By Dr Eugene Brink
It’s December and a heady time for spending and enjoying life. It is usually also a time for spoiling your loved ones. All this usually costs money.
While you are fully entitled to let yourself go a little and buy the things you like, don’t completely spoil your January – never an easy month – and leave yourself crippled at the start of 2019 by incurring unnecessary debt. Of course, this is easier said than done when you lose yourself in Christmas shopping – as well as post-Christmas shopping.
Yet, this need not be impossible despite your relaxing the spending reins a little. If you follow a few simple tips, it will save you some financial agony later. If you want some peace of mind without being a miser on your holiday, read on.
- Make a shopping list
As always, do yourself a favour and draw up a checklist for things you need to spend on and what not to spend on. Treat this list as gospel when you brave the shopping malls, and show some self-discipline. Buy the “mandatory” gifts (for close friends and family) first and work your way down to more optional items. Leave some demarcated room for wants as they will surely pop up to tempt you.
Stick to your budget and the original list as far as possible and leave your credit cards at home if the temptation is too big. Only spend your available cash so that you can see how it has decreased and when it is time to hit the brakes. Do not buy unnecessary things just because they are supposedly on sale. Buying something unnecessary on account of it being marked down, is still not money well spent and the item will probably end up in a cupboard after Christmas anyway.
- Be smart with Christmas gifts
Giving and receiving Christmas gifts are fun, but please remember that this is not a race to the top to see who outspends whom. It really is the thought that counts and if it is something someone wants and it is given with love, your mission is accomplished. But there is usually a “hierarchy of giving” as far as Christmas gifts are concerned. The gifts for your spouse and kids are usually the most expensive. Your siblings, family and friends complete this list. Start by budgeting for the most expensive ones first and keep to those totals.
Also, if you can buy an expensive book second-hand instead of new, all the better. Just make sure it is still in mint condition.
Lastly, as with everything you buy, first shop around. This may seem like extra effort during a time that this word should be banished from our vocabularies, but you won’t regret it. Try the most applicable stores first and keep looking if they are sold out. Don’t forget to shop online.
- Keep a record of your purchases
When hitting the shops, it is easy to forget just how much you had spent three days ago on a shopping spree. You are so tempted by all the glittering offers and sales that you develop short-term amnesia about all the wonderful things you bought recently – and how much those purchases cost.
“Debt can accumulate simply because you’ve forgotten that you’ve bought something. This can be especially detrimental if you use multiple credit cards, as one will get paid off while another collects interest fees. Don’t forget to check off each purchase as you pay for it to avoid unnecessary debt,” writes financial expert Michael Millington.
Carry these slips with you lest you forget about your previous purchases in a dizzying rage of shopmania.
Michael Willington, 2018, “How to avoid debt for the holidays”, https://www.guardiandebtrelief.com/avoid-debt-for-the-holidays/.
Security Bank Financial Blog, 2017, “How Can I Avoid Debt This Holiday Season?”, https://www.securitybank.com/blog/how-can-i-avoid-debt-this-holiday-season/.