Ideas to budget this Christmas Season and avoid Overspending
Christmas is a time to be merry, jolly and festive. Also known as the silly season and the festivities can easily cripple your bank account. With this holiday season comes expenses and spending that the majority did not save a cent for.
Most people earn their holiday pay or bonuses at the end of November or early December. This also intensifies the spending spree as there is more money in your bank account. Thus making Christmas the most expensive season of the year as people buy more than usual and overspend on items that they don’t really need.
During December prices are steeper than any other time of the year. Overspending on gifts, food and social activities leave most cash strapped before or just after Christmas. Receiving a salary early in December poses a problem. It could be up to 6 weeks before receiving the next salary at the end of January.
Not forgetting that the kids need new school stationery, uniforms and that the first school fee debit order run is probably on 2 January. This causes people to rely on credit cards or account debt to carry them through. Come January and February debt counselling are seeked.
There is no denying it that 2017 was a tough year for most South Africans. Credit rating downgrades, inflation escalating and the cost of petrol on the rise. Making ends meet is an ongoing struggle for the majority and starting 2018 off being financially in a fix is not advisable.
But rest assured, it is not too late to curb on the expenses. So how can we possibly tighten the spending belt this festive season?
Let me share a few tips with you…
I know that most of us do have a budget set up before the festive season. Question is however, do we stick to this budget? It is important to make a list of expected expenses and how much you will spend on food, gifts, outings and activities. Also make sure to budget for unexpected expenses that might creep in. This budget should only include cash expenditure. If you don’t have cash to spend then you can’t afford it. This is not the time to keep up with the Joneses.
Draw cash instead of swiping your debit card. Continuously swiping your card will make you lose track of what you spend money on and it is the easiest way for your bank balance to decrease.
Try your utmost not to use your credit card as the charges on this can sky rocket.
Be sure to put money aside for your monthly expenditures like debit order runs, bond payments and insurance. This money should be kept in a separate bank account from your spending money for the festive season.
If I could give you some practical advice – leave the kids at home when you head to the shops. This of course, if it is at all possible and you have a babysitter. When your kids are with, you tend to spend more money. They become cranky due to overcrowded malls and it makes the whole shopping experience more stressful. Complaints of them being hungry will see you spending more money by heading off to the nearest MacDonalds, Burger King or restaurant.
Avoid impulse purchases. If it is not on your shopping list, you don’t need it. Why purchase something if you had no intention of buying it in the first place.
Online shopping is great and convenient. It saves you from going to overcrowded shops and standing in long queues to pay for items. It is more cost effective as you can compare prices and it is a saving on petrol and paying for parking.
Sometimes shopping online for an item will be cheaper than heading to the shops. In saying that, please take note of one day or hourly deals and delivery costs. The price can fluctuate at any given time. Online shopping with free delivery usually requires you to shop for a certain amount to qualify for that free service. This will often increase your spending online.
With high traffic some online shopping systems can crash especially when you are about to check out. To avoid this choose a suitable time to do your online shopping when systems are not overloaded.
Be weary of online scams as during this period, most fraudsters are on the prowl. Make sure that your payment details are secure and that you protect yourself from identity theft.
Be weary of special deals that run over the festive period. You think that you are saving but in actual fact you will be paying more. Avoid deals that require no deposits, buy now pay later and deals that require you to pay with your credit card only. The accumulated interest repayments will set you back even more come the new year.
Rewards, Loyalty Cards and Cash Backs
Using your Clicks or Pick ‘n Pay Smart Shopper loyalty cards allows you to earn points on your expenditure. These points are then converted into cash back. Take advantage of this and try and accumulate your points throughout the year so that you have more points to convert into cash come the Christmas period. Also take advantage of personalised discounts that are loaded on your smart shopper card for items that you purchase regularly.
Reward systems in the form of eBucks, Vitality and ABSA are determined by how many points you accumulated throughout the year. Some of these rewards expire and others don’t. So take note of that. These can then be used to get discounts on flights, hotel accommodation, groceries etc.
Take note of reward systems that offer you vouchers but require you so use your account or store card to pay in order to qualify for these vouchers. This will just add to your debt.
Gifts don’t have to be expensive and lavish. Try and give meaningful yet inexpensive gifts that someone will appreciate.
Set a value for each gift
Establish the amount that you want to spend of each person. In my household, we usually spend more on birthday gifts than Christmas gifts. Put some thought into your gift ideas by finding out what the person’s interest is. By doing this you will be able to shop around for a said gift and get it at a cheaper price.
