How to avoid those #JanuWorry money blues and not start 2020 in the red

Financial experts share their advice on how to avoid starting the new year in debt.
Financial experts share their advice on how to avoid starting the new year in debt.
Image: Getty Images

It's the most wonderful time of the year - but also the "most expensive", according to experts.

During the December festive season, many people incur additional expenses - including in the spirit of giving and rewarding themselves after a long year.

Financial planner and author Sylvia Walker urged South Africans to exercise extra caution when handling their finances this festive season to avoid starting the year with a negative balance.

“It’s generally an exciting time for a lot of people, but what some don’t realise is that it’s actually the most expensive time of the year,” she said.

A consumer education manager at FNB, Dhashni Naidoo, echoed a similar sentiment. She said January was a particularly long month because most South Africans received paycheques and bonuses a bit early, around mid-December.

“During this time, it's crucial to draw up a spending plan to manage your money for the festive season, in line with your current income and expenses. You must also bear in mind that your salary should last you until the end of January 2020,” she said.

Naidoo shared five money management tips for people to consider in order to enjoy a healthy financial status during this festive season:

  1. Bonus money:  People who will be fortunate enough to receive 13th cheques should consider reviewing their debt and using some of the bonus money to pay off debt and January debit orders. This will go a long way in JanuWorry and will also help improve your financial standing.
  2. Review your budget: It is important that you review your monthly spending budget. Avoid the temptation to overspend - rather spend within your means. Don’t be scared to ask for assistance if you are unable to afford certain things - after all, the festive season is a time for sharing.
  3. Stick to your planned budget: It's easy to get carried away and overspend in this silly season. Avoid temptation by using different financial tools to track your spending patterns. 
  4. Don’t do fest with debt: It's all good and well to relax and enjoy the festive season with your loved ones. However, you should never use debt to host expensive gatherings.
  5. Buy in bulk: Plan ahead on what you will need and do research on how much you will spend. You can also look for reduced prices or sales before you buy anything. However, don’t tap into your emergency savings for the festive season.

Meanwhile, consumer credit agency TransUnion warned customers of the top three financial mistakes people make. Jeannine Naudé Viljoen, general counsel at the agency, said not having a budget, not checking credit reports and not saving for the festive season ahead of time were the most common mistakes.

“The best way to save for this season is to use the previous year as a benchmark. From there on, decide if you need to allow more room for spending or cut back a bit. Split the amount you need over 11 months and start saving from the beginning of the year," she said.

Walker also cautioned people against falling prey to mushrooming stokvel scams - and more debt. 

“There are as many [stokvels] as there are days in the year. These schemes are nothing but hot air. They are fuelled by getting new investors to join so that current investors can be paid out the promised high returns," she said.

“If people could try have a bit of investment, clearing debt and a bit of fun, they are likely to start 2020 on a good note financially.”

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