How to watch your Christmas spending on busiest shopping day of the year

Personal finance experts offer tips on how to avoid January sticker shock, as retail analysts call December 22 the busiest shopping day of the year.

Moneris, which processes credit and debit payments, projects 600 transactions per second on Friday

Toronto's Eaton Centre was filled with shoppers Thursday, with many more expected Friday before the start of the Christmas holiday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

If you're reading this as you get ready to brave the crowds at shopping malls — you're not alone.

Many Canadians leave their holiday gift purchases until the last moment, enough for Moneris Payment Solutions to call Dec. 22 the busiest shopping day of the year. 

Moneris, which processes and tracks credit and debit card payments, projects 600 transactions a second on Friday. 

"To bring that into perspective, we'll see a transaction for every adult Canadian," said Jeff Guthrie, chief sales and marketing officer at Moneris. 

The reason for the spike in purchases, Guthrie said, is because of legions of shoppers have left their gift giving to the last minute.

Moneris says the bulk of last-minute transactions leading up to Christmas Day are in-store purchases, not online. (David Donnelly/CBC)

"It [represents] the shift of online to in-store; it's too late to buy online. So your only option is going in-store, and we'll be going in droves," Guthrie said.

The trend of Canadian shoppers relying on debit or credit for holiday purchases hasn't slowed down. Moneris reports seeing a five per cent growth in spending this year, since Black Friday, compared with 2016.

4 tips to curb spending

While the gifts and fun of the holiday season can keep you feeling light, the reality of paying off those bills can come crashing down hard in January. 

According to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Canadian adults will average $1,500 in spending per person on gifts and home decor during the holidays. 

Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq lays out four steps for Canadians to watch their holiday spending.

CBC business columnist and personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq says, "Not only are we spending more [compared with previous years], we're more confident about our spending."

To help Canadians keep within their budget this holiday season, Ahmed-Haq has a four-step game plan to tackle the busiest shopping day of the year: 

1. Tally up your spending to date

"Even if it's a rough estimate; it'll give you an idea of how far you've already come on your spending...You'll know, 'Oh geez, I'm already $1,000 in and that's more than I wanted to spend on Christmas shopping this year,'" Ahmed-Haq advised.

2. Delay spending on yourself

"If you're spending on yourself or for New Year's... save it until after Christmas is done, when you'll get better deals, hopefully."

3. Return items you don't need

"Take a second look at how much shopping we've done and see if there's anything we can return for cash, because we overspent on a couple of gifts that we didn't mean to.

4. Be realistic about your debt

Ahmed-Haq says this is the least fun part, but it's something every shopper will need to face eventually. 

"Those bills will come in mid-January but won't be due until end of February. So you have six weeks to plan how you're going to get those bills paid off."