Avoid buying expensive over the top toys for your kids. Have you ever noticed that kids will lose interest in a toy. Come the first term of the New Year the toy is either broken, missing or lying at the bottom of the toy box. So why spend a fortune on toys. Set a rule, that they can only request one toy and an item that they can benefit from.
Deal with expectation
If you are the person who usually give lavish gift and can no longer afford to do so, inform family and friends that you have a tight budget to stick to.
Create a secret Santa if you are buying for extended family and friends. This is a fun and inexpensive way of doing Christmas gifts. All involved should agree on a set monetary limit for the gift.
Instead of purchasing individual gifts for members of one family, buy one group gift. Find out what their interest as a family is whether it is exploring the outdoors, adventure, hosting movie or family game nights. Then purchase one gift knowing that all of them will benefit from it.
DIY gifts are so practical, inexpensive, meaningful and personal. Bake some cookies and box it beautifully or make something crafty. Explore Pinterest for some great DIY gift ideas.
I personally am not keen on this idea but if it can save you costs why not. If you have received a gift and it has been lying in your cupboard for months, there is surely nothing wrong with giving it to someone else. The next person will most probably find it useful and can benefit from it. Just remember not to re-gift a gift to the same person who gave it to you.
Gift paper, boxes, bags, tissue paper and ribbon can be just as expensive as the gift your bought if not more. These are items that we tend to forget to include when drafting a budget. Why spend a fortune on gift wrap when they just going be torn off. Buy inexpensive gift wrap. You could use brown paper and just put a red ribbon on it. Reuse Christmas gift bags that were given to you in the past and replace the tag with a new one. Alternatively purchase bulk wrapping with more on a roll that you can use next Christmas.
Food and Drinks
Christmas lunch or dinner is usually a feast and a gathering of family and friends. Besides Christmas gifts, food and drinks will be another big expensive that can leave a big hole in your pocket.
Your annual Stokvel, Hamper and Stamps clubs are a great saving on food expenses for the festive season. However if you don’t belong to a club, all is not lost. It means that you need to look for discounts on food items. Shop around for the best deals.
It is very important that you check your grocery cupboards, fridge and freezer for items that you need and make a list. It is no use buying extra tomato sauce if you already have 5 bottles stocked up in the cupboard. Stop spending money on unnecessary items. Only buy essential food, sweet treat and beverage items.
In our family we take turns to host Christmas lunch. We do a share Christmas lunch between four families where each family cook and prepare a dish. This includes dessert and cake for afternoon tea. To avoid duplication, we plan our menus and discuss beforehand what each family must bring. The host family is responsible for setting and decorating the table, sparkling wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Any additional alcoholic beverages, you need to bring your own. This is a great cost saving.
Christmas is all about tradition and some people don’t care how much they splurge on ingredients to prepare that favorite dish. What they don’t realise is that all those little costs add up. If you have a favorite dish but the ingredients are too expensive, try and substitute with alternative ingredients that are cheaper. Instead of buying ready-made food items, make your own. Remember ready-made food items are expensive as it also includes preparation, shipping and packaging costs.
There is no doubt that having Christmas lunch at home is far cheaper than eating out. The cost of eating at a restaurant on Christmas day does not just cover that of your meal but is also labour intensive which include the service charge and gratuity of the staff. Also bear in mind that Christmas is a public holiday so it is usually double pay for staff on that day. So the cost of a three course meal per person will generally be more expensive. If you are planning on having Christmas lunch at a restaurant look for cheaper options. Try and book at restaurants where kids can eat for free and pensioners will get a discount.
Entertainment and social events is another expense you need to budget for. You don’t have to hit the restaurants and bars on a daily basis, set a limit on the amount of social outings for the week. Be sure to budget for the cost of a taxi or uber as drinking and driving is not permitted.
If you are hosting a party ask your guests to bring their own alcohol. This is usually the biggest expense of entertaining.
Be on the look out for free activities and concerts in the park. This will be another cost saving and will allow you to pack your own picnic basket.
Generally your holiday travel and accommodation had to be booked well in advance to avoid steep prices. Spur of the moment travel plans like road trips and holiday breakaways can leave a big chunk in your bank account. With the high petrol price, the cost of servicing your car and it being peak season; choose destinations that are closer and offers cheaper accommodation. Look out for specials on flights, backpacker accommodation, camping sites or hotel accommodation where the kids stay for free per sharing adult.
It is advisable to plan festive travel well in advance; so if you do plan for 2018 start booking in February already.
I hope that these tips and ideas are useful and that you have a financially sound and safe festive season.