The holidays are a time for fun, but it is also a time for keeping a very close eye on your budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend; it only means that you have to be clever about it.
The cost of living in South Africa is making life tough. Food, fuel, utilities – it’s all getting more expensive by the day. And now there’s the December holidays coming at us! Will it even be possible to have a good time? Let’s look at what you can do to ensure that money concerns don’t ruin your holiday and festive season.
1. Have a family meeting. This might not sound like fun, but a family (or friends) meeting will help the people who will be spending the holidays together, all get on the same page – which will help all of you to manage your money better. Examples of topics to discuss could include:
- • What would be the ideal holiday for each of us?
- • Which of our holiday traditions do we want to keep this year?
- • Which of our holiday traditions do we want to change this year?
- • What do we definitely NOT want to do?
- • What do we definitely WANT to do?
- • What expenses can we share, eg, people travelling together?
2. Based on the outcomes of the family (or friends) meeting, do your own planning. Will you be away from home, and if so, from when to when? How will you travel and where will you stay? What would you like to do while on holiday, eg, sightseeing or a special activity? Are you buying gifts, and if so, for how many people?
3. Now that you have a plan for the weeks ahead, put amounts to the activities and draw up a holiday budget.
4. Turn your attention to your non-holiday planning and budget because there is life after the holidays. One of the joys of December is that we get our salaries early – but that is also the reason why January is often a difficult month. Draw up your after-holiday budget, including back-to-school expenses, so that you can see exactly how much money you have available for the holidays.
5. Put your non-holiday money aside so that you don’t end up spending it while you are in a holiday frame of mind. A separate bank account is a good idea, or you could transfer your holiday money to your credit card – just don’t go into credit card debt!
6. Before you start spending, look at what you already have. If you received (or even bought) an item of clothing or a piece of jewellery that you have never worn, or a gift pack of soaps and body lotions in a fragrance you don’t like, regift these things to people who will like and use them. It gets rid of the clutter in your home and reduces your gift expenses. The same applies to your grocery cupboard: before you stock up for the holidays, unpack the cupboard and use up everything you can.
7. Keep track of your expenses. This is an extremely important and effective way to ensure that you stay within your budget. Some people like keeping records, but if you are not one of them, try to gamify it for yourself. For example, see how much “free money” you can get in a day in the form of discounts or special offers. An alternative is to give the expense-tracking job to the person in your household who loves numbers and spreadsheets, and agree on a weekly feedback session.
8. If something comes up that you have to spend money on (or you really want to) but it’s not in your holiday plan, take the time to rework your budget. If you must borrow from your post-holiday money, make sure that you understand the implications and that you put a plan in place to deal with the shortfall.
9. Plan to have fun – it is the holidays, after all! The keyword here is “plan”. Work fun into your budget and don’t spend more than what you have budgeted. Fun can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Find free things to do, entertain at home and spend money on one or two really special outings, rather than a lot of so-so things.
10. The most important holiday money tip is to not fight with your money, but work with it. You can spend the festive season being angry because you feel you have too little money, or you can spend it doing as much as you can with what you have. The choice is yours and the difference will be dramatic.