Don't fall into trap of overspending blues

Make changes to the way you spend and develop a savings mentality, says the writer.
Make changes to the way you spend and develop a savings mentality, says the writer.

If the thought of the fast-approaching festive season sends you into a panic and mentally tallying up expenses such as gifts, getaways and groceries, you may need a financial strategy to help you cope.

"A heightened emphasis on spending may make you more inclined to stretch your budget. The trick is to not be lured into making choices that can land you into financial hot water, or become bad habits down the line," said Allan Gray's Bekithemba Mafulela.

He said that while it has been a tough year, with many experts calling for belt-tightening, the danger lies in thinking that the festive season will afford you a much-needed break from counting your pennies.

"Unfortunately, we may be in a period where things get worse before they get better. Adopt a savings mentality where possible, and look for ways to rein in spending."

Four tips to help you cope at this time of year:

1. Ask yourself whether you are directing enough towards your future and if your debt is under control.

Maximise your windfall by allocating a portion to pay off some outstanding debt and by saving some before you start spending.

2. Buy gifts that don't cost the earth, but last.

In the past five years the Deloitte SA Holiday Survey found that respondents' number one gift was cash, followed by gift vouchers, for both men and women. If your culture or faith encourages gift giving over the festive season, consider alternatives to expensive, and often undesired consumables.

"Consider opening an investment, such as a unit trust or tax-free savings account, on behalf of someone you love. This type of gift has the potential to open up future opportunities."

3. Be aware of the festive season spending cues.

Being aware of subtle (and not so subtle) influences can help when everything around us is pushing us to spend.

Mafulela said key retail periods, such as the popular "Black Friday", are designed to make you spend more, through targeted deals and "mega savings".

"With more of our spending happening online, retailers can personally target our desires with adverts for products we've shown an interest in . [with] more of a chance of loosening our wallets."

Brick-and-mortar stores are designed to make you spend, with roadblocks along the aisles to nudge us to stop and buy.

4. Adopt a savings mentality.

We are all human and festive season spending can get to even the most disciplined of us. But don't lose heart. Come January, when you embark on your post-holiday detox add spending to your list of no-gos. A spending detox is about getting control back by reining in unnecessary expenses and breaking the habit of swiping your card willy-nilly.

"This is a gradual adjustment in attitude to the way you spend. Making small behavioural changes and developing a savings mentality will go a long way."

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