Tips for responsible credit card use on Black Friday

Ho ho hold back the credit cards on Black Friday!
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Toronto ON – Canadians are expected to purchase 100 gifts per minute online this weekend. When you shop online, credit is the accepted method of payment. What the surveys aren’t telling us is how Canadians are planning to pay the credit card bills for these holiday purchases. The debt-to-income ratio is still at 150 per cent, and Canadians are still using credit to augment their cash shortfall. Spending time with family and friends should be the focus for the holidays, but we know many Canadians will still be buying gifts.

“It’s a given money will be spent on the holidays but it’s important to shop strategically and use credit wisely,” says Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. “Developing a holiday spending budget, planning online shopping and limiting gift buying are great money-saving strategies to implement.”

David from Victoria, B.C., and an alumnus of a debt management program, says his holiday shopping strategy is to limit gift buying to his wife, son, nieces and nephews.

According to Nielsen statistics 44 per cent of kids between ages 6 to 12 want an iPad for the holidays. What David won’t be buying is a tablet for his children! He will try to be creative rather than be an expensive gift-giver.

This holiday season resist the urge to use credit to augment your limited cash flow. Instead, implement a money-saving gift-giving strategy. Pass on the following tips for responsible credit card use on Black Friday to your friends and family so they too can become strategic gift-givers this holiday season:

1. Develop a holiday spending budget:
a. Make a list of everyone you wish to give a gift.
b. Assign a dollar value and gift idea to each person’s name.
c. Total how much you need to spend.
d. Ask yourself “Do I have enough money to pay the credit card bill in full for these gifts?”
e. Even if the answer is “yes”, revisit the list to see if there is a less expensive gift or creative alternative to save you money.

2. Plan your online holiday shopping trips:
a. Research your gift purchases before you shop so you can get the best value for your dollar.
b. Returning purchases can be costly; make sure you are buying the perfect gift.
c. Online shopping reduces your chances of making impulse purchases.
d. Keep track of your online shopping to make sure you do not exceed the budget.

3. Be a creative gift-giver:
a. Make it yourself; you will be rewarded for your efforts.
b. Volunteer your time to those in need with friends and family – remember it is better to give than receive.
c. Play a gift exchange game – you’ll only be spending money on one item versus a group, and it creates an experience to enjoy with loved ones.
d. Gift exchange games require settling on a dollar amount in advance, helping you to budget.

Gift Exchange Game Ideas

1. Secret Santa – Prior to the gift exchange, write down the names of each participant on a small slip of paper and drop them into a hat. One by one, each person will draw one name, which remains a secret to the group. Purchase a gift for the person whose name you draw. At your holiday gathering, everyone exchanges their gifts and finally discovers who their “Secret Santa” is! Don’t celebrate Christmas? Call it Hanukkah Hush or Festivus Find. Be creative!

2. Grinch Game/Holiday Hijacker – Each person participating will purchase a gift and bring it wrapped, but not addressed, to the party. Say there are 10 players – there should be 10 slips of paper numbered from one to 10. Guests will each draw one number from a hat to determine the order of play. The person with slip #1 will choose a gift from the pile and open it for all to see. The person with slip #2 can then steal the gift from the first person, or choose an unopened gift from the pile. Continue until everyone receives or steals a gift.

The Holiday Survival Guide offers Canadians money-saving strategies on shopping for the holidays.

About Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc.:
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. is a national non-profit credit counselling organization that teaches consumers about personal finance.

Consolidated Credit’s unbiased debt-counselling service offers alternatives to help people get their debts under control. Alongside assisting with consolidating payments, Consolidated Credit experts focus on education and understanding. Strategies include teaching basic but vital concepts such as how to budget, understanding credit and how to manage money.

Consolidated Credit also offers a free web-based budget and debt analysis tool and a plethora of website resources for people interested in learning more about debt and credit on their own, including tips on smart spending, buying a car, taking out a student loan and a survival guide for holiday spending. Its online learning centre offers free personal finance education booklets, financial calculators, resources, tips and suggestions. Also offered is a free iPhone and iPod application, “Budget Tool”, which can be used to manage expenses on-the-go.

Visit or call the toll-free phone line at 1.800.656.4079.

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