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Tips to supercharge all that money you’ll save on food and booze this December


No one’s coming to your holiday party, and not many people want your shortbread cookies.

This December you may find yourself spending less on food and booze of any holiday season to date. (Insert sigh of financial relief here.)

Canadians traditionally spend more — sometimes double — on food-related purchases during the holidays, which can cause financial stress at this time of year.

We’ve already seen a surge in grocery costs this year because we’re eating almost exclusively at home now, and the cost of food has legit gone up, by almost 2.5 per cent since last year, according to Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index.

But recent polls show most Canadians plan to — and should — follow the health recommendations this season, which means you’re not likely to host your usual party or big dinner. And, sadly, sharing holiday baked goods with other households, one of my favourite pastimes, is on pause indefinitely.

This presents a large opportunity for savings, which can be earmarked for next year’s soiree, when it’s hopefully safer to gather. Or, you may find joy in re-purposing these dollars toward a family gift, making an extra payment on your credit card balance, or even a making a donation to your local food bank.

Here are a few tips to supercharge your savings on food and booze this December.

Those who plan pay less — like 30 per cent less.

It’s always a good time to have a food plan, but it’s especially powerful right now. Not only will it focus your holiday food shopping on what you can afford by sticking to only what you need — i.e. no impulse buying of candy canes at the checkout — but it will also prevent food waste. The average family tosses $100 per month of food into the garbage, and it gets worse during the holidays because there’s even more perishable foods in the fridge than usual.

Food plans have two other benefits; they save time by reducing the frequency of grocery shopping, and they save you from having to run out for urgent last-minute purchases, which typically cost more because you’re convenience-buying at the most expensive shop in your neighbourhood.

Here’s what you need to get started in making a food plan for the holidays:

Grab a physical or digital calendar. Mark the days you want to shop, ideally not more than once per week. On each day, map out the meals and snacks you want to make, including baked goods for your immediate family, the turkey or ham, wine, beer — and the “blah” meals too, like morning oatmeal.

Write up the ingredients you need (personally, I use the notes function on my phone). Remember, the quantities are likely reduced from previous holiday seasons!

Check online to see who’s running the best sales for what you need, and go there to shop.

Last, and for the serious frugal win, use up your loyalty points and gift cards for payment.

If you’re using meal preparation boxes, make sure you work those into your plan so you don’t accidentally overbuy groceries that week.

If the above process seems annoying to you, I guarantee it’s worth it. The savings are huge! And, you’ll get exponentially faster after a few weeks in; so stick with it, perhaps even into the new year.

On the go-forward, I highly recommend families consider cashback grocery credit cards versus travel rewards cards. It’s going to be awhile before full-scale travel resumes, so you might as well use the points for something practical now. The bonus is there are some great low-to-no-fee grocery credit cards in Canada, with holiday sign-up bonuses.

It’s 100 per cent OK to incorporate takeout into your plan.

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Restaurant and takeout overspending has notoriously plagued aspiring budgeters during the holidays. But it doesn’t have to! In-house dining is minimal to zilch because of the pandemic. With takeout, you simply need to build it into your budget and account for it within your food plan.

If money is super tight because of other holiday spending pressures, scale back your takeout; from once per week to twice a month, for example. And reduce the size of your order — do you really need the side salad, or could you make that yourself? Whatever frequency and scale you decide, consider buying local, to support restaurants in your community that desperately need the business right now.

Having a little less financial pressure on your budget this season is a good thing amidst a financially difficult year for many. You’ll avoid unnecessary debts, build savings and focus on what matters most; connecting with friends and family in a safe, socially distant kind of way.

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Q:

How do you plan on saving money this holiday season?

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