Dos and don’ts of festive season budgeting

Picture: AP

The festive season can be daunting when you think of all the additional expenses to add on top of your monthly budget.

With gifts to buy and family gatherings to cater for, it is easy to get yourself caught in a tangle of debt and empty grocery cupboards come January 2017.

Anton Hay, director at Ecsponent Financial Services, advises that while it is best to plan ahead for expenses such as holidays, special events and gift shopping, there are a few last minute budgeting tips that can help ease the financial strain over December 2016 and January 2017.

“It is very difficult to pay for festive season activities with December’s pay cheque alone. So while you may not have saved up as much as you would have liked to for this year, keep this in mind as a potential New Year’s resolution for 1 January 2017,” Mr Hay says.

For now, however, Mr Hay shares his top budget dos and don’ts for the silly season and the back-to-school rush which is just around the corner.

Don’t: reach for your credit card

“Tempting as it may be, borrowing money to pay for gifts and festive goodies comes with a hefty price tag of its own when considering the interest and fees applied.”

“If you do not have enough cash to buy a specific gift or treat, look for cheaper alternatives or try your hand at making those treats like cakes, biscuits and dinners yourself,” says Mr Hay.

Do: make plans that fit your budget

Instead of inviting all your friends and family around for a fully catered meal – that is likely to cost you in the hundreds, if not thousands of rands – make plans where the cost is spread more evenly like picnics or a traditional South African “bring-and-braai”.

Don’t: go on a untracked, no-limits spending spree when the sales hit

“Many of us struggle when it comes to resisting a ‘good deal’. For this reason, I would definitely suggest staying away from shopping malls and online shopping websites when January sales go live.

“While you may save 50 percent on a pair of shoes you don’t need, you’ll save 100 percent if you just walk away.”

“Spending recklessly when trying to stick to a budget can really set you back on reaching your financial goals,” Mr Hay explains.

Do: focus on getting school fees paid

Out of all back-to-school expenses, Mr Hay highlights that this is the one that needs the most planning and should be a priority long before new calendars are unwrapped.

Do: involve your children

“No matter how young your children are, back-to-school season presents a great opportunity to teach them about money.”

“Whether it is a Google competition to find stationery at the best price or getting creative to make old rulers and pencil-bags trendy again, lessons in the value of money will get children thinking.”

Don’t: forget to start your new year right

From packing lunches at home to having fun nights in, Hay notes that little changes can go a long way in making provision for staying on budget and saving for well-deserved treats and special occasions.

“Budgeting and saving money is never easy but there are professionals who are able to help you get on track,” Mr Hay concludes.