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Plan, budget and leave the kids at home – expert shopping tips help save time and money this holiday season

New nationwide survey finds majority of Canadians (72%) feel exchanging gifts is an important part of their holidays this year

Toronto, November 15, 2004 – With the holiday season rapidly approaching, a new national survey released today finds six in ten (60%) Canadians who exchange gifts believe the main reason we take part in this tradition is to acknowledge the love and respect we have for our friends and family. The MasterCard Canada survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid also found most Canadians (72%) feel it's important to exchange gifts with friends and/or family; less than one in ten (8%) said they do not plan to exchange gifts at all.

Similarly, a recent Youth Culture survey on behalf of MasterCard Canada found the majority of 12-24 year olds (81%) felt it was important for them to exchange gifts during the holiday season, and 84% said the importance of giving gifts during the holiday season was to show your friends and family that you love and respect them.

MasterCard Canada and Shoestring Shopper Cathie Mostowyk have developed a number of tips designed to help Canadians maximize their budgets and minimize their stress as they tackle their holiday shopping.

"As Canadians begin their annual descent on shopping malls, big box stores and boutique outlets, there are a number of techniques they should be aware of before heading out," said Shoestring Shopper Cathie Mostowyk. "Making a list and checking it twice, determining your budget, and picking the right time of day – and the best day of the week – to do your shopping, will substantially reduce your stress level this holiday season."

To help Canadians make the most of their holiday shopping trips, MasterCard Canada is providing the "We're at your service" program – where consumers can enjoy free gift wrapping service, free coat check, MasterCard Holiday Helpers and MasterCard Mall Porters – to help carry your parcels, brush the snow off your car or simply open the door – at participating malls between November 27 and December 24. Visit www.mastercard.ca for a complete list of participating mall locations and these and many other smart shopping tips.

Tip #1: Set a holiday budget and stick to it. According to the survey, more than one in four Canadian gift givers (28%) feel their "better half" (spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner) is the most difficult person to shop for, followed by mom (13%), dad (12%), and children (9%). Because of the challenges involved in finding that perfect gift, creating a shopping list and budget at the same time is a good idea. Decide on what you want to purchase and how much you want to spend per individual, as this makes it easier to stay within your budget. Also, don't forget to include non-gift items such as wrapping paper, decorations, food, wine, and other entertainment-related costs.

Tip #2: Be realistic about time. Last minute shopping is a bad idea unless you have a very short list. Give yourself enough time to make significant progress. For example, don't start your shopping at 10:00 am if you have an appointment at noon. You'll barely get started before you have to leave. According to the survey, most holiday gift givers (57%) have to buy a gift for at least 10 people, and one in five holiday gift givers (18%) say it takes them 10 trips or more to do all their holiday shopping. And it°Øs not any easier for the younger generation: the Youth Culture survey found 52% of 12-24 year olds need five or more trips to complete their shopping.

Tip #3: Make the trip as simple as possible. Leave the kids at home – shopping while trying to watch the kids in a busy mall is very difficult to do. And when you get to the mall, look for a parking spot closest to the door, but don't obsess over it if you can't find one. Also, be sure to check your coat when you get to the mall so you're not stuck wearing or carrying it.

Tip #4: Start shopping early in the holiday season. The earlier you start your shopping, the better. This is the best way to reduce stress because it means you're not shopping for everyone on your list at the same time! Or, if you do have to shop in the middle-to-late part of the season, go early in the day when the mall opens and/or take advantage of extended mall hours.

And don't forget the gift closet – keep a supply of gifts all year round – this will ensure you're covered in the event you forget to buy someone a gift.

Almost half of holiday gift givers (46%) don't start their holiday shopping until the month of December – with 5% not starting until the night before Christmas. Men are far more likely than women to start their holiday shopping in December (61% vs. 33%).

The Youth Culture survey found that although 89% of 12-24 year olds say they enjoy holiday shopping, more than half (53%) wait until December to begin their hunt for the perfect gifts.

Tip #5: Ask yourself: "Where do I like to shop?" Malls, boutiques and big box stores all have great gifts – it just depends on what you want. Malls offer shoppers a chance to do most of their shopping in one place, whereas boutiques have great "one of a kind" gifts. Big box stores carry a variety of merchandise, including books, clothing, toys and home accessories and can also act as a "one stop" shop.

Six in ten Canadian gift givers (59%) typically do most of their holiday shopping at the mall or shopping centres; two in ten (19%) prefer big box stores, followed by small shops and boutiques (13%). Only 4% of Canadian gift givers say they do most of their holiday shopping online (2%) or in catalogues (2%). The Youth Culture results found two-thirds (64%) of 12-24 year olds prefer shopping at the mall followed by one in four (23%) who like big box stores.

Finally, take advantage of services offered by the mall. Gift-wrapping services can save you time and hassle. But it may cost a little more, so weigh the expense versus the convenience. Many malls also offer porter services to help carry parcels to your car. MasterCard Canada will be offering these services at participating malls as part of their "We're at your service" program.

About Cathie Mostowyk

Cathie Mostowyk is the founder, president and senior writer of the acclaimed Shoestring Shopping Guide, one of Canada's best-selling resources for consumers. For over 15 years, she has been a respected shopping expert, columnist, public speaker and popular guest on various Toronto television and radio programs.

About the MasterCard Canada"We're at your service" program

Use your MasterCard card at participating malls between November 27 and December 24 to make your holiday shopping experience more rewarding than ever. Together with local malls, MasterCard is supporting charities across the country to help make everyone's holiday a little happier. MasterCard Canada will be offering Canadian consumers free gift wrapping service, free coat check, MasterCard Holiday Helpers and MasterCard Mall Porters – to help carry your parcels, brush the snow off your car or simply open the door. For full details visit www.mastercard.ca.

About the MasterCard Canada survey

These are the findings of an Ipsos-Reid poll on behalf of MasterCard Canada conducted from October 28 to November 1 and from November 5-7, 2004. The telephone survey is based on a randomly selected sample of 1,000 adult Canadians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Please visit www.ipsos.ca for more information.

About the Youth Culture survey

1,010 Canadian youth between the ages of 12 and 24 were surveyed in October 2004 for MasterCard Canada. Conducted by Youth Culture Research, the online survey measured young people's attitudes and opinions towards holiday shopping. The survey is accurate to within ±4.06 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About MasterCard International
MasterCard International is a leading global payments solutions company that provides a broad variety of innovative services in support of our global members’ credit, deposit access, electronic cash, business-to-business and related payment programs. MasterCard International manages a family of well-known, widely accepted payment cards brands including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus® and serves financial institutions, consumers and businesses in over 210 countries and territories. The MasterCard award-winning Priceless® advertising campaign is now seen in 96 countries and in 47 languages, giving the MasterCard brand a truly global reach and scope. For more information go to www.mastercardinternational.com

Media Contact:
Matt Cram, Environics Communications
416-969-2726
mcram@environicspr.com