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Put “happy” back in the holidays with advice on how to budget, shop and find the perfect gifts

MasterCard Canada survey finds Canadians most worried about budgeting, running out of time and finding great gifts

Toronto, November 15, 2006 – Before you start your holiday shopping, what’s the first thing you should do? Decide what to buy? Where to shop? Probably not. According to Shoestring Shopper Cathie Mostowyk the very first thing Canadians need to do is set a budget – and stick to it. Yet according to a new MasterCard survey, more than half of all Canadians (59%) don’t set a holiday budget, and one third (33%) of non-budgeters admit they spend beyond their means during the holiday season.

For Canadians who say they create a budget (40%), more than half (57%) only budget for gifts and not the holiday extras like decorations, travel and the turkey. Women (44%) are more likely than men (38%) to have a budget.

“Make your list and check it twice, and then check it a few more times. Knowing exactly what you want to buy before leaving home will keep you from becoming overwhelmed in the store and you’ll be more likely to stay on budget. Also, avoid impulse items,” says Mostowyk. “Don’t forget to budget for all the special expenses of the season and not just the gifts. Items like wrapping paper, decorations, travel expenses, a Christmas tree – even the turkey and stuffing. Your budget will give you a more realistic picture of what you can afford.”

MasterCard’s survey also revealed other key stresses: one in four (25%) Canadians are worried about getting everything done on time and one in five (21%) stress about finding the perfect gift.

To help Canadians get ahead in their shopping planning, Cathie Mostowyk has prepared lists of gift ideas for everyone from your spouse to your-mother-in-law, right down to the family cat. For example, Cathie recommends gifts such as a spa treatment for the woman in your life and a round of golf or sports tickets for your man. You can visit 23 different lists of gift ideas at www.mastercard.ca.

Six weeks and counting!
If you haven’t already started your holiday shopping, start now. Try to get most of your gifts bought and wrapped early. This will lift a big burden off your shoulders and give you time to actually enjoy the holidays.

The MasterCard survey found:

  • More than one in five (22%) Canadians wait until the first two weeks of December to start their holiday shopping.
  • Forty per cent start holiday shopping before December 1st.
  • One in five (19%) shop all year round.
  • However, 14% of Canadians (21% of men versus 7% of women) procrastinate until the third week of December to start shopping.

“Beware the perils of last-minute shopping,” says Mostowyk. “As Christmas Day draws near your choices become limited, especially when it comes to hot-selling items or popular sizes and colours. The same goes for travel-related purchases. The earlier you book your flights and hotel rooms, the more options and affordable prices you’ll find.”

If you do wind up shopping later in the season, try to go early in the day before it gets busy or take advantage of extended mall hours.

Not waiting for Santa
More than one quarter of Canadians (28%) say their spouse gives the best gifts, while one in five (20%) say mom is the best gift-giver. Only four per cent choose Santa.

The holiday spirit in Canada
When asked what they liked most about the holidays, a whopping 81 per cent said spending time with family and friends was number one on their list. In addition, more Canadians (26%) prefer to give gifts compared to just eight per cent who prefer to receive gifts.

“Even if we feel stressed and pressured to get everything done, the holidays are still a very happy time for Canadians,” says Jennifer Reed, Vice President, Public Affairs, MasterCard Canada. “We want to help Canadians get through the holidays as easily as possible so they can focus on what’s priceless to them, like spending time with family and friends.”

Complete lists of holiday shopping tips, budgeting ideas and gift suggestions are available online at www.mastercard.ca.

About the MasterCard Happy Holidays Survey
The survey was conducted by Leger Marketing from October 17-22, 2006. For the survey, a representative, randomly selected sample of 1,501 adult Canadians were interviewed by telephone. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

About MasterCard Worldwide
MasterCard Worldwide advances global commerce by providing a critical economic link among financial institutions, businesses, cardholders and merchants worldwide. As a franchisor, processor and advisor, MasterCard develops and markets payment solutions, processes approximately 14 billion transactions each year, and provides industry-leading analysis and consulting services to financial institution customers and merchants. Through its family of brands, including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus®, MasterCard Worldwide serves consumers and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more information go to www.mastercardworldwide.com.

Note to editors: regional results and complete holiday tips available upon request.

Contacts:
Olivia Yu / Niya Nikitova,
416-969-2718 / 416-969-2654
oyu@environicspr.com / nnikitova@environicspr.com