Three ways to approach financial stress during the holiday season

As we move into the holiday season and prepare to close out a year that has brought challenges for so many in Alberta, we at the Alberta Securities Commission wish you and yours a healthy and safe holiday season and a happy new year.

As always, we are a resource for you. Whether you would like to strengthen your financial knowledge or learn about avoiding and reporting investment fraud, the Alberta Securities Commission has free and unbiased resources on to empower you through every step of your investment journey.

In the meantime, to help you make the best decisions for you this holiday season, we want to share a few tips to help you navigate your own financial well-being. These tips may even help you and your family better connect with the true meaning of the holidays.

1. Look for new ways to show you care

While buying things for friends and family may have been a prominent way to gift give during the holidays historically, it’s certainly not the only way. From butter tarts to frozen casseroles, baking and preparing ready-to-eat meals is an economical gift that’s sure to please friends and family who have a sweet tooth or are too busy or tired to cook. For those gift-givers who are terrible bakers and cooks, writing a few heartfelt words in a holiday card is another thoughtful gesture to connect with friends and family safely.

2. Develop a budget before you start shopping

Much like investing, attempting to holiday shop in stores or online without a plan can lead to bad gifts and, worse yet, unintended spending. When it comes to shopping without debt regret, start first by identifying who in your life really needs a purchased gift. Is there a way you can whittle that list down further? Your best friend did comment how much she loved your sourdough made with your famous starter named Clint Yeastwood; could you share a little jar of starter and some instructions? Once you have developed your list of gift recipients, try and set strict price limits on each gift and ensure it fits realistically into your budget. Once you’re ready, gift shopping can bring less anxiety if you consider supporting local businesses and avoid using credit cards.

3. Don’t let big sale days throw you off course

Black Friday and Boxing Day sales can be a double threat to your budget. With massive sales on practically everything, businesses push hard to get you to whip out your credit cards for the latest tech toy or kitchen gadget so you don’t miss out. The best way to avoid unnecessary spending during the holidays is to pause before any purchase. Weigh it against your financial obligations. Does a new mixer sound as appealing as eliminating $500 from your credit card balance? Do you really need a new 60” TV? If there was ever a year to focus on the essentials and minimize your financial stress, 2020 just might be that year. Avoiding big sale day impulse purchases can give your finances a considerable boost come 2021.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your historical spending habits over the holidays and the financial stress that comes afterwards, but by making a few tweaks to your normal routine you can enjoy the holiday season with loved ones and ensure that you enter the new year on a stronger footing.  If you would like more information on refining or creating a budget, check out our Know your budget calculator at


Keeping your money safe while investing

Investing can be part of a healthy financial future, enabling you to grow your money for retirement and financial goals like vacations or your child’s education costs. Making sure any investment opportunity fits in your financial plan or goals is important.  So is protecting yourself from market manipulation or investment fraud.

In a recent study by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), 1 in 4 Albertans believed they were approached with a possible fraudulent investment. As COVID-19 continues to affect our lives, associated scams have emerged as fraudsters try to exploit the crisis to profit from Albertan’s fears and misinformation. While the look of a scam may vary, fraudsters follow a series of steps that are easy to identify if you know what to look for. To understand those seven steps, the ASC created a new resource entitled “Don’t be fooled by fraud”.  It outlines the steps fraudster’s take, in addition to providing information on how to avoid a scam and protect yourself.

Step One:  Identifying a potential victim

A fraudster’s first step is to identify targets. They leverage current events like a pandemic or economic downturn and source vulnerable investors with common anxieties or fears about their money.

Step Two: Befriend and earn trust

Once fraudsters have found suitable targets, they move quickly to cultivate friendships and gain trust. They often do this through community groups, organizations, online groups and through your friends or family to establish themselves as a reliable resource and authority.

Step Three: Showcase the benefits of investing

As the targets become trusting, the fraudster will flaunt their wealth and success to establish credibility. They will casually mention the investment opportunity that brought them this wealth, telling them that it came at little to no risk.

Step Four: Offer the investment

With the potential target’s trust in place and the perceived credibility of his investor savviness solidified, fraudsters move fast to offer the “investment opportunity”. To ensure targets quickly buy-in and do little or no research, they will sell it as an exclusive or time-sensitive offer, private deal and promise high returns with little to no risk.

Step Five: Receiving money for the investment

Leading up to receiving money, fraudsters will inundate targets frequently with communication, provide confusing and complex paperwork to establish legitimacy, and highlight the urgency of buying-in as soon as possible.

Step Six: Disappear (the Ghosting Act)

Once the target “invests”, fraudsters reassure the victim of the investment opportunity and even request more funds for a bigger payout. Following this, they will delay access to funds and eventually disappear and ignore the target when the scam can no longer be hidden.

Step Seven: Target the victim again ( the Recovery Act)

Fraudsters are hardly finished once a scam is complete. They will often sell the victim’s information to another fraudster or criminal organization, which will contact the victim acting as a credible agency that can reclaim their investment for a fee. This is ultimately another scam in which the victim is robbed again in their attempts to get their money back.

Understanding these seven steps is important so that you can recognize unsafe situations you or someone you know could be in. To learn more, read the fraudsters playbook entitled “Don’t be fooled by fraud”, accessible for free at While visiting checkfirst, check out the other information and resources designed to help you increase your investing knowledge and keep your money safe when considering any investment.