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How to control festive season spending, and still have fun

The cost of living is spiralling, but spoiling can be yours, if you plan ahead. We provide tips for better year-end budgeting, to reward yourself and avoid a festive-season overspend.

4 December 2022 · Fiona Zerbst

How to control festive season spending, and still have fun

You’ve worked hard this year and you want to reward yourself – but you are all too aware of the rising cost of everything, from fuel to a loaf of bread.

Notwithstanding, some seasonal spoiling can be yours, if you plan ahead. We provide some tips for better year-end budgeting, and avoiding the all-to-common festive season overspend.

Tip: There are many advantages to financial planning. Kick-start the process by checking your credit score.

Plan for December and January

If you haven’t prepared for the holiday season, you’ll need to be thriftier than those who have planned ahead, notes Farzana Botha, segment marketing manager at Sanlam.

“For those who haven’t thought ahead, it’s a balancing act. Your December salary must work for you for six weeks instead of four. In addition, you may need to budget for family activities and entertaining children.”

Certified Financial Planner Kirsty Scully, from Core Wealth Advisory Services, says that although we often appreciate being paid early, it’s tempting to go overboard with spending. “It’s the very people who need the money most who are likely to find themselves out of pocket by January,” she says.

“It’s a good idea to set aside an amount in a banking wallet or saving account – and don’t spend any of it until this year has come to an end.”

Botha says that getting through the festive season intelligently means staying out of debt. “Make sure your family responsibilities can be met well into January,” she says.

If you receive a Christmas bonus, Scully recommends using some or all of it to reduce or eliminate any debt you may have.

Draw up a spending plan

Scully notes that a realistic spending plan involves buying only what you can afford.

“If you spend more on something you really want, spend less on something else, so you don’t overspend,” she cautions.  

If you can’t afford to go out every week, rather go out infrequently and make the most of it. It’s also important not to attempt to keep up with well-funded family and friends.

“Nobody would want you to get into financial difficulties over gifting, so work out how much you can spend on each loved one and stick to it - or make something unique yet inexpensive for them.”

Another present to consider is the gift of your time. “You can offer to babysit or go walking with a friend. This helps to take the focus away from the monetary value of giving,” she says.

Botha adds that it may be wise to stay off social media at this time of year – or else become an influencer who inspires others.

“There is a social media trend that celebrates the real and authentic. Why not post videos on budget-conscious meal preparation, or making your own decorations?” she suggests. “Start a new fashion with an unfiltered festive season!”

Use the system to your benefit

Botha says retailers tend to hike prices during the holiday period, so seek out specials and deals. Buying in bulk can prevent last-minute dashes to the shops the day before Christmas, when prices may be at a premium.

Pre-plan meals and get-togethers and use any loyalty rewards or discounts you may have accumulated.

“Use the system to your benefit. Vouchers and points can help to get you freebies, and you can download apps that offer buy-one-get-one-free deals and major discounts,” Botha recommends.

These include apps linked to Varsity Vibe, The Entertainer, Niche Market and similar websites.

Ideally, you should start planning now for 2023’s year-end celebrations, which may involve buying discounted items at post-Christmas sales and saving these items for gifting. The sooner you start planning, the better prepared you’ll be for festive frivolity.

Tip: If you’re over-indebted, debt consolidation can free up cash for the festive season. Find out more here.

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