Thoughtful Gifts and Alternatives During Canada's Shopping Season

Written by Posted On Monday, 12 December 2005 16:00

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it may be difficult to ignore the pressure to spend, spend, spend that assails Canadians from every quarter during December. Since the pattern of overspending, uncontrolled spending and unnecessary spending can only be broken by conscious effort, we're supplying a few ideas to help redirect some of that discretional spending to achieve long- and short-term real estate goals that may make 2006 an even better year for you, your family and your community.

Statistics Canada reports that Canadian shoppers blew through C$34.5 billion in retail stores last December. This was a significant 6.9 percent jump over the same month in the previous year, and more than twice the year-over-year gain of 3.3 percent in the previous December. Since consumer spending does not seem stalled as this column is posted, we can expect comparable additional billions -- frightening proportions in high-interest credit card debt -- to leave Canadian pockets this year, too.

On a per capita basis nationally, Canadian consumers reportedly each spent (excluding car sales) C$804 last December, which was well above the monthly average of $555 for other months. Residents of Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, who had the highest disposable incomes in 2004, led per capita spending at C$967 in Alberta, C$928 in the Yukon and C$926 in the Northwest Territories.

How much did you spend last December? What budget have you set for this year? For many Canadians, the problem is they cannot answer either question accurately. If you're not sure what you spent, how can you cut back? Perhaps a start would be staying below the national average or establish a percentage of your salary as the limit. Consider expected increases in property taxes, heating costs and utilities to set a holiday budget that will not leave you in the red in 2006. Or perhaps, your budget should be set to allow at least a small lump-sum payment to reduce the outstanding balance of your mortgage. This will save enough in interest charges over the life of your mortgage to cover the cost of two or more holiday seasons.

It's not what you give that counts, but how much it means to the receiver. Rather than allowing yourself to be swept away in yuletide marketing hype or spending to keep up with the Jones, think about how much an item will cost in credit card interest, lost savings opportunities and stress when the bills come in. More thought and more personal expression can mean more affordable and meaningful gifts:

  • Divert some of that conspicuous consumption into conspicuous or anonymous giving to any of the many nonprofits that provide shelter to Canadians year round and you'll be the richer on many levels. From Raising The Roof (See PJ's column "Toques & New Site for Canada's Hidden Homeless .") and Habitat for HumanityCanada to local shelters and community development projects.

  • Christmas spending can account for one-fifth of a business' annual revenue, so support local stores, home-based businesses and artists' studios and you'll back your neighbourhood, too. Many organizations like the Canadian National Institute for the Blind also have gifts that make ideal and unusual gifts for all ages. Spending your money near home may create local jobs, which in turn will sustain your community and its property values.

  • If you have first-time buyers on your gift list, consider real estate books or courses to ensure they make a good purchase in 2006.

  • Perhaps we should add sweaters, warm socks and afghans to our list to make lowering the thermostat a more comfortable proposition.

  • This season is also a good time to give the gift of safety. Does your home and your friends' have all the necessary smoke and carbon monoxide sensors? (Your "season's greetings" card might also remind loved ones to replace batteries with new non-rechargeable ones.) Fire extinguishers are another way to say you care. Since they now come in designer colours and stainless steel models to ensure they are actually mounted in kitchens and near fireplaces where they'd be ready for action, they can be conversation pieces, too.

Use your imagination before your credit or debit card and zero in on the personal touch. Happy Holidays to all.

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PJ Wade —       Decisions & Communities

Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic problem solver and author of 8 books and more than 2800 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

PJ Wade's latest business bookWhat's Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!—further proves PJ's forward-thinking expertise and her on-point ability to explain technical, even non-verbal, communication details in practical, actionable terms. Print publication: Fall 2022.

PJ: “What's Your Point?the pivotal 21st-Century business question—must be answered before you open your mouth, hit a key, tap anything or swipe. Too often 'Your Point' is not clear to you and communication remains an expensive illusion.”

As The Catalyst, PJ concentrates on enhancing communication ROI for experienced advisors, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, and other savvy professionals, who may not have received as much formal training in communication as they have in their own field.

Onward & Upward—The directions that really matter! Reach PJ at [email protected] and visit her What's Your Point? Blog. Keep up-to-date with PJ's popular column  Decisions & Communities

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