Dennis Armbruster
  Editor-At-Large, COLLOQUY

Back when I was a kid, socks were the fruitcake of holiday gifts. I didn’t care about them, I didn’t want them, but I needed them. I just didn’t appreciate them.

It’s not festive, but it’s feasible. Yet I think there is a way to stick to a holiday budget without putting a sock in it.

’Tis the season!

As we approach the holidays this year, need is a greater consideration among many Canadian households, if not their children. According to BMO’s 2013 Holiday Spending Outlook, Canadian spending on gifts will be relatively flat this season, nudging up just 0.6 percent over last year, to $678. Many consumers are focused on avoiding a spending spree that will result in an indebted 2014.

It’s not festive, but it’s feasible. Yet I think there is a way to stick to a holiday budget without putting a sock in it. Through several new options made available by reward program operators, consumers can give gifts that would be appreciated even by the youngest members of the family. The best part is that using points for holiday cheer ensures the reward will not expire or go to waste.

The best part is that using points for holiday cheer ensures the reward will not expire or go to waste.

Using your points

Among the ways you can use your points this holiday:

Points pooling: Several programs offer the opportunity to pool points with friends or family and redeem them for larger, shared rewards. The Royal Bank of Canada program invites its loyalty members to pool points with family and friends — several siblings can go in on a gift for their parents, for example. Also, Citi’s ThankYou program offers a Facebook app so friends and family can combine points.

Gifting points to friends or family: Each of us has at least one family member who seems impossible to buy for. Hilton’s HHonors program includes a points transfer feature that allows members to set up registries where friends and family who are members can transfer points as a gift. Likewise, members can transfer their own points to other members.

Giving to charity in someone else’s name: Many loyalty programs include a donation function through which points can be gifted to a charity.

Using miles to bring a loved one home for the holiday: There’s no special new innovation behind this idea, just thoughtfulness. Programs that offer flights as rewards, such as AIR MILES and Aeroplan, can use their piles of miles to fly a college student, elderly relative or cash-strapped friend home for the holidays. The ticket is covered, and the memories are priceless.

There are many traditional ways to earn and redeem points during the holidays, and it makes sense to turn that increased holiday spending into an opportunity to earn rewards that can be enjoyed next year.

Moving forward

There are many traditional ways to earn and redeem points during the holidays, and it makes sense to turn that increased holiday spending into an opportunity to earn rewards that can be enjoyed next year. Combine those benefits with reduced expenses, and consumers can kick off 2014 on the right foot (with socks on, please).


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