How to avoid silly spending

ECONOMICAL: Tendani Mantshimuli. Pic. Unknown
ECONOMICAL: Tendani Mantshimuli. Pic. Unknown

DECEMBER is not called the silly season for nothing.

Liberty Life consumer economist Tendani Mantshimuli says while most people, and particularly women, use their money sensibly during the year, women usually go overboard with their spending when December comes.

"From January to November, most women are sensible with their money and understand the importance of budgeting and living within their means," Mantshimuli says. "Then, in December, we lose all control and spend as if there is no tomorrow."

She points out that budgeting is still important during this period to avoid getting into debt.

"Planning every expense is even more important during the holidays since there are so many extra costs that creep up on you if you are not careful," Mantshimuli says.

"Spending more than you have can cause suffering for many months after you have put away the Christmas decorations."

She says most retailers report an increase in slow or no payments in January and February because people struggle to pay back what they have spent over the festive season.

"The holidays can be costly since you have time on your hands and boredom can set in, resulting in unplanned spending," she says.

Mantshimuli gives tips on how to have a debt free and blissful festive season.

Make sure you pay cash instead of buying on credit so that you only spend what you can afford.

Draw up a budget. Make a list of your regular expenses that have to be paid in December. Include food, rent, transport, electricity and insurance costs, and any other bills you need to cover until your next payday.

Write down extra costs that you know are coming in January, like school fees, school uniforms and stationery.

Add up all these expenses and calculate exactly how much you need to put aside to cover them. This will help you work out how much you have left over for other seasonal expenses such as gifts and entertainment.

Avoid spending every cent you have. Put some savings aside for emergencies (like if your fridge breaks on Christmas day).

How to stick to your budget

Food can be a huge expense over the festive season. Shop around for the best deals, look out for specials and remember it is not always cheaper to buy in bulk.

l Take a shopping list with you when you shop and stick to it.

l Avoid taking the kids shopping since they might want things that are not on the list.

l When you cook a meal, make enough so your family can have leftovers the following day.

l Cut back on expensive items like red meat. Stock up on more affordable healthy options like rice. Look out for well-priced, healthy vegetables like cabbage and carrots.

l Keep a budget for gifts. Work out how much you can comfortably spend on them without getting into debt.

l Avoid buying gifts on credit. If you cannot afford to pay cash find other ways to show family and friends that you care without getting into debt.

l Plan every entertainment outing very carefully and make going out a treat, rather than the norm.

l Instead of going to the movies, take out a DVD. Buying snacks from the supermarket will also be cheaper.

l If you are hosting a party, ask everyone to bring their own drinks.