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 ‘Tis the Season to be Saving!

The Christmas season is upon us (where has the year gone?) and with it the Christmas spoils sure to put pressure on your pocket.

Bear in mind that saving this season has just as much to do with spending less as spending wisely. Financing the festivities over the next few weeks should not jeopardise your January. There is nothing worse than to start the New Year with insurmountable credit repayments and a good dose of buyer’s remorse. Our goal over the course of next year should be to reduce unnecessary spending and improve our spending habits, and in order to start the new year well December should mark a dramatic change in how South African consumers are spending (and not overspending) their money.

There are a number of ways to save money this festive season that ensure that January will be a comfortable month.

  1. Set a budget and stick to it! It’s easy to over-spend on gifts once the spirit of giving kicks in, but this sets you on a dangerous path that leads to certain regret and anxiety come January. Setting a budget that lists each person to receive a gift from you by name and the amount which you intend to spend on them is a simple and relatively hassle-free way to monitor your spending. This simple exercise significantly reduces the temptation to spend more than is necessary. However, it is advisable that you allow yourself some breathing room within the gift budget to allow for last-minute gifts – provided these are not spur-of-the-moment and ill-thought-out purchases. A list of the names of the people you wish to buy for is easy to check off and ensures you buy only for those listed  – one of the most difficult tasks when Christmas shopping, and also the most essential to saving this season, is to stop spending once you have purchased all the gifts on the list. Take it even further by withdrawing only the cash you need, and leaving the credit card at home to avoid hasty purchases.

Most importantly, be realistic in your budgeting!

  1. Hand-in-hand with the budget is a detailed spending plan that takes all other festive activities into account. These include travel expenses and accommodation, family outings and Christmas parties. Diligently recording and reviewing of your spending will help keep you accountable
  1. Make a conscious effort to curb spending by reducing the festive season splurging that takes place right around the time the festive cheer sets in. The feel-good holiday atmosphere may tempt you to excessively spoil yourself (which is necessary, within reason). The key is to be wise in the spoils you allow yourself. Do you deserve three days in a first class Spa? Absolutely! Will it save you money this season? Likely not.

Keep in mind that the double shot cappuccinos you’re consuming at such a rapid rate to fuel your Christmas shopping stints do all add up in the end – so do limit them wherever possible.

  1. Secret Santa is a budget-friendly gifting solution for large and small families. Having a predetermined spending limit also helps to keep you within budget. Spice up Secret Santa by filling a hat with numbers equal to the number of people participating, and drawing a number each. The number represents the order in which each participant chooses a gift from the Secret Santa pile. Alternatively it may be easier to have a number of friends/family contribute to one gift. One gift costs a fraction of the price of a gift for each family member.
  1. Start a new holiday tradition and instil in your children the joy of gift-giving by donating new and used clothing, toys, stationary or appliances to the less fortunate. There are innumerable organisations requesting donations that would improve the lives of the less fortunate. Giving to those in need is an invaluable gift in and of itself, and it costs you very little.
  1. The festive season is a time to give your time; the most precious gift of all! This is especially true of working parents and young professionals who find it difficult to give their undivided attention to their loved ones when work obligations have to take precedent. Spending time with the people you love does not have to be a costly affair involving overseas holiday destinations and expensive outings. In fact, picnics at the local park, bike rides through the neighbourhood, baking and board games are wonderfully inexpensive and a chance to spend time together rather than spend on gifts.
  1. Weekends in late November/early December are renowned for Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and work functions in every form, shape and colour – and whether you’re eating in or eating out, the costs quickly escalate. Rather than spending exorbitant amounts on hosting and catering for large groups of people, encourage each family group to bring and share. Dishes can be allocated beforehand to avoid doubling up and to keep costs relative between family members. “Bring and Share’s ” give everyone an opportunity to participate, and to share in the acknowledge and appreciation of the food.
  1. Taking advantage of festive season sales is a great way to save! Unfortunately, taking advantage of every single 3-for-the-price-of-2 deal means you’re not only spending more than you initially would have, but you now have more than you actually need. Some “deals” have no significant discount, and in fact the only difference is the addition of a “Festive Deal” sign. Compare prices on gift items with other stores and online retailers using the pricecheck.co.za platform. Sales are an opportunity to save this season only if the item has made it onto your list and your budget allows for it.

The festive season does not have to be spent in a state of growing anxiety. Implementing only a few of these tips from as early as possible will alleviate at least some of the pressure felt in January. There are never regrets for being money-wise and spending-savvy in a market as unpredictable and uncertain as ours. This is definitely the Season to be Saving!