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7 tips for keeping your holiday spending in check

(Reading time: 4:30)

You’ve made your gift list and checked it twice—but have you calculated how much all of that holiday shopping is going to cost?

According to a 2019 spending outlook compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada, it is estimated that Canadians will be spending as much as $1,593 each this holiday season. This follows a trend with last year’s numbers from the Retail Council of Canada showing that 1 in 3 Canadians overspent on their holiday shopping.

This holiday season, keep your spending in check with these 7 practical tips:

#1: Do your shopping homework.

Just as doing homework pays off at school, doing a little ‘shopping homework’ during the holidays can pay off in big savings. The best way to do that homework? Online.

Besides being able to compare prices instantly and potentially save money, doing your holiday gift research online will save you time, because you no longer have to go from store to store to track down what you’re looking for.

#2: Set a spending limit.

A recent debt survey has found that 6 in 10 Canadians haven’t set a spending budget for the holidays. In fact, they think it’s highly likely they will overspend this season.

Instead, review your finances to determine how much disposable income you can comfortably spend on holiday purchases without overstretching yourself. And without having to put those purchases on plastic.

#3: Challenge yourself not to charge it.

Remember that debt survey we mentioned earlier? Well it also revealed that 60% of Canadians are actually willing to go into debt in order to cover some or all of their holiday spending.

Resist the urge to ‘credit splurge’ this holiday season. With household debt and interest rates on the rise, you may even want to go one step further and leave the credit card(s) at home.

You’ll want to be especially cautious using department store-issued cards.

While they may offer incentives such as X% off your purchases, department store credit cards also charge excessively high interest rates. This means that if you don’t pay off the card in full by the time the statement comes in, those interest charges could override any ‘amazing’ discounts you initially received.

Already feeling the pinch of holiday debt? Here are 3 tips to take your credit card debt to zero.

#4: Cash in on loyalty rewards.

If you’ve been saving up rewards points/dollars, you might be sitting on a sizeable sum of money that could be put towards offsetting a portion (or even all) of your holiday purchases.

How sizeable of a sum are we talking about?

A report from Ontario-based market research agency Bond Brand Loyalty estimates that Canadians are holding on to the equivalent of $16 billion in unused rewards points. That works out to a value of about $629 per collector. So whether your rewards tally up to just a few dollars, or a few hundred dollars—cashing in on loyalty rewards is definitely a win-win when it comes to holiday shopping.

#5: Don’t forget the coupons.

In addition to cashing in on your loyalty rewards, don’t forget to take advantage of the fine art of ‘couponing’. With online bargain sites such as and, you have instant access to a wealth of coupons in a single click.

#6: Shop Canadian to avoid duties, fees, and shipping charges.

As of October 2018, Canada’s online shopping duty-free level was raised from C$20 to C$150 as part of the changes introduced by the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, formerly NAFTA). This means that online purchases (made and shipped from the U.S.) with a combined retail value of $150 or less are exempt of duty charges.

However, if you exceed the $150 limit, not only will you have to pay duty charges on the items being imported, you will also be responsible for a host of other fees and taxes.

These additional costs may include currency conversion, shipping charges, duties, taxes, and customs broker fees. If you want to avoid a not-so merry list of charges, fees, and taxes, it’s best to keep your holiday shopping within the Great White North.

*Note that the rise in the duty-free limit mentioned above refers to online purchases only, not for day trips across the border. Those limits remain the same ($200 duty-free limit if you’re in the U.S. for 24 hours; $800 limit if you stay in the U.S. for 48 hours).

Click here for an estimation of the duties and taxes you can expect to pay on imported goods.

#7: Protect yourself and your money from fraudsters.

The holiday season tends to see a major spike in scams of all kinds. With each passing year, scammers are becoming increasingly adept at developing ways to trick consumers into giving them their money.


Here are a few of the latest scams to look out for:

Fake websites: These kinds of sites are on the rise, so pay extra attention to the smallest of details. Such as a logo that looks a little ‘off’, a misspelled brand name, or a web address that includes any weird characters.

How to protect yourself: Distinguish a legitimate website from a scam site by looking closely at the URL. A legitimate site will often have a secure URL that starts with ‘https’, while a scam site’s URL will start with ‘http’ (note the missing ‘s’ ).

Fake products: From the latest smartphones to the hottest toys of the year, scammers have also been posting classified ads boasting amazing discounts on the most popular products of the season. When consumers pay for these items, these sites/ads disappear and the products are never shipped.

How to protect yourself: Use only reputable websites/apps for making purchases, and never transfer money through a platform that is not associated with that site or app.

Cell phone scams: From so-called deals on air duct cleaning services, to being the big winner of a contest you never entered—when it comes to money-stealing schemes, telephone scammers are pulling out all the stops.

How to protect yourself: Simply hang up if a call sounds suspicious. If these types of calls persist, report the number to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, then block them.


Need help keeping your spending in check all year round? Call on Educators Financial Group.

No matter where you are on the pay grid or what your pension income is in retirement, we offer the kind of financial advice that is unique to education members like you.

Let’s chat about fine-tuning your financial plan for this holiday season and the year ahead.


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The information provided is general in nature and is provided with the understanding that it may not be relied upon as, nor considered to be, the rendering of tax, legal, accounting or professional advice. Please ensure to consult your accountant and/or legal advisor for specific advice related to your circumstances. Educators Financial Group will not be held responsible or liable for any losses, costs, damages or expenses incurred by reason of reliance as a result of the aforementioned information. The information presented was obtained from sources that are believed to be reliable. However, Educators Financial Group cannot guarantee their completeness or accuracy.

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