Picture this: You are holiday shopping and at check-out the bill is more than you expected or are able to afford. 

Many people this year are finding that inflation, although it has eased, has made gifts more expensive, just as it has made necessities such as food more costly. Both are causing Canadians to cut their Christmas budgets, or get creative. 

“Buying gifts is just way too expensive this year,” said Zachary Reiken.

“My family has had to set a hard budget this year in order to make sure that everyone buys gifts around the same price, so no one is left having to buy an incredibly expensive present,” added the second year physics student at Carleton University.

A recent study from the Angus Reid Institute found three in five people are spending less on presents and two in five are donating less to charity. 

“With … inflation my family has changed the way that we buy gifts for each other,” said Ottawa resident Bora Hidi. “We now pick a name out of a hat and then buy a gift for the person that we get. Unlike Secret Santa, we tell each other who we are buying for, to make sure that we get what they want.” 

The Reid survey says some areas where people have chosen to cut include: spending less on preparations for Christmas (presents, decorations etc.); delaying a major purchase; scaling back donations; cancelling travel and driving less. 

“During the Christmas break I normally go on vacation with my family but this year we have decided not to as it is just too expensive for all of us to go — especially when you add up the air fare, hotel, food, activities etc. It is just too much,” said Hidi. 

The 2023 Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey found that, on average, “Canadians plan to spend $1,347 over the holidays, down 11 per cent from last year” and that “charity spending will go down 40 per cent.”

“I’m a student and I don’t have the income to be spending thousands of dollars on gifts when I have tuition to pay as well as groceries and rent,” said Nicholas McDermott, who attends Carleton University. 

Some holiday shoppers are taking advantage of specific sales instead of cutting their budget. Deloitte’s study noted 66 per cent of holiday shoppers had planned to shop during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday week, “relying on promotional events to stave off inflation.”

As well, “ever since the pandemic hit, I have found myself spending more money online instead of shopping in person,” said McDermott. “I tend to find more sales online and it is easier to ship everything to my house instead of just going from place to place.” 

Still, some are trying their best to shop local. 

“I prefer to buy my gifts locally instead of just purchasing something off of Amazon; buying local feels more heartfelt and personal,” said Reiken. 

One small business sees hope. “We’ve been here in Ottawa for over 40 years and have faced many recessions,” said Ian Boyd, owner of Compact Music on Bank Street. “The gift of music is such a valuable gift that isn’t as expensive as other items and is truly a very special gift.”