Christmas on credit: How to avoid debt this holiday season

(TORONTO, ON) – For many Canadians, the joy of the holiday season is being able to give gifts to loved ones and share in the joyous spirit of the season. For those carrying unmanageable levels of debt, the ghost of credit past can cast a dreary gloom over this festive time of year.

“Over the last few years, the holidays were a dreaded thing – the music, the television specials and the decorations were all cutting reminders of my inability to celebrate the season in the merry fashion that it should be,” says Ewan McCord, a graduate of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada’s debt management program. “The dark sense of impending debt, aggressive phone calls and inability to afford gifts became increasingly stressful and added a particularly bad taste to the holiday season.”

Like countless other Canadians, Ewan spent years living paycheque to paycheque. As his mountain of debt began to pile up he started paying one credit card with another and took out payday loans to cover minimum payments.

“Ewan’s story is similar to many that we hear this time of year,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit. “The stress of debt is already emotionally exhausting for many Canadians. Adding holiday spending expectations to that stress can easily take the spirit out of the holiday season.”

2012 will mark Ewan’s first debt free holiday season. By cutting up his credit cards, cancelling the lines-of-credit and learning to live within a budget, Ewan is looking forward to a stress free winter holiday.

“With the goals set and plans in place, I fully intend to immerse myself in the joyous spirit of the season instead of the financial stress that has been habitually present over the last few years.”

If the winter holidays bring a sense of dread and an overwhelming feeling of debt related stress, it is not too late to get help. Contacting a not-for-profit credit counselling agency can give Canadians the information they need to work towards a debt free 2013.

In the meantime, Consolidated Credit offers these ideas and tips to avoid Christmas on credit:

  • Homemade gifts: Consider a family gift-making project, utilize your sewing and baking skills, or create a photo album of your favourite holiday moments.
  • Focus on experiences: Holiday memories and traditions last longer than store-bought gifts. Focus on creating experiences for the whole family.
  • Give off yourself: Instead of expensive store bought presents, consider giving the gift of your time or your services.
  • Take advantage of free samples: Fill stockings with free samples, home made treats and personalized gift certificates.
  • Reuse & recycle: Use holiday cards from last season to make gift tags for this season.
  • Go digital: Instead of spending a fortune on postage stamps, consider sending a personalized e-card to family and friends.

Don’t let the ghosts of credit past be the debt that steals Christmas this year. To help avoid the stress of lingering holiday debt, this Holiday Survival Guide offers money saving strategies and helpful tips to budget for the season – and this special holiday infographic offers more merry ways to keep holiday budgets on track.

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