Credit Counselling Services of Alberta

Credit Counselling Services of Alberta

November 10, 2005 13:59 ET

Credit Counselling Services of Alberta: Holiday Savings Tips- Start Now to Avoid the January Bill Payment Blues

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 10, 2005) - The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be a very stressful time. Gift buying, entertaining, traveling and decorating can stretch anyone's budget, and for some Albertans, this time of year will send their finances spiraling out of control.

Joan Anderson(1), a wife and mother of two kids, says, "My children really look forward to Christmas, but I dread it, in a way. We don't have a lot of extra money so the presents and all the things that go along with the season really put a strain on our budget."

Credit Counselling Services of Alberta can help by offering a number of tips on how to keep holiday spending in check. "Before you even begin shopping, it is important to plan ahead. Look at your budget to figure out how much you can actually afford to spend on gifts and other seasonal expenses, "says Fran Smith, Executive Director, Credit Counselling Services of Alberta.

Once you know what you can spend, you can decide how you will spend it. How much will you spend on gifts? Do you need to set aside money for traveling? Do you plan to do a lot of entertaining and what is involved? A budget can help to reduce the stress of the holiday season by setting some firm guidelines to follow.

"There are a number of ways to avoid those big credit card bills in January. Spending time with family and friends, as well as remembering and celebrating the reasons for the season, is what matters," adds Smith.

Here are just a few cost-cutting holiday season survival tips:

Gift giving:

- Give the gift of time - make a coupon for babysitting, snow shoveling, dog walking or spring yard clean-up. The possibilities are endless, so think of what would be most helpful to the person on the receiving end!

- Draw names or do a tacky or secret pal gift exchange with a group of friends or family members.

- Make your own gifts, but remember to watch how much you spend on materials.

- Keep your shopping trips short; make a list and stick to it.

- Comparison shopping pays off, so do some research and don't forget to check out online offerings.

Entertaining

- Host a potluck or travelling supper.

- Consider hosting a brunch, instead of a formal dinner. It is much less expensive.

- Invite friends and family to join you on a stroll through the neighbourhood to admire the Christmas lights and then wrap up the evening with hot chocolate and popcorn at home.

Finally, make a New Year's resolution to plan ahead for next year. Set aside a small amount of money each month for your holiday season budget and watch how it adds up. Make a list of gift ideas and watch for bargains throughout the year. These two small changes can make a big difference in managing your budget, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year.

Credit Counselling Services of Alberta is a not-for-profit, unbiased consumer debt counselling service that offers advice and information on budgeting, credit and debt issues. Visit www.creditcounselling.com for more information and a list of upcoming community workshops, or call 1-888-294-0076 toll free to speak with a counsellor.

(1) Name has been changed.

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