Holiday Survival Guide

How to keep your finances out of the red during the holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but without the proper planning the holiday season can bring a significant amount of stress and financial strain to your life. In order to avoid a holiday debt hangover, Consolidated Credit offers a clear plan to help you plan for your holiday spending each year.

Don’t let concerns about money put a damper on your holiday celebrations. Read this handy Holiday Survival Guide and download the PDF to help you get through the season successfully. If you face problems with holiday debt, or want to address current money troubles, Consolidated Credit can help. Call us today at to speak with a trained credit counsellor or request a free Debt & Budget Analysis.

Plan for Success

Smart shoppers get ahead of holiday costs and avoid debt by planning ahead. By planning your shopping early and effectively anticipating holiday costs, you can easily make your family’s holiday special without burying yourself in a pile of year-end credit card debt.

The following strategies can help you maximize your holiday savings and minimize your holiday stress:

  1. Read our Holiday Survival Guide in full and use our Holiday Spending Checklist to create an accurate holiday spending plan.
  2. Comparison shop online to find the best price for each gift or item on your holiday spending list.
  3. As you go about your holiday spending, be sure to check purchased items off your list to avoid doubling up on gifts and making any unnecessary purchases.
  4. Compare advertised prices to any Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale prices you find. Many retailers start advertising these sales as early as October.
  5. If there is no financial benefit to waiting until Black Friday or Cyber Monday, purchase these items now instead of leaving them until the last minute.

Managing Your Holiday Cash Flow

Now that you have completed your Holiday Spending Plan and gained a clear picture of what the holiday season is going to cost, you can now begin to balance your spending expectations with your available cash flow. Balancing your holiday budget is an important step to help you avoid overspending or credit cards and minimize your holiday debt hangover.

Ideally, your holiday costs will be less than your available cash flow. But don’t be surprised if you are “in the red” when you first compare the two numbers. Don’t panic! If this is the case, you can easily find ways to either adjust your holiday spending or increase your available cash flow to balance your budget.

The following tips can help you strike a balance with your holiday spending:

General

  • Start early to spread holiday costs. Spreading your holiday spending out over 3-5 months will increase you available holiday cash flow.
  • Cut your budget. Reducing the discretionary expenses in your budget during the holidays can go a long way towards increasing your overall cash flow.
  • Shop with a list. Statistically, the chances of making impulse purchases are reduced when you shop with a list. Keep your holiday planner with you at all times and don’t deviate from the list.

Gifts

  • Reduce your list. Gift giving can be really expensive. Revisit your list before you shop and consider limiting gift giving to immediate family. Give everyone else homemade gifts, baked goods or holiday cards.
  • Homemade and bulk gifts can reduce costs. For example, you could make holiday gift baskets filled with candy, homemade treats and small items you can buy in bulk.

Travel

  • Plan early. Making travel arrangements and reservations early typically reduces the cost on travel and accommodations.
  • Combine house and pet sitting. Get the same person to look after your house, water your plants and care for your pets.

Decorations

  • Don’t buy new. Reuse existing holiday decor from year to year. Replace a missing bulb instead of buying new lights, and move decorations around to give your home a fresh holiday look.
  • Real or artificial? Decide if you really need a live tree or if there is more value in having the one-time cost of an artificial tree that can be used every year.

Meals

  • Potluck or BYOB? Holiday parties and meals can be a real budget buster. Consider making your event a potluck or request that guests bring their own beverages to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Want not, waste not. Creating three different main dishes, six sides and several deserts can put a strain on your holiday budget. Cut down on the cooking and only make what is needed.

Guests

  • Ask your guest to chip in. If your house resembles a hotel during the holidays, ask guest to contribute to the grocery or utility costs. You’re saving them the expense of a hotel, so don’t feel guilty about asking them to contribute a little.

Shipping

  • Don’t pay for shipping. Almost every retailer offers free shipping days. If you are purchasing gifts online, give yourself enough time for use the lowest shipping fee or wait for a “free shipping” promotion.

Track Your Spending

Planning ahead and making a holiday budget are great steps towards holiday success. But you need to track your spending in order to avoid the holiday debt hangover. Tracking the actual costs of your holiday purchases allows you to stay on the right path with your holiday spending.

After every item you purchase on your list, make sure to write down the actual cost of the item so you can keep a running total of your real holiday costs. You may also wish to write down how each item was paid for so you can determine what you put on credit.

Managing Holiday Debt

Once the gifts are all opened, and the leftovers are packed away, you will need a plan to stay in control of your holiday debt.

By planning ahead and tracking your expenses, you can now get a clear picture of the impact of these expenses on your credit card bills.

To calculate the increase on your credit card bills, add the amount of money you spent to the current balance on each credit card. Then you can use a debt calculator to determine what your new monthly payment will be on your next bill. Compare this to your current minimum monthly payment to see how much these new charges increased each bill. You can also use the debt calculator to help determine the best way to pay off each debt.

Ideally, if you can pay off all your holiday charges in the first month they are incurred, you will minimize any added interest charges.

Additional Resources

If you total up the charges and see there is going to be a problem eliminating the debt or keeping up with your bill payments, you may find you need help getting out of debt. If you need assistance to handle your holiday debt hangover or want to re-establish a healthy financial outlook, Consolidated Credit is here to help. Call us at or request a Free Debt Analysis.