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Don't go into the red for Santa's big day

‘As a culture, we’ve come to think of shopping as a leisure activity. When it comes to the mall, I say, ‘get in and get out,’’ says Patricia White, executive director of Credit Counselling Canada in Toronto.

Rosa Park/The Globe and Mail

It's the Christmas season, when last-minute shoppers can easily be swayed by advertising or family pressure resulting in a pre-holiday buying binge – and a massive credit-card debt come January.

To rein in Christmas spending, Patricia White, executive director of Credit Counselling Canada in Toronto, advises that families work from a list, that parents shop alone, and go at a time of day when the stores are more quiet and less stressful. Basically, make Christmas shopping easier and less expensive.

If you're in a financial bind, or simply want to spend less this holiday season, join Ms. White at 1 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 5, for an online discussion.

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An executive director of Credit Counselling Canada since 2009, Ms. White has also been the executive director of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services and a credit counsellor at a family service agency in Ontario. A professional home economist, she has counselled many individuals and families with money management and debt issues.

A long-time bantam and junior-aged curling coach, Ms. White says families should feel comfortable about discussing seasonal spending and should put a variety of options on the table – spending caps, drawing names, or contributing to a favourite charity instead. And above all, leave the credit cards at home if you can't pay the balances in full in January.

Read more of Ms. White's advice for staying on budget here. Questions can be left in advance for Ms. White in the comments section on this page, or join us live on Dec. 5.

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