Did you spend money on things you shouldn’t have last festive season? Massive marketing campaigns from retailers and the pressure to have an enjoyable holiday in December make it difficult to hold onto your hard-earned cash during this time of the year, but it can leave you in a serious predicament when the time comes to pay the bills and make it through the month of January.
We’ve put together some tips on how to budget now so you won’t be eating crackers in January:
1. Start early
Good deals are usually available before the start of a season, or the period after it. If you can wait until the January sales, do so and you’ll probably save a lot more.
2. Work out your budget
It’s pointless spending money that you don’t really have, so work out what you will have to pay during December AND January in terms of bills (debit orders, rent, water & lights, phone bills, clothing accounts and any other money you owe) and living essentials (food, transport etc.).Either put this money aside or pay the bills early if you can, to make sure you don’t spend it by accident.
Work out how much you have left over and leave up to half of that money for unforeseen expenses and emergencies (you never know what disasters can happen over the festive season) and then you can work out what you want to do with the rest.
3. Think before you swipe
If you have a debit or credit card, you’ll know how easy it is to swipe and pay for something that’s caught your eye at the shops without thinking about your budget. If you’re about to go shopping, stop and think about your budget, then limit yourself to a maximum amount of money you should allow yourself to spend while shopping.
4. Make lists
It sounds silly, but making a list of presents and other things you might need to buy if you’re going on a trip or having a party will save you money. If you stick to the list it will prevent you from getting distracted by other things in the shops.
5. Bring out grandma’s cookbook
Buying cakes and other ready-made Christmas treats from the shops is so easy, but you could save so much money by making some great homemade treats. This year, do something different - your festive delicacies will be a hit with friends, family and neighbours too and your efforts will be totally worth it.
6. Skip the lavish parties
If you have to stick to a budget, you might want to go slightly low-key without dampening the festive spirit. Call your relatives and friends over at a post-lunch, pre-dinner time. This way you can serve snacks, sweets and soft drinks, which are a whole lot cheaper than elaborate dinners with alcohol and the works! If a big meal is a must, suggest a braai – most guests will ask if they can bring something along.
7. Develop your own guidelines for gifts
Base your gift choices on what you can afford from Step 2. Remember: thoughtful gifts don’t have to be expensive. You likely aren’t the only person in your circle who wants to cut back on holiday spending. So before the holidays arrive, talk to everyone you exchange gifts with and change the rules. For instance, you can agree to:
- spend less or not exchange gifts at all with some people
- exchange only things you can eat or drink
- give handmade gifts only
- give money to a charity