By Emsie Martin
As from October Christmas decorations are being displayed wherever you look, placards announcing bargains pop up everywhere and Christmas carols rings out in various shopping centres. Like it or not – Christmas is around the corner. The big financial question that you have to ask yourself: Will you make your Christmas budget work this year, or will you end up with an aftershock of bill after bill?
According to the feedback and statistics of the National Credit Regulator, there are approximately 25 million credit-active consumers in South Africa, of whom more than nine million show bad records. “The figures remain shocking and that is why consumers need to be warned to not incur extra debt during the festive season, as in the long run they will have to pay additional costs,” says Matthys Potgieter, spokesperson and debt expert at DebtSafe.
Potgieter emphasises that many consumers don’t do the necessary financial planning and preparation for this special festive season ahead of time and therefore make reckless use of credit (e.g. credit cards of store cards). Are you perhaps one of those people who have postponed your Christmas planning?
Potgieter says there are a few things you can take into account to make your Christmas budget work this year:
Planning and budgeting
Potgieter says that although time is limited, you still need to draw up your Christmas budget and follow it. Apart from your usual monthly budget, your Christmas budget needs to be added as an ‘extra’ for December. If for example you allocate R3 000 for Christmas, divide this amount among different categories that include items such as food, gifts, travel expenses and activities. Add the necessary details to sketch the bigger financial picture for Christmas. This will give you a clear indication of what your spending limit will allow you this year.
Food and meals
Remember, Christmas need not cost you an arm and a leg. What non-perishable products do you already have available in your grocery cabinet? Perhaps the meat at the agricultural market or grocery store will indeed be a bargain – so make use of it (only if it falls within your budget, of course). If you are also going to play the host this Christmas – allow your guests and loved ones to ‘participate’ by for example bringing their own drinks and a salad or dessert. Participation is fun and it is exciting to see what dishes your guests have prepared for the festive spread, or have a picnic or a braai.
Christmas gifts and decorations
Christmas day is not an extravagant occasion and you need not spend money on items you didn’t budget for. How about a do-it-yourself Christmas this year? A hand-made gift and the children who are afforded the opportunity to bring their own creative Christmas decorations and ideas to the table, home, garden or Christmas tree, are truly special. Use items in your home that you already have at your disposal; it will make for a cost-effective Christmas day.
If you have to travel from point A to point B on Christmas day, keep the following in mind:
- If friends or family members in your area are travelling to the same destination, create a lift opportunity and use fewer vehicles.
- Avoid toll roads and rather make use of alternative routes.
- Get the best fuel consumption by maintaining a constant speed to your destination.
Have you ever considered introducing some ‘free’ Christmas day activities? Involve all your loved ones in fun games, such as traditional sports, with items and equipment you already have available. Activities such as these will definitely keep your Christmas budget within limits. Enjoy a day in the open if the weather allows.
This year let your Christmas budget work for your financial situation. Also remind yourself what Christmas really is about – to have some quiet time and spend time with loved ones. Don’t be caught in a debt trap, as you will drag your financial position into the abyss. If your finances already make a hollow sound, contact a registered debt counsellor (such as DebtSafe) and become a debt-free consumer.