The 5 Steps to Christmas

By: Jeri Bittorf, AFCC®, Resolve Counselling


Christmas is right around the corner, and you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that is left to do.  Some people love Christmas, and others feel it is too commercialized.  I on the other hand think it is a great time of year to stop, reflect and take the time to show the people in your life how much they mean to you.  This doesn’t need to be through monetary gifts.  There are tons of free ways to show people you care.  For those wanting to spend money without breaking the bank, and those looking for alterative ways to show you care, read on.


  1. Prioritize your list

Everyone has heard that we should make a list before you go shopping.  There is a lot of value to this suggestion.  Before the Christmas season starts in full swing we may have an idea of how many people we want to buy for.  This isn’t always realistic, so that is where prioritizing comes in.

  • Before going to the store or shopping online write the list of everyone you want to buy for, with a dollar amount beside each name
  • Add up the totals. Does this fit within your budget? If not, it is time to prioritize
  • Put everyone in order starting with the people you must buy for, and include the dollar amounts
  • Now it is time to make some cuts or get a bit more creative with the gift in order to lower costs


  1. The pandemic has changed peoples perspectives

Many people have mentioned that the pandemic has highlighted how much they need human connection.  I have heard some say they want less stuff and want to connect with families and friends more.  Others have had their income drastically reduced for the first time in their life.  This opened people’s eyes to how tough things are financially for a lot of individuals and families.  There is a post circulating social media that says “ If someone works $15/hr and they buy you a $45.00 gift they have spent 3 hours of their time working to get you this gift”  Instead of thinking of the amount spent on a gift, lets appreciate the thought and effort put into it.   Here are some low cost suggestions to let someone know you care.

  • Offer the gift of time - Make a drive to see someone, find a new trail to explore with your friend or family member who loves to be outdoors, or make a video to send to someone who misses you.
  • Offer the gift of service – Change someone tires, make someone a homemade meal, or offer to babysit for those parents who just need a few hours to themselves.
  • Buy Nothing Groups - Most communities have a Buy Nothing group on facebook. Join and see if anyone is giving away something you know someone else would really like.  I personally have found some great artwork on these groups that I have given as gifts.   Be sure to post something to give away as well, you could be helping out someone in need.
  • Market Place, Kijiji, Thrift Stores- You can find wonderful gently used items for a fraction of the cost. Especially children’s toys, books, sports equipment, and tools.  When you buy from one of these places, you are helping out another family and also reducing waste. Win win.
  1. Stick to your list while shopping

A list will help you stay focused and not get distracted by all the marketing tactics you see in store or online.  I am sure many of you have gone shopping with the intention of getting just one or 2 things, but when you get to the checkout your cart if full.   This isn’t just specific to Christmas.  These tips can help you no matter when or what you are shopping for.

  • When trying to find the perfect gift within your budget go ahead and fill up your cart, you might stumble across some amazing deals this way.
  • Before you checkout go through your cart and compare it to your prioritized list and the amount you allotted to each person. You now need to start weeding things out and putting things back that don’t fit within the budget.
  • If possible, try to shop alone so you aren’t distracted and veer from your list due to other people’s opinions.
  • Shopping early can avoid panic shopping, but it can also make it easier to forget what you already bought. This can result in overspending your budget.  Keep your list updated when you buy something so you don’t forget what you purchased months ago.
  • Try to shop deals when you can, and keep receipts. Many stores will honor a deal when you bought something earlier at full price but then it goes on sale a bit later.  You can then return it and purchase it at the lower price.


  1. Hosting Dinner

Many under estimate how much it costs to always be the host.  I bet some Christmas dinner guest also don’t realize how much their host spends to create such a lovely holiday meal.

  • Try price matching. I personally just started this and I am amazed by how much I have been able to save.
  • If you price match for all your groceries year round, you could open a separate savings account and put the amount saved from price matching in that account. That account can now be your holiday meals account.
  • Shops sales and try to plan some of your holiday meals around the deals
  • Ask people to chip in and bring an item such as dessert, dinner rolls, salad etc.
  • If you are the guest, and can afford it offer to make a side dish or anything that can contribute to the meal.


  1. Preparing for next year

If come January, you realize you overspent on credit or went over your savings budget, try these tips.

  • Your first priority should be to find a plan to get out of debt as soon as possible, or else the amounts you spent on Christmas will continue to increase due to interest charges. If you need help developing a strategy to get out of a debt, a Not For Profit Credit Counselling agency can help
  • Next you want to figure out how much you spent this year. Was this amount realistic? Or did you overspend?
  • Based on above, determine what the realistic amount to spend is and divide that by 12 so you know how much you need to start saving each month
  • Give your individual saving accounts a name and you will have a better chance of success because you will see yourself getting closer to each specific goal. You could have a holiday gift account, holiday meal account, or holiday travel account for example.


Remember that having a successful spending plan for Christmas doesn’t just start in Dec.  This should be something we think about and plan earlier in the year or even year round.


About The Author

Jeri Bittorf is a Credit Counselling Coordinator at Resolve Credit and Financial Counselling.  She is been helping people create a spending plan and pay off debt for 13 years.  She is an Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada® (AFCC®), Certified Credit Counsellor, and an Insolvency Administrator and Counsellor.


Resolve Credit and Financial Counselling is a not for profit counselling agency which has been helping people improve their social and economic well-being since 1968.

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