The festive season is looming and our bank cards want to go into hiding! For most of us, it’s a really costly time of year. There is so much pressure on making memories with family and friends – we entertain, party, and spoil our loved ones, or even ourselves!
You may be one of the lucky ones to be taking some leave, or even receiving a bonus. While this is the end of a really tough year, we have no idea what next year will hold in store for us, and one of the harsh lessons that we have all learnt is that nothing can be taken for granted. We can’t afford to risk kicking off 2021 with the month of ‘Januworry’, so how can we still have a good time without going overboard with our spending?
Know what you can afford
The only way you will not overspend is to get real with yourself and draw up a budget. You may have some extra cash available – work with what you have, and get creative in terms of gifts. You don’t always have to conform to society. Don’t incur debt – it’s the worst thing you can do as it will take you months to pay back.
Giving gifts to everyone can be a costly affair, so consider starting a “Secret Santa” tradition where each person buys one gift and receives one gift. Determine a maximum budget for each gift and let everyone draw a name out of a hat. It’s great fun and will save everyone quite a bit at the end of the day.
Don’t give guilt gifts
Life is busy and you may feel that you have neglected a friend or family member throughout the year. It may be tempting to soothe that feeling with a lavish gift. Don’t fall into that trap as your time and genuine care are the most valuable gifts you can give anyone. Whether it’s time spent over the festive season or time spent together over weekends, do something special with them that they will value – it will be far more appreciated than a lavish present.
Also, don’t feel pressurised by other people’s actions when it comes to giving gifts – if someone gives you two or three gifts, don’t feel that you need to reciprocate and give the same back in return. Also, if you feel that you need to impress people with lavish gifts that you can’t afford, something is not right with your relationship with them.
Gifts should be given from the heart, based on what you can afford. There are some innovative and cost-effective ideas when it comes to gifts. Baking some delicious homemade goodies and packaging them beautifully is cheap and cheerful. You could also give a ‘recipe in a jar’ which is very fashionable now – a combination of ingredients prettily layered in a jar with a recipe tag attached. There are stacks of great ideas around this on the internet. How about a nice ‘pamper hamper’ containing some spoils – chocolates, a bottle of wine, body wash for a lady, or shaving balm for men?
And we all know that one person who has everything. How about buying them an experience such as a voucher for a massage or facial or even a dinner or picnic outing? Science has proven time and time again that experiences, not material items, create memories, which contributes to feelings of happiness.
Avoid last-minute shopping
Get your shopping done sooner than later and avoid last-minute shopping, or adding last minute people to your gift list. Hitting the shops a day or two before Christmas is a nightmare that will leave you stressed, rushed, and probably spending more than you had planned. This is particularly true with groceries if you are buying ready-made last-minute menu items, instead of cooking from scratch.
Shopping online is the ultimate chilled way to shop. Bricks and mortar retailers create a frenzied spending hype over the festive season. Shop displays, music, and ‘special offer’ signs are all geared to entice one to spend more. Shopping online cuts out all of that and puts you in control. There are no nasty surprises at the check-out as you can see exactly how much you are spending all the time, so you can say within budget. You also save time driving to the shops, the frustration of festive traffic and parking costs. It’s definitely a win-win on all levels.
Trim that menu
Festive eating, drinking, and entertaining can put a massive strain on your budget. Sadly, if you think back to previous years, how often didn’t you have heaps of leftovers that eventually were thrown away? It’s a common problem worldwide over the festive season. Think differently this year. If you’re entertaining, how about hosting a potluck meal, where everyone brings one item for a particular course. It’s fun and you don’t foot the whole bill!
When planning your menu and shopping list, use items from your pantry first, and consider more cost-effective cuts of meat or recipes. There are so many new exciting recipes on the internet as well as wonderful vegetarian dishes that will satisfy even the fussiest palate. Be bold and experiment instead of just falling into the old trap of three types of meat, veggies, and three desserts.
Sew the seeds for next year
Once you have this festive season under your belt, how about implementing some new habits in 2021, that will make a big difference in a year’s time:
- Start a Christmas Fund (in a separate bank account) and deposit a fixed amount into this every month. You may only be able to afford R200 a month, but that way you are accumulating extra cash that you can spend at the end of the year. Don’t touch this money at all during the year, no matter how tough things seem to be.
- Save up your loyalty points for the end of the year. Many retailers and banks have these rewards or loyalty programs, so use them with a specific purpose in mind.
- If you can, pay a little extra into your accounts each month, so that you can take a payment holiday over December, giving you extra cash to spend.
- Start buying gifts throughout the year, so you get a head start on the gift purchasing exercise. There are also some great online specials throughout the year that you can take advantage of.
With a bit of planning and a lot of discipline, the festive season can be both memorable and affordable. Happy holidays!
This article was written by Sylvia Walker, financial planner, speaker, and author of smartwoman. www.sylviawalker.co.za