I LOVE the Christmas Season.
I would keep a Christmas tree up all year if I was allowed. We have a pre-lit artificial tree, and it usually comes down around Valentine’s Day – later if I can help it. This week, Dan gave me the go-ahead. We were just eating breakfast, and he randomly said to me:
“You can put up the Christmas tree today.”
I almost choked on my omelette.
“Really??? Really do you really mean that?”
He did, so now our tree is up in November. And we love it.
I’ve had to fib to Sweet Pea a bit, saying that the reason the lights turn off is because she’s “hurting the tree” when she pulls off a Christmas ornament. It’s worked so far, since she prefers looking at it when the lights are on. Cross my fingers that it’ll last until… Valentine’s Day 🙂
Now that the tree is loud and proud, it’s time to do a bit of shopping to add some presents into the mix. Normally we would have our shopping done by now, but we’ve been a bit preoccupied with the move. We try to finish our shopping early because of a few things:
- December parking, crowds, and lineups are like pulling teeth. We grocery shop on weekday afternoons. We avoid the mall on weekends. We travel in low season. But holiday crowds? Ugh, put me to sleep and wake me up in January.
- January. All that holiday shopping can creep up on you when you get your bills in January. But included in those bills are also the “annual” expenses that come around on Dec 31st or January 1st. There’s a reason why February is the worst month for retail. It’s because everyone’s broke from paying off their bills in January. When we do our shopping earlier, we escape this pileup and the winter is a little less depressing.
Do you keep track of your holiday purchases, or do you go wild and let all the emotional bait take over your wallet?
November is Financial Literacy Month, which is good timing because we’re about to be thrown into the thick of it. Being aware of your finances now is a good strategy to avoid those January/February blues when you realize: “hey, maybe that 18′ tall inflatable snowman wasn’t the best use of my money…”
A few weeks ago, I posted about Ratesupermarket.ca and how your credit card should be working for you, not against you. They’ve tested and ranked the best credit cards in Canada for their 2015 Best of Finance Awards. These awards feature categories like:
- Best Cash Back
- Best Free Travel Rewards
- Best Travel Loyalty
- Best Grocery Rewards
- Best Low Interest
- Best Low Balance Transfer
- Best Card for Building Credit
- Best Student Credit Card
This is so helpful, because it can be tailored to your own personal situation. If you need help getting rid of your credit card debt ASAP, then you might be surprised at what some of the Low Interest Rate or Low Balance Transfer cards can offer you. If you’re looking for some extra rewards in return for your spending, you can find out which one will work best with your spending habits and what you’re looking to gain – no sense in having a flight rewards card if you don’t travel, just as it makes no sense to have a gas rewards card if you’re a dedicated cycler.
I was happy to see that the two credit cards we use were the top winners in their category! The TD Aeroplan Visa was the winner in the Best Travel Loyalty Program, and my President’s Choice Financial MasterCard was the winner in the Best Grocery Rewards Program. I’m not surprised, as these two cards maximize our Aeroplan and PC points for flights and groceries (because vacations and food are good)!
Ratesupermarket.ca also compares rates for mortgages, banking accounts, insurance, as well as investments like RRSPs and GICs. Why shouldn’t you get the best rates out there? For years I was paying $300/month to insure one car and it wasn’t until someone told me how ludicrous it was that I searched for a different provider. Ratesupermarket.ca could be your someone! It’s free and they’re available for you 24/7.
Take a minute right now to just do a little hypothetical research (you know, like I do with my “hypothetical” shopping carts). Head over to Ratesupermarket.ca and take something like your savings account or your TFSA – even your mortgage if it’s up for renewal soon. Could you be earning a bit more or paying a little less? All those percentage points can add up over the years, and might be able to pay for your holiday shopping!
So how do you make sure you survive the holidays and keep your balances in check? (Pun intended.) Here are a few strategies I use:
- Make a list. And check it twice. Write down the names of everyone you need to shop for, and plan your gifts in advance. This way, you won’t end up dilly-dallying until the last minute, only to end up getting a hail-mary gift on December 24th that exceeds your budget.
- Budget! I know that’s such a boring word, but you really do need to set a limit for your spending. You should not go into debt buying someone a gift. That is not a gift. Don’t let consumerism control you. Determine how much you want to spend in total on food, decorations, and presents – then stick to it.
- Shop Smart. Compare prices. Price match. Seek out alternatives by other brands. A product selling at a high end boutique usually costs less at a department store or even online – for the same thing! Black Friday is in a week – if you’re brave enough to tackle the crowds, the bargain may be worth it. If you don’t want to leave the house, Cyber Monday can be just as bountiful. Do your research and take advantage of sales – why pay more than you have to?
- Leave your emotions at the door. You’ve seen the window displays, the carefully crafted tablescapes, and the thousands of dollars spent in festive decorations. Retailers do this for a reason: they want you to shop with your emotions. If you’re immersed in a winter wonderland where everything is sparkly and all of a sudden you start feeling “inspired,” your bank account may not stand a chance.
- Make your purchases useful. When you consider buying something, think: “what problem will this solve?” Will it make life easier? Will it bring joy? If there is no need for it, spare your money and the space your intended recipient will waste storing it. Don’t buy “filler” presents just to make it look like they have more, it’s about quality, not quantity.
But the most important tip of all is to Be Aware of where your money is going. If it means looking at your statements every week, creating a budget, or limiting access altogether (hiding your credit cards in the freezer maybe?), we can all afford to take a few more steps towards financial literacy.
How do you keep track of your family’s spending? Let me know in the comments!!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Ratesupermarket.ca. All opinions are honest and my own, as always!