The level of household savings has slowed to a trickle, prompting the South African Savings Institute to launch a Festive Savings Campaign in Johannesburg yesterday.
In the second quarter of this year, household savings were at negative 0,8percent.
"That is a big problem," said Elias Masilela, chairman of the institute.
According to the institute's last national savings barometer, household savings was at just above 1,5percent of gross domestic product at the beginning of 2006.
"A lot of people do think about savings but they put it at the bottom of their priority list," said Masilela.
"At the same time we have seen an increase in debt exposure. That tells us that South Africans are getting deeper into debt," he said.
The institute's Festive Spending Campaign aims to boost dwindling savings levels by making consumers, and their children, aware that they need to hold back on Christmas spending this year.
The institute and its partners are distributing flyers with tips on how to save this festive season, and "Elly banks" for children, at public places this festive season to encourage consumers to spend responsibly.
"We thought it was a good idea to target children, the upcoming leaders of the country, because we think in a way we have not been very successful in changing the psyche of the South African adult. If you catch them earlier, you are able to change their mindset," said Masilela.
"Consumers should spend wisely and avoid incurring more debt," said Mpho Thekiso, project manager of debt counselling at the National Credit Regulator. "Consumers should stay at home this Christmas," she said.
Thekiso said consumers needed a "positive and compelling vision" in order to be able to save in a disciplined way.
"Threatening messages won't help. If people can say 'Why am I saving?' for example, so they can send their kids to school, then they will save," she explained.
Five savings tips:
l As you observe the attractive SALE signs, think about the need to SAVE at the same time
l Make sure that you have budgeted well for your expenditure. What is unaffordable is not to be bought. You will not know until you have a budget.
l Instead of buying presents, make them. It puts more heart into the spirit of giving.
l Buy no-name brands, the quality is not very different and these are often cheaper.
l As you spend during this period, think about your financial obligations for the New Year, such as school fees.