According to results of the CPA Canada Holiday Spending Monitor Update, a whopping 37% of respondents intended to spend over $800 on their gifts.

While at first glance this sounds like good news (“Woot! Looks like many of us can expect some great gifts this holiday season!”), it’s troubling when you consider Canadian consumer debt. For every $1 of household disposable income, Canadian households owe $1.68 in credit debt.

Clearly, we’re not spending as wisely as we could – and that’s not good for our wallets or our mental health. It’s time to stop the madness.

Contrary to what ads and popular culture say, we don’t have to shop ’til we drop. We don’t have to rack up credit debt chasing #priceless moments. Here are 3 easy ways to rein it in, so you can be gift-y – while remaining thrifty!

1. Prioritize Your Shopping

There are many things we all love about the holidays, and many things that get us stressed and overwhelmed during this busy season. So, we need to prioritize the things we absolute love about this time of year. Whether it’s travelling to see family or buying gifts for your loved ones, make sure to account for spending on those things in your plan (aka, your budget). The easiest way to do this is to pare down your shopping list. You could:

  1. Start a Secret Santa at with family, so you can exchange gifts, without racking up debt.
  2. Pool money on teacher gifts: If each parent chips in just a little, the class can give one awesome gift or gift card rather than a bunch of #1 Teacher mugs!
  3. Simply tell friends you’d like to hang out and enjoy a gift-free get-together. Share the gift of presence, not presents!

2. Create a Budget and Track It

Figure out what you can afford to spend on gifts, new outfits for your work & family parties, and your travel plans to get where you want to go. Once you’ve made your budget, consider it set in stone and track your spending throughout the season. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did when you get your credit card bill.

If tracking your spending sounds too difficult, there is a fool-proof way to stay on track this year: Get a KOHO card. Use bonus code CARROT20 when you sign up to get $20 credited to your account!

It’s a prepaid VISA that links to an app to keep track of your spending, but the prepaid part is the real value for the holiday season. Once you’ve mapped out your full budget, load up your KOHO card with that amount of money, and buy your holiday purchases on your new card. Nothing will keep you on track like a prepaid card, because once the money’s gone… it’s gone.

3. Save on Gifts

Who said gifts need to come from a store, anyway? Consider low or no-cost gift options that showcase your personal touch.

  • Make your own gifts. From handmade soaps and hand-poured candles, to custom granola and artisanal pickles, handmade gifts are on-trend and always appreciated!
  • Give a “helper’s high”. Science shows helping out releases feel-good endorphins and improves the helper’s own physical and mental health. Get into the spirit of the holidays by organizing a volunteer gig with your friends or family. It’s a gift you share with one another, and with the community, whether you help out at a soup kitchen, organize a clothing drive, or hit the trail to collect litter as you hike.
  • Propose a “coupon exchange”: Get like-minded friends and family to gift homemade coupons for personal services. A bike tune-up. Smartphone tutorial. Tarot card reading. Babysitting. Dog grooming. Everyone’s got a secret superpower: share them and enjoy!

We want to hear from you: What’s your secret for staying on budget during the pre-holiday season?


This post is part of our 12 Days of Carrot marketing campaign. Today’s contest and blog is sponsored by KOHO. Koho is an app and reloadable card that gives you all the details on where your money is going. It sends you real-time updates on your spending and lets you set automatic savings goals. Use the bonus code CARROT20 when you sign up to get $20 credited to your KOHO account.

Yuki Hayashi

Author Yuki Hayashi

Yuki Hayashi is a health and fitness writer whose writing has appeared in Women’s Running, Canadian Living, Chatelaine, and other publications. An avid runner and triathlete, she is an Ironman finisher, and enjoys road races ranging from 5K to marathons. She’s a volunteer coach with a youth running group, and in her spare time (what spare time?!) loves cooking, hiking and traveling to outdoor-adventure destinations.

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