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Canadians are dreaming of a green Christmas this year – they’re looking for cash instead of gifts under the tree.
And for many, the money they are asking Santa for will be going to crucial essentials, like paying off bills, buying groceries or saving for yet another rainy day.
So are the results of a recent Finder Cash for Christmas report (finder.com/ca/cash-for-christmas) that reveals almost half of Canadians (49%) would prefer money instead of gifts.
This comes as no surprise given the year Canadians have had, what with high inflation and economic uncertainty, not to mention the devastating prices at the grocery store at a time when people are hoping to plan feasts for the festive season.
Which explains why people are looking to be cash-rich, at a time when debt is at a record high.
“Canadians across all income brackets felt the impact of rising costs in 2022,” notes Romana King, senior finance editor for Finder (a personal finance comparison site to help Canadians with investments) in a recent email release. “While many of us looked for ways to stretch a dollar, others found it impossible to trim the budget.
“It’s no surprise, then, that cash tops the list for most requested gift this holiday season.”
Economic news has been dampening the holiday spirit on all accounts, according to the recent Mastercard Economics Institute annual forecasting report for 2023. From a global standpoint, Canada ranks high for mortgage debt liabilities. The report reveals consumer mortgage debt across the nation “makes up 132% of the average disposable income. This could result in a more pronounced squeeze in discretionary consumer spending, as more than 80% of mortgages are at variable rates,” notes the recent media release. “And as the extended real-estate boom is now stalling, the share of spending on housing-related goods – which peaked at 17% in March 2021 – has since tumbled to close to pre-pandemic levels.”
The report shows that, as food and energy costs eat up a bigger slice of consumer’s budget, “lower-income households feel an especially strong pinch – from 2019 to 2022, Canadian discretionary spending by high income households grew more than two times as fast as lower-income households.”
Globally, consumers are responding to higher inflation by “trading down” brands and stores to continue spending on experiences. Plus, there’s been an increase in grocery shopping trips to find the best deals – and spending 15% more per visit to do so.
Plus, as food and energy costs eat up a bigger part of the average consumer’s budget, lower-income households are feeling an especially strong pinch.
Mind you, those looking for a green Christmas this year may find the landscape blanketed with disappointment: Those who want to give cash may be a tad cash-strapped themselves. A recent Paypal Canada snapshot survey revealed that gift giving in general is being stretched to the limit and that those surveyed admit this holiday season is all about keeping budgets under control.
It’s a question of finding a positive balance between going into debt, yet celebrating the holidays: “The holiday season is a tricky time of year to keep finances in check,” said King. “Many of us strive to give those we love what we think they want, so It’s tempting to spend too much during this wonderful time of the year. But the best gift we can give to our loved ones is our financial health.”
King suggests using the following tips to prevent or minimize a holiday spending hangover.
#1: Plan your holiday spending.
The best tool to avoid overspending is to spend according to your budget. Make a list of all expenses you expect to incur during the holiday season. Then check to make sure you have the funds to cover these costs. You may need to adjust your budget or your expectations, but this will also help you stick to a realistic holiday budget. “Just like Santa, you need to make a list and check it twice,” says King.
#2: Practice smart shopping.
Before pulling out your wallet or tapping your credit card, consider employing smart shopping strategies. Start with pre-shopping research; Don’t forget to compare shop and remember to set up alerts and regularly check deal aggregators. “Smart shopping requires being organized and being responsible enough to track your spending,” says King.
#3: Tackle your debt.
The final tip to help avoid that holiday spending hangover is to tackle debt.
If you’re going into the holiday season with debt, then it’s best to avoid taking on more debt. Consider alternatives to buying gifts, such as making hand-crafted presents or providing low-cost but personal experiences, such as a picnic in the park, a day at the pool or other ideas that allow you to connect with those you love.
Lastly, start planning now for next year: “The easiest way is to save a little bit each month. Start saving $30 per month in January, at an interest rate of 2.50%, and by December you’ll have almost $400 saved in your holiday spending account,” said King.