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It’s the most wonderful time of the year — or at least one of the most expensive.
This year you might be feeling the pinch a little bit more, with inflation affecting prices for gifts, food and just about everything needed for the holidays.
Pricing in all of your holiday commitments may seem like a daunting task, but as some of you told us, there are ways to avoid breaking the bank.
The gift of thrift
Raquel Wassan, a fifth-year piano student at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a piano teacher, says she saves hundreds of dollars by thrifting, especially when it comes to piano books.
“It cut costs in an unbelievable way for me and I’ve been able to just give more gifts to people this holiday season,” said Wassan.
WATCH | How thrifting helps this student stay on budget:
Wassan says the trick is to get items that are easier to thoroughly clean. So she often sticks with books and bypasses, for instance, the shoe section.
What makes Wassan’s thriftmas gifts especially distinct is how she wraps them. She looks for unique thrifted cloth to add a personal touch to her presents.
“My friends always get excited because it’s something unique that I’ve wrapped their gift with, and it’s something that they can keep forever and use again and again.”
Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq says she agrees thrifting is an excellent way to save some money and give a more personal gift. If you don’t have access to a nearby thrift store, Ahmed-Haq says you can still partake in the second-hand savings online.
“There is a robust online community that’s always trying to get rid of stuff that they have used, like gently used items, especially when it comes to our kids …We use the toys for a very short amount of time, and they’re often in perfect condition.”
However, she cautions people not to get carried away by low prices.
“Always keep in mind that even though you’re thrifting, you still should only be buying the things that you need. Just because they’re so deeply discounted doesn’t mean you should be buying more.”
An affordable feast
Karen Crouse, a retiree from Chester Grant, N.S., often plans the holiday feast for her family. She says she opts for a potluck to reduce the financial strain.
“We normally share the meal. I do the protein and my adult children bring the sides or a dessert,” said Crouse.
She says a joint dinner can also be a smart solution for leftovers too.
“Leftovers are divided and sent home for the next day’s lunch. I find that instead of three families each buying a ham or turkey, we buy one. There is less waste and plenty of leftovers … and let’s face it, no one wants to eat the same thing for a week straight.”
Not only does a potluck allow her to save money, it squeezes out extra time that she can spend with her family.
“It allows more time for us to spend together and play with the children, instead of one person being tied to the kitchen all day,” she said.
Neil Gregory, from Fort Erie, Ont., said the best way to save money for his family is by planning ahead, shopping well in advance and buying food on sale.
“One of the things that we do and we have done for years, is we vacuum pack all of the meat that we buy, so we can buy stuff for the holidays very early … we keep our eyes open for sales,” he said.
Gregory also says having gardeners in the family can help cut your vegetable bill down around the holidays.
“We try to grow a lot on our own … and save them for the holiday season.”
“Most of our money-saving efforts require some degree of advance planning and a fair amount of time.”
Less is more
While some are choosing less-expensive gifts, others are opting for fewer.
Donna Anjo’s family in Maple Ridge, B.C., changed how they give gifts a few years ago, which put a lot less strain on their budgets. Instead of gifts for everyone, each person comes with one gift to be used in a game.
Last year, they played White Elephant, sometimes known as Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa. It’s a party game where everybody puts one wrapped gift in the pot and each person draws a number. Based on the number they draw, participants take turns choosing a gift from the pot or stealing a gift someone else has already opened.
WATCH | How Canadians are making the holidays work amid rising costs:
“Everyone was laughing and I just thought that seemed and felt more fun and rewarding than just opening up a gift,” Anjo said. “My mother, especially, was having so much fun stealing stuff from somebody else.”
Choosing to forego gifts is both financially-conscious, and allows individuals to avoid unnecessary purchases.
“We end up in the holidays with a lot of stuff that we don’t need or want,” said Ahmed-Haq.
“Gift-giving isn’t the focus, but getting together is the focus,” she said. “I think a lot of people will feel really relieved if somebody just brings that up.”