A quarter of Canadians have already begun their holiday shopping, according to a study by the Retail Council of Canada. The main reason for this swift start is to avoid shipping delays. Although many consumers will still make their way to brick-and-mortar retailers, 42% will shop online.

For many shoppers, holiday sales, promotions and free shipping have taken a back seat to more significant pandemic-related factors. Twenty-eight percent of Canadians say the ability to buy online and access curbside pick-up or in-store collection options is more important this year.

Buying Canadian and supporting local is also top of mind. Most Canadians (90%) say buying from a retailer in Canada is key, and 83% agree purchasing Canadian-made items is important.

However, there is also an emerging trend toward self-gifting. While consumers plan to spend 74% of holiday budgets on others, 26% will be spent on themselves. Of those who plan on spending more on themselves this holiday season, 41% say they will do so to treat themselves.

Canadians plan to spend most of their holiday budgets on Black Friday (37%), Cyber Monday (25%) and Boxing Day (27%).

Black Friday is usually a lucrative shopping day. However, with the lack of cross-border shopping and the shift toward e-commerce, consumers may rely heavily on Cyber Monday for deals and discounts.

Here are seven ways to avoid overspending and get everything on your list.

1. Create a budget

Creating a budget is not only essential but is also easy with the help of smartphone apps. Make a list of each person you plan to buy for this year, your budget, and the items you will buy.

Check out these handy apps that can help you stay organized and on-budget while shopping.

  • Santa’s Bag (iOS): This free app can help you track all your gift recipients and if you are on or over budget. You’ll know who you’ve already bought for, what you’ve ordered, and even which gifts still need to be wrapped.
  • Christmas Gift List (Android): Enter your gift ideas and the price of each purchase. You’ll know if you are on target if the progress bar stays green, but if you blow the budget, you’ll be in the red. Track your recipients, wrapping status, and budget, and keep track of gift ideas throughout the year.

These apps can keep you from picking up impulse buys and help you stick to your plan.

2. Account for shipping fees

This year many Canadians will be relying on online shopping, so it is important to factor in shipping fees as part of the budget. Accounting for these extra costs can help you stay on track and avoid bad shopping habits. Loading up your cart with extra items to reach free shipping minimums can often lead to overspending or buyer’s remorse.

3. Compare prices

With the help of the internet, shoppers no longer have to go store to store to compare prices. It is relatively simple to open a few tabs in your browser and compare products from your favourite retailers.

Using a comparison site like Shopbot or Google Shopping can make that process even quicker. Type the item in the search bar and see a list of businesses that carry the product and the prices.

4. Follow or unfollow your favourite brands

Sign up for emails and follow your favourite brands on social media. Often, loyal customers are the first to know about deals and promotions.

However, this can also be tempting—especially around the holidays. If this sounds like you, you may want to cut down on your screen-time, hit unsubscribe and spare your wallet.

5. Read return policies and holiday guarantees

Over the last few years, many businesses have implemented extended return policies and holiday guarantees. These incentives are great.

Typically, returns range between seven days and around one month, giving shoppers a tight window to buy items their recipients can return (if necessary). However, around the holidays, many businesses extend their return policies well into the new year.

Also, look for companies that offer price drop guarantees around the holidays. Shoppers can feel pressured to buy during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or holiday sales, without knowing which promotion will offer them the best deal. Purchasing an item and taking advantage of the price drop guarantee can take away this stress.

Pro-Tip: Some credit cards like the MBNA Rewards World Elite® Mastercard®, offer price protection no matter the season, up to a specific claim limit per year. In particular, this card provides price protection for 60 days from the date of purchase in Canada. Other conditions do apply.

Other shopping coverage like extended warranty and purchase protection may even extend to your gifts as long as you buy the items on your credit card.

These benefits can save you money and ensure your recipient gets a gift they can enjoy.

6. Shop with loyalty programs and partners

The best way to find savings and earn rewards is to shop through loyalty programs and their partners. Travel rewards programs like Aeroplan allow members to shop through their e-Store. It doesn’t cost anything extra to do, but members can earn points and access discounts through popular brands like Amazon.ca, Roots or Apple. Plus, they partner with platforms like Etsy. So, you can support small businesses and earn rewards.

Related read: New Aeroplan Credit Cards Arriving November 2020

Not only that but if you use an Aeroplan-affiliated credit card, you can also double-dip on points and earn more as you shop.

Pro-Tip: When it comes to travel rewards cards, you will generally find the best redemption value for your points on flights, hotels, and other travel-related purchases. Redeeming points for merchandise or gifts can cut down on your holiday spending, but you may not get the top value for your rewards.

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7. Use these shopping hacks

If you shop using Chrome, you can also download Honey, a browser extension that can search the internet for the best prices and coupon codes. Plus, it features a price tracker. You can add an item to your list, and when it goes on sale, Honey will let you know.

Other great apps for saving on holiday groceries or purchases include Checkout 51 and Flipp. Search your local flyers and find savings.

Ready, set, go!

Many holiday sales and early Cyber Monday deals have already been announced. So, if you haven’t started planning, there is no time like the present. Check out your favourite local brands, and support beloved Canadian retailers this season.

Remember to stick to your budget and steer clear of impulse buys—just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s saving you money! If it’s not part of the plan, think twice about if you need it.

Rates, product information, and rewards estimates are subject to change at any time and do not constitute financial advice. Information in this article is accurate as of the date of this posting, November 26, 2020.

Hayley Vesh

Hayley Vesh is a creative, resourceful, and knowledgeable content producer who is passionate about financial literacy, storytelling, and generating ideas. She writes about credit cards, savings, debt management, and personal finance. In her spare time, Hayley can be found wandering in the woods, hunting for second-hand treasures, or curled up with a steeped tea and a good podcast.

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