The thrill of thrift still has Canadians in thrall. Despite cheery “It's over!” proclamations about the recession, consumers from coast to coast appear determined to keep their holiday spending in check.

In fact, 44 per cent of Canadians have vowed to trim their holiday buying, which amounted to $571 per adult last year. But we all know what happens to resolutions made months before Bing Crosby's White Christmas is piped into every mall.

The solution is to arm yourself against your worst holiday spending enemy — you! Before heading out to brave the crowds put together a quick mini-budget.

Visa Canada's revamped nancial literacy website,, has a handy holiday calculator that jogs your memory about all the things you spend money on during the season but are likely to forget in the busy days ahead.

Few actually put a dollar gure to non-gift items or include them in a holiday budget. Every year I am shocked by how much festive candles, Christmas crackers, lights and special food items cost.

My daughter decided to get a professional family photo this year. Once she included an outt for her son, a new blouse for herself and haircuts all round she spent as much getting ready for the pictures as the actual pictures themselves.

The Practical Money Skills calculator includes expenses such as cards, postage, baking supplies and charitable donations. Even holiday travel adds to your spending. On average, Canadians increase their driving and use of public transit by 30 per cent during the holiday season.

When it comes to gifts, many people do make a mental budget and plan to stay under a certain sum per person. But they forget sundries like a tip for the paper delivery person, coins dropped into the Salvation Army kettles and a bottle of wine to a colleague.

Spend half an hour with the holiday calculator and you're far less likely to over spend this season.

Alison’s Money Rule:
The trick to not spending more than you can afford this holiday season is being aware of all the places your money goes before you hit the stores.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at

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