Everyone knows it pays to plan ahead during the holidays. That typically means making a list of who’s getting what. But what many shoppers don’t realize is that adding a column to your gift chart – one that shows which method of payment you’ll use to buy each of those presents – can actually save you money. We asked three shopping experts to reveal the better way to pay for every item on the list.
Judith Cane of Ottawa-based financial-services company Canada’s Money Coach suggests using a credit card to pay for “wow” gifts.
“You just get that extra little bit of room between when you purchase it and when you have to pay for it,” she says, “and then you’ve got some cash flow if something comes up over the holidays.”
There are additional benefits to putting big gifts on your credit card. “Often times, your card may have some insurance on it, so if something happens to your gift over the holidays, then usually you can make a claim,” she says. (Read your cardholder agreement to make sure you know what is covered and what isn’t.)
Of course, another benefit of using credit to pay for gifts with a big price tag is points, so be on the lookout for ways to accelerate your points earnings. (This season, for instance, the RBC Rewards Program has partnered with more than 250 retailers to offer bonus point earnings.) “The points are great if you’re putting a mobile phone, TV or computer on your credit card. You’ll rack them up like crazy,” Cane says.
However, she encourages points collectors to be aware not only of their points total but the calendar too, if they’re planning on redeeming for a gift. “Start early so you don’t get any surprises. Make sure you do your research on the points that you’re redeeming, what the return or exchange policy is and the length of time [the gift] will take to arrive,” Cane says.
If you’re making the most of your holiday budget, splitting the cost of a pricey gift with someone else can take your money even further. Say goodbye to scribbled-down IOU notes for good with Interac‡ e-Transfer. The “e” stands for electronic, but it may as well be easy, as this quick and instant way to pay or recover IOUs takes the cake over writing cheques and counting exact change.
Picking out playful, inexpensive presents is a treat, and online shopping makes it easy to pull together a range of tokens in one virtual place.
But filling out your shipping address and payment information over and over can be time-consuming. Multiply a half-dozen tchotchkes per stocking with as many e-tailers, and you’ll be burning through a considerable amount of screen time to get everything paid for.
To simplify the process, consider signing up for a digital payment service like Visa Checkout‡. The service retains your shipping address and payment details so you never have to type them in; all you do is plug in your username and password.
No one wants to be rushing around at the last minute, but – let’s face it – it happens to the best of us. When even the best-laid plans go awry, there are certain retailers that carry a wide variety of stellar gifts that make it easy to find everything you need in one spot, like Saks or Hudson’s Bay. The latter is the go-to of Kathy Russell, owner of Butler Girl Services in Newmarket, ON, a lifestyle management company that caters to busy professionals who need concierge and organizational services. When time is tight, she recommends a one-stop shop for everything from candles and pyjamas to cozy socks. “If it’s later in the day and only the grocery store is open, be creative. Find a nice package of shortbread cookies, a good box of hot chocolate or tea, adds some magazines and wrap a bow around it,” she says.
In time-crunched moments, paying quickly can make all the difference. Making a contactless payment using your debit or credit card or mobile phone can save you precious seconds. Cane says that mobile payment and banking apps such as Apple Pay‡ and RBC Wallet can also make it easier to keep track of your spending and stay on budget.
“There’s some fantastic software out there that helps you organize your finances and all of these apps feed into those,” says Cane. “That’s the cool thing about new financial technology.”
‡ Apple Pay and Touch ID are trademarks of Apple Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owner(s).
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.