Holiday spending out of control, Canadians tell survey

Many Canadians believe their holiday spending is out of control, with more than half saying they’ll spend more than they budgeted, an online survey for CIBC suggests.

Many say they love to play Santa, but others do it out of duty and 9% are outright Scrooges

A shopper rolls a full cart past a Santa figure with a countdown clock numbering the days until Christmas. Respondents to a CIBC survey said they felt pressure to buy gifts and more than half expect to spend more than they want. (Associated Press)

Many Canadians believe their holiday spending is out of control, with more than half saying they'll spend more than they budgeted, an online survey for CIBC suggests.

When asked how much they're planning to spend, respondents said an average $643 on gifts and another $300 on decor and entertaining.

That's an eight per cent increase on what respondents to the same survey said ahead of Christmas in 2016.

The 2017 Angus Reid survey of 1,512 randomly selected Canadian adults was performed Nov. 27 and 28 of this year for CIBC.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed they "wish they could save more money" at this time of year. About 52 per cent said they would end up spending more than they liked.

Holiday stress

In addition to spending too much, there were plenty of complaints about the craziness of holiday shopping, the time crunch and feeling pressure to give gifts.

Yet only nine per cent were Scrooges who said they hate giving gifts because it's so stressful and expensive. And only eight per cent said they didn't participate in holiday gift giving in any way.

A surprisingly high number said they were "modern-day Santas" and agreed with the statement "I absolutely love giving holiday gifts to friends and family; it's part of the holiday magic."

About 47 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 agreed with that statement and 40 per cent of those age 35 and up.

"People are spending more over the holidays than they have in the past and they're telling us they can't really afford it," says David Nicholson, vice-president of CIBC Imperial Service.

This is part of the stress that people feel at the start of the holiday season, he said. It plays into Canada's high household debt levels.

How to keep spending under control

"A lot of people do put together a budget, but if they're saying they'll spend more than they want to, that begs the question how realistic is the budget."

While a large number said they enjoy giving gifts, about half of respondents said they feel duty bound to give.

Nicholson suggests a conversation with friends and family to set expectations for holiday giving. Some families set a limit on spending or eliminate gift giving and pool resources on a get-together that gives everyone warm memories.

Using rewards points and prepaid cards can help keep spending under control, he says. About 12 per cent say they use loyalty program points at this time of year, with women, millennials and Atlantic Canadians most likely to take advantage of rewards.

Giving and receiving gift cards and cash also can help people stick to a budget, Nicholson said. For overseas giving, it can work to order from an online retailer in the same country and have the gift delivered directly to the friend or family member. 

Tackling the spending habit

6 years ago
Duration 5:48
Financial planner Shannon Lee Simmons says it’s a matter of changing your expectations for the holiday season