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Dreaming of a Green Christmas? Canadians want cash instead of gifts to pay bills or build savings

One-quarter of Canadians (27%) will carry holiday debt balances into 2023

It’s easy to overspend during the holiday season and despite the promise of deep discounts, a new Finder survey shows that almost half of Canadians (49%) list cash at the top of their gift wish list.

After a year of high inflation and economic uncertainty, the transition to a cash-rich Christmas isn’t too surprising.

“Canadians across all income brackets felt the impact of rising costs in 2022,” explains Romana King, senior finance editor for Finder. “While many of us looked for ways to stretch a dollar, others found it impossible to trim the budget. It’s no surprise, then, that cash tops the list as the most requested gift this holiday season.”

Recession fears, persistent price increases and rising levels of personal debt mean Christmas 2022 will look very different for millions of Canadians.

To better understand how people felt going into the holiday season, Finder asked 1,000 Canadians how they planned to pay for their holiday spending, how long it will take to pay off potential debt and the gifts they most coveted this holiday season.

The results of the Finder: Cash for Christmas report show that almost half of Canadians (49%) would prefer to receive cash over gifts to help them pay for essentials, build up an emergency fund or pad their savings account.

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Canadians to spend less this holiday season

Unlike last year, when Canadians were eager to spend extra savings to celebrate, this holiday season Canadians appear to be more cautious about spending, according to data collected by Deloitte, a global financial consultancy firm.

Responses in Finder’s Cash for Christmas survey confirm this shift to a more frugal outlook, with nearly half (43%) of Canadians planning to spend less this holiday season, compared to the 2021 holiday season. Still, not everyone is cutting back. More than a third (35%) plan to spend the same amount in the 2022 holiday season as they did last year, and more than 1 in 5 (22%) plan to spend more this holiday season.

More than a third plan to take on holiday debt in 2022

According to survey respondents, 1 in 5 Canadians (20%) plan to pay for all their holiday spending using their savings. Another 13% of respondents stuck to their budget by spreading out their holiday season costs by making gift purchases throughout the year. However, the majority of survey respondents (35%) admitted that their plan to pay for holiday expenses was to take on various forms of debt:

  • 13% planned to carry a credit card balance
  • 6% will use buy now pay later payment plans
  • 5% will skip paying bills
  • 5% will borrow money from family or friends
  • 3% will take out a personal loan
  • 3% will use a payday or cash advance loan

Holiday spending hangover

The recent Finder: Cash for Christmas survey also asked Canadians how long they thought it would take them to pay off their holiday expenses. According to survey results, while the most popular response is to pay off costs right away (43%), on the flipside 27% of Canadians will be paying off their holiday purchases well into 2023.

Cash is king this Christmas

According to Statista, most Canadians tend to budget for the holidays, but with higher consumer costs and economic uncertainty, the ability to set a firm budget for all types of holiday spending appears to be harder this year. For many Canadians, this time of year means figuring out what to spend on gifts for kids, presents for friends and family, as well as factoring in food costs, decorations and seasonal activities. With all of the items to consider, it is no surprise that many Canadian shoppers look for ways to simplify the gift-giving experience. Turns out 41% like the convenience of giving cash as a gift – and almost as many (39%) expect to get cash as a gift.

While giving cash as a gift may reduce the stress of shopping for the perfect gift, the reasons for wanting or expecting cash as a gift aren't as simple.

While 1 in 4 respondents want cash as a gift so they can choose their own gifts, 40% of respondents either want cash to pay essential bills or to help build up their savings.

Key demographic stats

While most Canadians are cutting back this holiday season, the Finder: Cash for Christmas Report highlighted a few key differences when it came to a person's age and gender.

Overall

  • 43% of men expect to receive cash, compared to 37% of women
  • 46% of Canadian parents plan to spend less this year (compared to 41% of childless Canadians)
  • 48% of women plan to spend less this holiday season, compared to just 36% of men

Cash to cover essentials

  • 23% of women want cash for Christmas to pay for essential bills compared to 16% of men
  • 26% of Gen X (Canadians between the ages of 45 to 54) want cash to pay for essential bills – 6% more than the national average

Top 3 tips to prevent a holiday spending hangover

Holiday expectations are running high this year, especially after years of scaled-back or cancelled celebrations – Canadians want to give family and friends a Christmas to remember. With the financial and emotional pressure to deliver, consumers could end up taking on a "buy now, worry later" view, leading them further into debt, as the Cash for Christmas Report shows to be the case for about a quarter of Canadians who will carry holiday debt into the new year.

"The holiday season is a tricky time of year to keep finances in check," says King. "Many of us strive to give those we love what we think they want, so spending too much during this wonderful time of the year is tempting. But the best gift we can give to our loved ones is our financial health."

To help, King suggests using the following 3 tips to prevent or minimize a holiday spending hangover.

#1: Plan your holiday spending
The best tool to avoid overspending is to spend according to your budget. Make a list of all expenses you expect to incur during the holiday season. Then check to make sure you have the funds to cover these costs. You may need to adjust your budget or expectations, which will also help you stick to a realistic holiday budget. "Just like Santa, you need to make a list and check it twice," says King.
#2: Practise smart shopping
Before pulling out your wallet or tapping your credit card, consider employing smart shopping strategies. Start with pre-shopping research. For instance, Finder offers a round-up of more than 45 of the best online shopping sites in Canada. Don't forget to comparison shop and remember to set up alerts, and regularly check deal aggregators."Smart shopping requires being organized to have a list and being responsible enough to track your spending," says King.
#3: Tackle your debt
The final tip to help avoid that holiday spending hangover is to tackle debt. If you're going into the holiday season with debt, it's best to avoid taking on more debt. Consider alternatives to buying gifts, such as making hand-crafted presents or providing low-cost but personal experiences, such as a picnic in the park, a day at the pool or other ideas that allow you to connect with those you love. Another option is to plan how to avoid holiday debt for next season. The easiest way is to save a little bit each month. Start saving $30 per month in January, at an interest rate of 2.50%, and by December, you'll have almost $400 saved in your holiday spending account. Finally, for those using debt to pay for gifts and holiday expenses, take some time to plan your repayment strategy. Good options are to use time-tested methods, such as the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche – strategies to help you pay off your debt faster."If you have good credit, another option is to consolidate debt," explains King. Getting one loan, with a lower interest rate, reduces your monthly payments from many to one and cuts your overall debt costs.

Survey methodology

The results of the Finder: Cash for Christmas 2022 survey were collected through an online Pollfish survey conducted between December 1 and 2, 2022. In the survey, 1,000 Canadians from across the country were asked about their opinions on spending during the holiday season. The estimated margin of error for the survey is +/- 3%, 19 out of 20 times.

About Finder

Finder is a personal finance comparison site with a mission to help Canadians save, invest, spend wisely and grow their wealth. Each month, Finder provides half a million Canadians – and more than five million globally – with independent and trustworthy financial information. Our goal is to help people make better financial decisions by providing objective, comparative insight on thousands of products and services.

As a global fintech website and app, Finder provides consumers free access to smart money content. Whether it's expert insight, product or service comparisons or independent reviews, Finder helps consumers stay on top of their finances while saving time and money.

Finder is available to consumers in Canada, Australia, America and the United Kingdom. Initially launched in 2006 by three Australians – Fred Schebesta, Frank Restuccia and Jeremy Cabral – Finder's global reach now includes thousands of products and services in hundreds of financial categories and provides expert content and independent reviews to more than five million users each month.

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