Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Surivival Kit

While most of us really enjoy the holiday season, it can bring significant amounts of stress. Let’s face it: between the parties, the baking, the holiday cards (complete with pictures and newsy letters) and finding the perfect gifts for everyone, we place pretty heavy demands on ourselves.

This year, you can make it a point to enjoy the holidays more by simplifying some of the work, while maintaining what makes the holidays special: the love.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: Less Than Usual!

Here’s How:

  1. Know Your Budget- 1.5% of your yearly salary should go towards gift buying. This means if you make $45000 your total amount spent on gifts should be $675.  Most of us exceed this considerably every year! Much of the stress of the holiday season comes from feeling pressured to buy bigger and better gifts for those we love, even if this puts us in debt! While we may feel compelled to show how much we love people by showing how much we can spend, our loved ones would probably feel terrible if they knew we put ourselves in debt on their behalf. This year, determine what you can comfortably spend, make a budget and stick with it. “Thoughtful” doesn’t have to mean “expensive”.   A good habit to adopt is to put 1.5% of each pay throughout the year into a separate account for Christmas.
  2. Make A List
    List all the people you’d like to buy gifts for, and divide your budget among them in whatever way makes sense to you. Then, next to their names, list what you’d like to get each person. You can use this as a checklist, so you’ll know who you’ve bought gifts for and who still needs a gift. Then you’ll be less likely to spend too much on impulse buys, or accidentally buying more than one gift for the same person.
  3. Be Efficient
    Try to go to only a few stores. Plan ahead. Make a list that you can follow. Try to see how many things you can get at one store or one mall. If you can consolidate all of your shopping into one or two trips, that’s even better. It can be fun to take long, leisurely days shopping and getting what strikes your fancy. You may however find that it adds extra stress to holiday shopping, when you have so many purchases to make in such a limited amount of time. It’s simpler to enjoy the shopping while you’re doing it, get it out of the way, and enjoy doing other things once you’re done.
  4. The Earlier, The Better
    People sometimes postpone holiday shopping until the last minute. Don’t. If you shop earlier, you’ll have a better selection of gift ideas to choose from. That way you won’t get stuck in the last-minute rush at the malls and the post office. This will allow you to enjoy getting your holiday responsibilities out of the way so you can just enjoy the season. Earlier is also better when you’re talking about what time of day to shop.  Shopping in the morning can be a good strategy to avoid crowds, find displays in better order, and enjoy a less stressed atmosphere.
  5. Consider Shopping Online
    While some people aren’t comfortable buying online, there are many terrific holiday gifts to be found through your computer. Online shopping is a fast, simple, and efficient way to get the bulk of your shopping done at once and in the comfort of your own home.  In addition to saving you the fights over parking spaces and the long waits in lines, in many cases you can even have your gifts wrapped and delivered directly to your recipients, saving you the trouble of wrapping and visiting to the post office!


  1. Buy duplicates. If you find a great gift at a great price, consider getting one for multiple people on your list. This is a great way to save time and money.
  2. Include gift receipts. Ask for gift receipts at the register, and include them with your gifts when you wrap them. That way, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that if what you got doesn’t work for your recipient, they can easily exchange it.
  3. Get gift cards. If you really need things to be simple, gift cards and certificates are a great option. You can find gift cards for everything from movies, to dinners, to massages.  They are quick to buy and easy to send. They still offer sweet sentiments to your loved ones, buy make the shopping much simpler for you.
  4. Let the post office be your friend. Rather than lugging all of your gifts to the post office and standing in the long lines, you can now get them to come to you! Visit the Canada Post or UPS website to find out how easy it is to get a postal carrier to come to your door, pick up your packages, and deliver them for you.


How to Budget for the Holiday

A happy holiday season starts with a budget. Use this holiday gift spending worksheet to start yours today.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 1 hour

Here’s How:

  1. Determine what you can afford to spend – keep in mind the 1.5%
    Look over your finances, and determine how much you can afford to spend on holiday-related purchases. Set this figure as your overall holiday spending limit.   Start saving in January, putting away 1.5-2% of your income into a separate account.
  2. Set a limit for each area of holiday spending
    Print out the Holiday Spending Worksheet. Then, run through the list of holiday expenses (including gifts, decorations, holiday foods, etc.) in the first column, and set a budget for each area of spending.
  3. Track your spending throughout the season
    Keep a running total of your purchases in the “Actual Spending” column of the worksheet. Then, use the “Amount Over or Under” field to track how closely you’re adhering to your budget.
  4. Tweak your budget to cover any instances of overspending
    Don’t panic if you overspend in one of the categories. Just scale your spending back in another category to make up for it.


  1. Fill the worksheet out in pencil, to make updates easy.
  2. Use the Holiday Gift Spending Worksheet to help you set a spending limit for gifts.
  3. Use the “other” category to add more spending categories to the worksheet.
  4. Don’t be afraid to change your budget – a good budget is ever green and always evolving.
  5. Hang on to a copy of your budget after the holidays are over.  This will be helpful in planning next year’s budget.

What You Need


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