For the second year in a row, our family has adopted the “no-gifts” mantra for the holiday season. Last year we jetted off to Mexico under the idea that instead of spending money on gifts for each other we, as a family, would channel those dollars towards a family vacation where we could spend time together. At first, I wasn’t certain how it would go over, when you’re trying to break a habit that has been going on for generations there can sometimes be push back. Every individual on the trip enjoyed it far more than they thought and the vacation wasn’t even over before we were planning for the next Christmas. This year we are off to Costa Rica to explore Central America, sans gifts.

There are a few important things to consider when you’re trying to pitch the idea of a gift-free Christmas:

  • As adults get older they need less and “things”, in most cases their homes are fully stocked and anything they would need they purchase throughout the year
  • Family members may be on a budget and we all know how out of control and expensive gifts can get
  • Consumption can be wasteful – North Americans consume so many goods on a yearly basis, it can be a good idea to cut back on the consumption and focus on what is actually valuable
  • Research is key, traveling during the Christmas season can be expensive but doing your research and finding cost-saving strategies can really reduce how much you’re spending.

My favourite travel hack is using a combination of points to reduce the cost of the flights as well as using the WestJet World Elite Mastercard. This is not a sponsored post, this is just how our family has been able to afford traveling during the most expensive time of the year.

In short, the Westjet World Elite Mastercard give your 1 companion voucher per year. The second individuals gets the same ticket as the one you pay for full price plus a nominal cost ($99 in the US, $299 to Hawaii and Mexico, and $399 to Europe).

If you choose to fly over the holiday season chances are flight prices are at their peak, but if you can get your second flight for a few hundred dollars you’re going to benefit greatly. The more expensive your flight is the more value you get for your companion voucher. While I’m not suggesting you go and find the most expensive flight out there it can be comforting to know that when you look at the fares you basically can share that cost with another person). This has allowed our family to drastically reduce the cost of our flights during peak times of the year.

In addition to this, we use all the WestJet points saved up over the year against our flight cost so that we can further minimize the financial burden of flying at Christmas time. If you’re able to time your flight so that it can happen on Christmas day you’re also going to see a decline in the price you pay for your ticket.

If you can’t convince your family to escape the cold Canadian winters like I did, or you aren’t in the financial position to do so I still have some great ways to reduce your holiday spending:

  • Only purchasing for one individual in the family (drawing names at Thanksgiving always worked for our family)
  • Homemade baking instead of gifts
  • Donating to a meaningful charity on behalf of that person
  • Suggesting a nice dinner out with no gifts as a way to spend time together in your hometown

If those don’t end up working some frugal hacks you can use to stretch your dollars this holiday season include:

  • Redeeming points to purchase gifts (Shoppers, Credit Cards, Chapters, and Sephora are your friends)
  • Ebates, Ebates, Ebates. Seriously, if you don’t know what this is check it out here!
  • Group gifts for family members to help reduce the cost – think about gifts on a per couple basis

The holiday season is about spending time with people you love and enjoying time to relax and rejuvenate. If you’re stressing about how you will afford gifts you’re missing out on what’s truly important. How you choose to enjoy your holidays and minimize your spending is up to you. Just know that the credit card bill is coming due in January and you don’t want it to start your new year on the wrong financial foot.