend to cash in their investments to finance spending between now and the end of the year.
The TD survey also pinpointed a hidden holiday spending item; 48% of us pick up a little something for ourselves while we’re out shopping for others. This isn’t surprising since
the stores and displays are just so yummy.
Don’t despair. You can be debt free this holiday and still buy that $600 worth of gifts. All it requires is a nip here, a tuck there and a spending slice somewhere else. Oh yes, give yourself a pass. When temptation strikes put your hand in your pocket and repeat the mantra -- debt-free holiday, debt-free holiday, debt-free holiday.
There are six weeks left to the close of 2010 and, roughly, 28 working days. Make each day contribute a bit to your holiday budget and, voila! come year end you will have saved the very $600 you, most probably, will be spending on baubles and gadgets in this joyous (and expensive) season.
Here are five suggestions to get you started on a debt-free holiday resolution. I’ve included tax and tip, averaged prices and rounded for easier reading.
1. Bag it, tag it and take it
Do you really want to eat one more Chicken Divan, one more Burrito Wrap or another Greek Salad with extra feta? How lovely is it to cram in the midday meal, barely tasted, while sitting in those oh-so-comfy food court chairs? And what about that 2:00 p.m. post-mall lunch bloat?
I know you’ve heard this one before, so, just do it. Cut out four purchased lunches a week at $7.50 a pop. (I’ll leave you one for the day you sleep in or are late getting the kids ready for school or daycare.)
Saved -- $180 (based on an average food court sandwichsalad or meal combo with drink.)
2. Junk the Java
It’s probably a nag you are mighty tired of hearing. The latte factor and all that. But -- note to wallet! -- it really works. The thing about the coffeetealatte to go business is not so much the taste but the habit. Just as you might chew gum as a distraction from the desire to smoke, your hand needs a distraction from the takeout cup.
You don’t even need to go out and buy a thermos since the java joint’s paper or foam cup doesn’t keep anything warm for long. Either pour the coffee at home or wait until you get to work. If your hand starts shaking on the walk to the office from the bus, subway or parking lot take up ASL (American Sign Language) fingerspelling. That will keep the digits engaged.
Saved -- $64 (based on a medium coffee and donut or cookie once a day at Tim Hortons)
3. Scissors and Comb.
I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair for 30 years. And, as long as their favored hair style was a straight bob, I also cut my two daughters’ golden locks. Lately I’ve had a go at the flaxen tresses of my squirming grandson. Last year, with trembling fingers, I gave a trim to my son-in-law’s close shorn carrot top. I figure I’ve saved my husband over $5000 and my extended family a couple of thousand more. As you read this I am sending them an invoice.
If you can’t possibly picture yourself as a hairstylist then just commit to skipping the next round of hair cuts. The look is longer this year anyway.
Eliminate three haircuts per family between now and the end of December.
Saved -- $100 (1 adult, 2 children)
4. Do your own.
No, not your own hair. I’m talking fingers and toes. Back in the day when we girls and women stayed home on an evening to wash our hair, we also tackled our fingers and toes. Emery board, clippers, cotton balls to spread the pinkies, nail polish remover and polish and you’re good to go. Doing your own manicure and pedicure is actually a satisfying job on a cold winter evening.
Gather a few friends and suddenly it becomes a social evening.
Saved -- $60
5. Eat In.
I admit, this is the toughie. But here’s the challenge. Don’t eat out until the New Year. You may have an attack of the delirium tremens -- restaurant edition -- especially on the weekends. But there are two huge benefits. You will fatten your wallet while slimming your waistline. And since there are already enough holiday calories flying around between home, friends and office, any chance to reduce the fatsugarsalt intake is welcome.
Saved -- $225 (assuming you would normally eat out three times between now and the New Year.)
TOTAL SAVED -- $629
Those living, working and shopping in the downtown area may scoff at my suburban prices. Take 30 minutes and see what you come up with. I’m betting you could hit $1000 easily.
Scratch the surface of your lifestyle and challenge yourself to come up with your own debt-free holiday cutback list. Here are a few more ideas:
Go Dry -- Eschew the grape, hop and grain, at least until December 20th. When the imbibing does begin you’ll appreciate it even more.
Eat! -- Clean out that fridge and freezer. Eat through all those leftovers and about-to-be-freezer-burned packages. While you’re at it take on the pantry. Cans do expire. Remember those pork and bean dinners? They are delightfully cheap.
Read a book -- Cut your cablesatellite package down to the minimum or get rid of it entirely. You’re going to be too busy shopping and wrapping anyway.
Dump the pass -- A Metropass costs $99 to $121. Walk or bike instead until the end of the year.
BYOB -- How silly is it that we buy what is free -- or almost. Water. Re-usable bottles are cheap and eco-chic.
DYOC -- Do Your Own Car. Wash it yourself with hose and bucket during mild days and drag out the vacuum for the interior. Even a you wash bay is cheaper (about half) than the cost of a drive through for you condo dwellers.
The holiday season can be a glorious time of giving and receiving. Don’t let your experience of joy be spoiled by post-holiday debt. Find the cash to cover your gifts in the money you are spending every day. It’s there, you just need to look for it
Can you rise to meet my debt-free holiday challenge? Send me what you plan to do and how much you are aiming to cut out.
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