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The spirit of Christmas is embodied in values like family, love, friendship and sharing. With a bit of time and good planning, it’s possible to have a memorable Christmas without spending a lot of money. Resorting to consumerism doesn’t guarantee happiness. It’s a good idea to avoid this trap if possible, because once you step foot in it, it can be difficult to get out.

Why do people rack up debt at Christmas time?

Christmas has been greatly commercialized over the years to the greater happiness of major stores and credit card companies. As a result, the holiday is becoming increasingly expensive.

With the holiday season approaching, pressure comes from all sides:

  • Stores put out their Christmas merchandize earlier every year;
  • Advertisers outdo each other;
  • Charitable organizations solicit our generosity;
  • Gift exchanges are organized with the family, in-laws and at work;
  • And, especially, we don’t want to disappoint the kids!

In summary, the holiday period promotes consumerism and can harm the wallet.

Perfect presents for all budgets

Ah, the tradition of Christmas shopping! A pleasant, hassle-free experience for many people. This activity can help us get into the spirit of the holidays because it is so pleasant to try to find presents that will bring pleasure and joy to our loved ones. But in order to keep the experience pleasant, we have to understand the limits of our budget. Otherwise, with purchases piling up, and financial stress increasing, shopping can quickly turn into a nightmare!

Fortunately, there are many ways to give presents without suffering and especially without going into debt.

TIP #1: Make a list and stick to it

Before going shopping, make a list of presents for people to whom you’re planning to give something. Store displays are designed to get people to make impulse buys. Without a detailed list, you may spend too much, or make bad buying choices. Having a list and respecting it is a golden rule to avoid consumerism.

Don’t forget that it’s never too early to start your list. By starting several months in advance, you improve your chances of finding articles on sale.

TIP #2: Handmade presents are “in”

The era of hand-knitted slippers is long gone. Creativity and originality have finally demonstrated that you can give handmade presents that people will be happy to receive.

Handmade presents are unique and personalized, and that’s what makes them so appreciated. The time spent to create them is also recognized and adds to their value. In addition, they save money so you can avoid going into debt.


But handmade presents require two things: inspiration and time. For inspiration, you can easily find 1001 ideas by searching on the Internet: multicoloured mittens; a pretty necklace; an oversized cushion; a travel photo album; chocolate, cookies or other sweets; a children’s story created from your imagination, etc. For time, some projects can be created with friends. That way you can spend time in good company while you help each other create presents.

Everyone has some small talent that can be used to create homemade presents. Whether it’s cooking, painting, woodworking or other things, use your talents to create original presents and fight Christmas consumerism.

Suggestion: If you’re part of a gift exchange, suggest to the other participants that “handmade” be the theme.

TIP #3: The “regifting” trend is growing

Regifting is when you give someone a present that you previously received. While it’s a surprising practice, it’s growing in popularity.

There are economic and environmental advantages to regifting. This practice saves money because it hardly costs anything. It also pleases people who want to escape excessive consumerism. Finally, it means that objects in good condition don’t end up in the garbage.

However, there are certain rules to respect when regifting to avoid problems and be responsible:

  1. The present must be new and in its original packaging
  2. The person who gave you the present originally can’t know the person to whom you’re giving it
  3. Never use a present that’s been in your closet or the bottom of the drawer for years
  4. The present can’t be something in poor taste that you just want to get rid of
  5. Never regift a present that someone made themselves
  6. Take the time to nicely rewrap the present
  7. Tell the recipient if you are giving a present that has sentimental value—needlepoint or an engagement ring, for example

Don’t see regifting as a way for people to get rid of a burden. On the contrary, it’s possible to make someone really happy this way. All you need is the right present for the right person.

Decorating without going into debt

When we speak of consumerism and debt during the holidays, we often forget that it isn’t just the presents that cost a lot. Spending on Christmas decorations also adds up quickly. Fortunately, there’re ways to decorate without spending an arm and a leg.

TIP #4: Do an inventory of your decorations

The first thing to do is to make a list of your decorations and verify their condition. Are the lights still working? Do any broken Christmas balls need to be replaced?

Then, make a list (yes, another one!) of missing decorations before going to the store to buy them. By following the list, you’ll resist impulse buying, and spend less.

TIP #5: Make your decorations

Like presents, handmade decorations are also increasingly popular. Their main advantage is that they can fit any style of room. You can choose to make DIY decorations of any size or colour. Obviously there are substantial savings to be made this way.

You can also use this as an art project with your children. The youngest will have a lot of fun cutting out snow flakes or making paper garlands. Older ones can do more complex projects such as designing a centrepiece for the table.

With imagination, you can also collect various objects and transform them into holiday decorations. A Google search with the words “homemade Christmas decorations” will be enough to inspire you.

TIP #6: Go for a minimalist decor

To cut expenses, there is also the minimalist option. To start, avoid the large and grand fir tree, which will help you save up to a hundred dollars. Instead, go for an existing houseplant or take a walk in the forest to collect tree branches.

Limit yourself to decorating only one room in the house. In this way, you’ll avoid small, less-important decorations, such as the soap dispenser in the shape of a snowman, and the red-nosed reindeer decoration for the car .

In the selected room, set out candles that are gathering dust in a drawer. They’re helpful to add a warm touch to any Christmas decoration and they’re also quite minimalist. Supplement this with things coloured red or green collected from other rooms in the house. It could be a blanket, a cushion or even fruit.

Minimalistic decor is very modern and allows you to avoid excessive consumerism and debt related to Christmas decorations.

TIP #7: Buy your decorations on Boxing Day

Despite all the possible options to decorate, sometimes the only possible one is to buy them. By thinking about it in advance and remembering previous Christmases, you can take advantage of Boxing Day sales to purchase them at the fraction of the original price. Some stores have even started offering Boxing Day sales a few days before Christmas.

Shopping for your Christmas decorations on Boxing Day also has an advantage other than financial. With the arrangement of your decorations fresh in your mind, it’s easier to choose what will go well with the rest of the decor or fill in gaps.

But this strategy to economize is less appropriate for articles using electricity or batteries. The problem is, essentially, that the guarantee for such articles will have expired before they can be used the following year. Testing the merchandise before purchasing it will reduce the risks, but it’s impossible to completely eliminate them when it’s a question of electronics.

Other tips to avoid holiday consumerism

Tips to prevent falling into consumerism are not limited to presents and decorations. There are ways to save in all aspects related to the holiday period. Here are some other ideas:

TIP #8: If you are still sending greeting cards, modernize this tradition and use one of the many free applications such as JustWink

TIP #9: If you organize a dinner, make it a potluck

TIP #10: If you want to be generous and support a community organization, give time instead of money

TIP #11: If you’re looking for entertainment, choose a free or inexpensive activity

Lots of happiness and memori7es without going into debt

At Christmas time, happiness comes from the good times spent with family and friends. Don’t forget that the cost of the presents you give and the amounts spent to decorate are secondary.

If you realize that the amount of your debts is greater than your capacity to reimburse them, we’re here to help you. Just one meeting with one of our professionals will be enough to give you hope. Moreover, the initial evaluation is free.

We wish everyone very happy holidays!

Chantal Gingras

President, FPAIR, Licensed Insolvency Trustee

Official Office: Ottawa
Phone: 613-729-4391

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