There are ways to protect your finances this December,
so that January doesn’t feel like the month that never ends.
Follow these handy tips to enjoy the festive season sensibly.
Draw up a budget to determine what you can spend on entertainment, presents and other items. Stick to
this if you want to remain in control of your finances. Make sure you understand how much money you
really have to spend this holiday season. Have your bank statements at hand and be honest about what
you’ll have left after your regular monthly expenses. Don’t cheat by including how much you expect to
get from a 13th cheque or annual bonus – if you are lucky enough to get a bonus, see it as just that, not
a guaranteed way to get through the month.
Make a list of all your expected expenses – accommodation, entertainment, gifts, extra fuel – this
holiday and make sure you know where the money for all of this will come from. If there’s a shortfall,
decide where you will have to scale back.
2. SHUN CREDIT
In the run-up to Christmas, also be wary of deals that entice you to buy on credit. Don’t get distracted
by “no deposit” deals as these can often end up costing you far more in interest repayments over the
It may make you feel better for a short while to splash out on feel-good gifts for your family, but
remember that you’ll be left with a high price to pay at the end of it. If you fail to keep up with your
repayments, you could lose your most valuable assets, including your home and car.
When buying gifts, keep to your spending limits with the “envelope strategy”. Decide with your partner
and family members how much you will spend on specific budget items (like gifts and entertainment).
Draw that money in cash and put the exact amount into sealed envelopes. No plastic, no extra cash, just
the maximum amount you are prepared to spend. This should go a long way to ensuring you stick to the
4. budget. When you go shopping for presents, go with nothing more than the envelopes.
SAVING FOR JANUARY
Overspending in December wouldn’t be that much of an issue if January wasn’t such an expensive
month. We often forget that we still have to pay household accounts such as lights and water in the next
year and will need to pay for other costs such as uniforms and school fees. Start setting money aside for
all the additional start-of-the-year expenses early in the previous year.
Food prices at holiday destinations can be expensive and the price of meat usually shoots up during
December. Try to plan your menus before you go on holiday, taking potentially expensive non-
perishable items and frozen meat with you.
Car trouble over December will wreck your budget. Service your car before you go on holiday. Also,
given the alarming road accidents, it may be wise to consider taking out cover, to pay for costs not
covered by your medical scheme and may cover a number of expenses in case of an accident.
7. DON’T TAKE A HOLIDAY FROM YOUR PROBLEMS
If you have a problem with debt, don’t put off dealing with it until the New Year, when there’s a rush of
crisis-stricken people on creditors. Speak to your bank and try to negotiate a repayment schedule or talk
to a debt counsellor and see if they can help you.
START PLANNING FOR DECEMBER
The best way to ensure that you won’t overspend in the festive season is by saving for it. Use a monthly 8. debit order to put away an amount to use for end-of-the-year expenses. Or start a stokvel with friends
– peer pressure can be more effective than self-discipline. Every month each member contributes an amount, which is shared at the end of the year. Booking and paying your holiday early in the year will also be cheaper and stock up on Christmas gifts throughout the year at sales.