We asked three CPAs to share their holiday budgeting tips

CPAs can be proactive in promoting sensible spending. Here are some tips to share with clients, friends and family.


Portfolio manager, executive director, Private Client Group, Holliswealth, St. John’s NL

Larry Short“Financial literacy is a massive problem in Canada. People go into stores and ask, ‘How much is the monthly payment?’ They don’t ask what interest rate they’ll be charged. They don’t realize how much more it costs to pay in instalments than to buy the item outright. CPAs can help people understand the real cost of things and how much more they’ll cost if purchased on credit. Budgeting for the holidays is a great idea, but it’s hard to do. Instead, open a separate bank account, decide how much you’ll spend as an individual or a couple, and move that amount into the account. This is your expenditure pool. It’s easier to stick with this than a budget, and you and your loved ones will talk about holiday spending instead of acting ad hoc.”


Independent practitioner, Vancouver

Renée le Nobel

“The keys to controlling spending are knowing what’s important to you and having a clear idea of your finances. Tracking your expenses helps you see what’s important and guides you. I work mostly with individuals and small businesses. One of the first things we do is create a spending plan, and I point them toward free resources such as CPA Canada’s financial literacy guides and budgeting tools such as YouNeedaBudget.com. When you’re shopping for the holidays, don’t second-guess your gift list when you’re surrounded by the glitz in the stores. Communicate with friends and family in advance: split the cost of gifts, draw names or agree not to exchange presents. In January, go over your spending. See what went well and what didn’t, and try to improve next year.”


Controller, Disclosurenet, Toronto

Wendy Ha

“A lot of people don’t budget or track spending, though they know they should. I’m a big believer in technology. If there’s something easy to use, such as expense-tracking apps that aren’t tedious or scary, people will use them. For example, the Mint app tracks expenses and links to your bank accounts and credit card statements. To help people improve their financial literacy, the government has a self-assessment test at fcac-acfc.gc.ca. I also recommend the site GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca. For the holidays, people should set a budget but leave a little cushion for the unexpected. Shop early: if there’s no rush, you can find great deals.”


- Separate needs from wants: “People know they should save, but when they spend, they’re not thinking about the budget,” says Wendy Ha.
- Get gift receipts: Start shopping early to take advantage of sales, but remember that kids often change their minds about what they want, says Renée le Nobel.
- Manage expectations: A lot of kids and teens want big-ticket gadgets such as iPads and smartphones, says le Nobel. If these items are beyond your budget, pool resources with others or discuss other gifts with your kids.
- Practise money smarts year-round: Learn easy tips for saving and budgeting online or by reading personal-finance books. Larry Short recommends David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber and its sequel, The Wealthy Barber Returns.