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Personal finance

Getting ready for the holidays: 18 budget-friendly ideas

November 26, 2020

Hanging lights, decorating the tree with homemade ornaments, organizing remote get-togethers: Our employees share their tips for spreading holiday cheer without compromising your budget—or your health.

Unleash your creativity

  1. Make your own Christmas decorations. Martine suggests taking advantage of this unusual holiday season to craft new decorations. “There’s no shortage of ideas on Pinterest and YouTube!”
  2. Personalize your tree. Take a tip from Cécile B., who uses ornaments her children have made. You’ll have a one-of-a-kind tree brimming with family memories.
  3. For a fresh take on the Advent calendar, take a cue from Valérie, who hangs homemade gingerbread cookies in the tree. “After supper, our two kids ‘pick’ dessert from the tree. It’s a tradition they love.” Bonus: Zero waste!

Holiday fun goes virtual

  1. Organize a remote gift exchange. Pick the name of a friend or family member out of a hat and send a gift or drop it off at their door. Mélissa says this also works well with “passing it on” gift exchanges. “I gave someone a film I’d watched and enjoyed plenty of times, and a friend gave me some amazing books.” If it made you happy, it’s sure to make someone else happy too. Get ready to be amused. These types of gifts can be laugh-out-loud funny!
  2. Hold a virtual tree-decorating event. If decorating the tree as a family is one of your holiday traditions, why not organize a virtual “Trim the Tree” happy hour? “Every year we take a photo in front of the tree once we’ve finished decorating. Last year we hung a cell phone as an ornament so we could include my sister in the photo even though she was away on a trip. That got plenty of laughs,” says Katya.
  3. Organize a virtual gingerbread house competition. It’s one more way to keep the laughs coming, remotely. No talented artists in the family? No matter. The results could be even more entertaining!
  4. Play a virtual board game. Take it from Valérie: “Scattegories is perfect for remote play! In each round, the person who has the game sends the category cards in text messages to the other players. Let the fun begin!” Otherwise, as Marie-Josée says, “there’s always BINGO! Yes, it’s tacky, but that’s what makes it fun to play virtually, especially when there’s a big jackpot.”
  5. Laurence suggests doing that one thing you’ve always talked about but never actually done. Now is the time. It might be something like binge watching old home movies. Fun for all the family!

Stick to your budget

Make a budget before December arrives, detailing all your expenses (gifts, food, etc.). Keep your shopping list handy to avoid last-minute impulse purchases that could put you in the red.

Gift ideas

  1. Support local makers. Share what you’ve discovered this year close to home.
  2. Organize outdoor activities or experiences that allow for social distancing. Now is a great time to plan an outdoor activity and enjoy the winter beauty of nature. It’s the gift that gives twice: once when you surprise everyone with the idea, and again when you make it happen. What better way to spend time with loved ones, safely?
  3. Try a second-hand gift, urges Mélanie. “The kids couldn’t even tell the difference,” says the mother of three boys. Catherine created alerts on Kijiji and Marketplace to track down wooden toys for her 18-month-old daughter. Second-hand clothing is all the rage with the younger crowd these days. Join the movement! Teenagers will admire your on-trend shopping talents.
  4. A gift that offers a fun way to learn a skill at home. “We bought a used keyboard for my wife. She plays it every day,” recounts Christophe.
  5. Reusable masks. We’re sure these will be the top gift in 2020. They keep waste out of landfills, and the endless variety of patterns puts the fun in mask wearing!
  6. Books on finances. Now is a good time to take a fresh look at your finances and adopt new habits for a secure future.
  7. Thoughtful gifts. This is an easy way to keep costs down. Christophe is a fan of the “less is more” approach: “Memorable gifts don’t always cost more. It’s a matter of thinking about what you give—and especially who you’re giving to.”
  8. Get out the scrapbooking supplies: Craft the perfect gift for your spouse. Memorialize things your kids have said or objects they’ve made, or preserve the love letters or emails you’ve sent each other.

Recycle your gift wrapping.

Many of us wrap with newspaper (gotta love those Sudoku and crossword pages!) or reuse the same wrapping paper year after year. Better yet, opt for fabric wrapping (bags, pillow cases, scarves, etc.), taking inspiration from the Japanese furoshiki technique.

To make sure Santa gets the message, have your kids explain what the sheets under the Christmas tree are for when they write to him. Magic guaranteed on December 25!

Pay it forward!

Why not use the money you would have spent on gifts for your entire extended family to make an investment or donate to a worthy cause?

  1. Invest in the next generation by making an RESP contribution like Isabelle’s parents, who accompany their gift with a letter to their grandsons encouraging them to pursue their education. “The letter will provide motivation when they’re struggling in school,” explains their mother. Another option: help fund a loved one’s dream.
  2. Make a donation. Choose local organizations that help those most in need or people who have no support. You can donate money, food or toys your kids have outgrown.

Don’t try to compensate for not being there by buying bigger gifts. Stick to your budget and find creative ways to stay connected in these unprecedented times.

Together, let’s share the warmth with those who need it

Through December 24, 2020, for each dollar you donate this Guignolée season, Desjardins will match it through our Double Your Impact* program.

Please give generously!

Happy holidays!