Give Ca$h not Gift Cards for Christmas

There does seem to be a backlash going on against the Gift Card industry this Christmas season, and I ( for one ), like it. Preet B. wrote about it yesterday in the Globe and Mail, however, I have said this all along. Why is there a stigma about giving cash and no stigma giving a gift card?

I asked my Christmas Gifting expert, Mrs. C8j and she said the big thing about cash is it seems like a Lazy Present (i.e. you didn’t feel like spending some time to find a nice present).  While I understand the sentiment about cash, I again say why are Gift Cards being viewed as “just fine” then?


Gift Cards, Cash

This is more personal than Cash? It’s at a Loblaws!

I can buy a gift card at my Loblaws for pretty much any store, in fact, I can do that at most Gas Stations now, why is that more personal than Ca$h?

Cash on the other hand, you usually have to go to a Bank to get. Banks are very exclusive, yes they may be open 7 days a week, but they close a lot more than most stores (and certainly more than most Gas Stations).

If you give Cash, you know it will get used, if you give a Gift Card, do you know how many gift cards never get completely used? I have no idea, but I am sure it is a huge number. Cash is friendly, fits in your wallet just like a gift card, and it has a picture of the Queen on it (or other important Canadians).

Give Ca$h this year, for Christmas.


Things to Buy on Black Friday

Black Friday has become Black November, and the orgy of spending being done in the name of Christmas is getting very much out of hand. I never espouse spending for the sake of spending, so keep that in mind this Christmas season (don’t go for the Holiday and end up unable to pay (that rhymes)).

With that in mind here are the kinds of deals you should be looking for on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or Black Autumn.

    1. Anti Virus Software for 3 computers for less than $12 , I have seen it in so many places that if you are still renewing your anti-virus stuff auto-magically, you are a fool (there I said it). I have talked about the Anti-Virus Tricks going on, so this shouldn’t be anything new to my regular readers.
    2. If you need memory cards (USB Flash, or SD Memory) or the like, that is a useful thing to get, since you always are going to need more storage for your Digital Camera, Tablet, or for back up. For that matter look for a 1 TB external backup drive for your laptop because backing up your data is really important.
    3. If you can find a copy of Quicken on sale, buy it! No time like now to start working on your Christmas budget and track your spending.
    4. A Christmas Fruitcake, start a new tradition, give a fruitcake to someone you particularly don’t like, but still have to buy a present for, and see if they are any the wiser.

      Another Fruit Cake

      Oh Joy! Fruitcake!

    5. A really big garbage can if it’s on sale, to put all the crap you will end up accumulating over the holidays. It’s important to be able to deal with the new crap you will be receiving.


The Real Price of Christmas

For most of us, it is back to work day today (some lucky folks got to work through the holidays, and for those folks, you have my sympathies), let’s all remain calm and get through this short week without too much drama or excitement (let us not speak of any Financial Cliffs/Ridge/Escarpments or the like, or if we do, in hushed tones).

Totals, Totals, Totals

Totals, Totals, Totals

So Christmas the season and holiday is over, how much did it cost? In terms of time and aggravation, I can’t really help on quantifying that but here are some important things to remember to have in your total (in case you want to budget for next year):

  • All presents bought, which is easy most people would have that at the top of their list. Do you have all the receipts? Why not?
  • Holiday gratuities should be included, if you tip your: doorman, paperboy, garbage man, mailman, etc,. etc., etc.,
  • If you traveled to see loved ones, the cost of travel (gas, hotels, etc.,) is part of that total
  • Did you eat out more often? Maybe you should add those extra meals in your totals
  • Did you have to pay someone to watch your house, your dog, your cats, or the like?
  • How much did you drink? Did you buy a lot of booze?
  • Did you have a party? Did you buy new clothes for the party? Food for the party? This can add up
  • Did you have visitors? Did you buy a lot more food for these visitors? Did they overuse your Internet access and do you have overage payments?

What should you do with this total? Sit there and fixate about it and make your life miserable? No! Simply take the total  divide it by the number of pay cheques until next Christmas (if you are paid bi-weekly, let’s say 24), and that is how much money you should put away per pay cheque for next year, Voila, problem under control.



Merry Christmas 2012

Yes, it is Christmas Day and I am writing this some time long before, to wish all of my gentle readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyeux Noel, Felice Navidad,  Happy Kwanza, Happy Chanukah and all the happiness of the season to you all.

Today is the time for families and being with your family (whether you want to or not in some cases). Don’t forget to watch my Twitter Feed for helpful quick hits during the time between now and New Years 2013!

Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas 2012


The $150 Christmas Challenge

Festive Greetings: I am taking a day off and even though we all know I Loath Guest Posts I have allowed our buddy Glenn from Life Insurance Canada to show just how Grinchy he can be, read on, and be dazzled by his cheapness, penny pinching, frugality.

If you’re like us, you’re probably tired of the commercialism of Christmas. Yes, it’s fine and fun for the kids and we all love getting together with our families. But Christmas shopping and gift giving between spouses has gotten beyond tedious.

Both my spouse and I have everything we need, and more than enough of what we want. Christmas shopping turns challenging into just walking around trying to find something that we neither need and barely want and at best find interesting. And all that does is turn into a drain on the pocketbook for more ‘stuff’.

So this year we’ve taken the $150 Christmas challenge. And I’m challenging you to do the same with your spouse, and put the rest of your money back into your wallet.

Here’s the rules of engagement:

  • maximum $150 including taxes.
  • All gifts must fit into a Christmas stocking
  • no wandering the malls looking for filler, you need to know what you want ahead of time.

Can you do it? The unique part of this challenge is that by reducing budget drastically it forces us to find really creative and interesting gifts. You can’t buy a $150 Fossil watch just because it’s cool – that’s out of the budget.

Let me get you started with some great gift ideas that’ll fit the bill:

  • Dust off the skis, or snowshoes this year with a promise to take your spouse for an afternoon outside in the winter air. Ski socks and maybe some gloves from MEC. It’s not socks – it’s the promise of an outdoor adventure. If you don’t have the snowshoes, some searching will find pairs in the area of $80. Or hit up Kijiji.
  • Mixed tape, Gangnam style. A $50 ipod nano. Throw in a $20 Itunes gift certificate, or better yet pre-program it with some tunes yourself. And if their car doesn’t take mp3’s as an input, a $10 device is readily available that’ll let you play the iPod over your car stereo.
  • Foot rub cream from your local pharmacy. If that’s not the best gift ever, then you haven’t been married long enough.
  • Personalized calendar. A guaranteed hit. Take a dozen pics from your adventures in the past year into your local staples and have them turn it into a calendar. Pics from valentines day become the pic for February, summer holiday pics are for July/August, and so on. A calendar for the year, and a keepsake thereafter. Or if you want over the top, a calendar of baby pics of the kids.
  • $30 gift certificate for their favourite lunch spot. Comes with an assumed ‘lunch date’ promise.

It turns out, this challenge may result in both less money spent/wasted AND better gifts. Can you do it? What are your ideas for limited budget gifts for your spouse, ones that scream “I’m thinking about you” instead of “This is what I found at the mall when I went last Saturday”?


Glenn Cooke is president of Life Insurance Inc. Not quite a Grinch, he still hates browsing the malls at Christmas.