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How not to slaughter your personal finances this holiday season

Christmas holiday presents

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For reasons I'll discuss in an upcoming column, I see 2017 as an expensive year for Canadian households. One way to prepare is to go easy on your spending this holiday season. This edition of the newsletter is devoted to the idea of combining fun and frugal. First off, we should acknowledge that Canadians are world leaders in binge shopping in December.

Next, let's agree that a present for your spouse is probably your biggest expense. What to do about that? Here's a blogger who plans to skip buying a present for his wife and instead tick off items on her household to-do list. If you're buying gifts for young kids, consider this list of 10 things you can buy for both girls and boys at a dollar store. These affordable gifts help you support good causes like the fight against cancer. Here 25 gift ideas for $25 or less – socks, makeup and more.

Canadians last year overspent their budgets by $397 on average. Here's a list of ideas for keeping your spending under control this year that includes this smart suggestion: Use credit card reward points to buy stuff. Now for some signs you can't afford the Christmas you're planning. Example: You're putting presents on plastic without the money in your bank account to pay the bill. Here are some budgeting tips from a trio of personal finance experts.

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This list of ways to curb over-spending suggests you limit your charitable giving. There's some logic to this, but I have to disagree. Squeeze your other spending to make room for giving and check the MoneySense list of top charities if you're looking for ideas on where to give. Here are some ideas for teaching your kids about the importance of giving as well as getting.

I'm including this story on how much Americans spend on holiday season gifts strictly so you can gawk at two crazy suggestions – that people shouldn't touch their emergency funds to buy presents, or their retirement savings. Does this actually need to be said?

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Today's featured financial tool
The Squawkfox blog offers more than a dozen free budgeting worksheets, including this one for gift giving.

Ask Rob
The question: "We want to invest in a registered education savings plan for our new grandson who was born in September. The bank tells us that we can invest $2,500 within the first year of his birth to get the $500 government grant. We wanted to invest $2,500 before 2017 to max out the government contribution for 2016. We can't find any limit to the first year of birth. Who is right – the bank or us?"

My reply: "Congratulations on your new grandson, and good on you for thinking about RESPs. You may already know that a child needs a social insurance number in order to be the beneficiary of an RESP. As for your question, I consulted the website of Mike Holman, author of The RESP Book. He says this about the $50,000 lifetime contribution limit: "Because there is no annual limit, you could potentially make one single contribution of $50,000 to an RESP if you choose."

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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