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Millions of Canadian consumers will brave the winter cold yet again this year for the allure of bargain prices; Boxing Day is the one last opportunity for retailers to rack up holidays sales before the New Year.

Boxing Day in Canada is like the original Black Friday - retailers are looking to make a windfall off last minute consumer purchases. With the household debt-to-income ratio hitting a new record in the last quarter of 2014, holiday spending is sure to set a new benchmark this year - good news for stores, not so much for your credit card balance.

Canadians can’t get enough of Boxing Day

Boxing Day is one of the most popular shopping days in Canada. Almost two-thirds of Canadians said they were planning to take advantage of Boxing Day sales, according to a released by BMO in 2012.

Surprisingly, Boxing Day is a bigger hit with men than women – 66% of men plan to partake, while only 58% of women will hit the malls. Boxing Day is most popular in Alberta, where 76% said they expected to shop, while only 36% of shoppers in Quebec will go shopping.

How does Black Friday stack up?

While Boxing Day remains the kingpin of holiday spending, Black Friday, a new phenomenon north of the border, seems to be stealing some of its thunder. In fact, a study released this year by shopping resource eBates forecasted this year's shopping holiday to overtake Boxing Day, with 84% of Canadians shopping online and spending 17% more on average in the past 12 months than in 2013.

Shoppers to spend $1,610 each during holiday season

Retailers will bring in nearly $60 billion during holiday shopping season from November to December, making it the most lucrative time of the year. The Christmas shopping season accounts for 30% of annual sales and over 40% of a retailer’s annual profits.

On a consumer level, the average shopper looks to spend $1,610 during the holiday shopping season. The willingness for consumers to spend this year is good news for retailers, who saw sales plummet five years ago during the financial crisis.

Use your brain while bargain hunting

Consumers have to be careful on Boxing Day, as deals can be deceiving.

Door crasher specials on popular items like flat-screen TVs and laptops may sound great in advertisement flyers, but if you’re not willing to camp out in front of a store overnight, you’re most likely going to miss the best deals. When it comes to the best discounts, retailers almost always have limited quantities – often 10 or fewer – so your chances of getting a Blu-Ray player for 70% off aren’t that great. It’s often a case of bait-and-switch, when retailers offer a limited supply, but have a similar product on sale for only 20% off.

If a deal seems too good to be true, but probably is. Retailers have also been known to use Boxing Day as an excuse to unload holiday items that weren’t such a bit hit. The key is to be a smart consumer – you shouldn’t just spend for the sake of spending just because it’s on sale. It’s also important to keep your holiday spending in check. Review your credit card statement online to see how much you can afford to spend on Boxing Day. Remember, an item that’s 50% off is still 50% on.

Consider your online options

If rushing to the mall in the wee hours of the morning on your day off with a full stomach of egg nog doesn’t sound like much fun, there are deals to be had from the comfort of home.

Retailers like FutureShop and Best Buy often fantastic deals online, often with free shipping. All you need is a credit card to take advantage of the year’s best deals.  

Sean Cooper

Sean Cooper is the author of the new book, Burn Your Mortgage. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Financial Journalist, Speaker and Money Coach, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as The Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Tangerine: Forward Thinking blog and TheDot. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanCooperWrite.

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