Forget Janu-worry, focus on being financially responsible all year round

Saving money for rainy days and having an emergency fund is a way to obtain financial freedom.
Saving money for rainy days and having an emergency fund is a way to obtain financial freedom.
Image: AndreyPopov

Most South Africans are back at work and most schools have reopened. It is now time to forget Janu-worry and say hello to Janu-merry. For most, 2018 was a challenging year indeed and it felt as if Santa Claus was not the usual jovial fellow.

There are, however, several reasons to be cheerful and optimistic about the South African economy. These include:

  • The lights were on for most of the festive season - they will hopefully stay on for some time. Eskom has apparently made progress in securing new coal supply contracts to ensure it can keep our lights on.
  •  The South African economy is out of recession. The country has exited a technical recession having grown by 2.2% for the third quarter of the year.
  •  The ratings agencies have paused on their hawk-eyed view - there are signs that further downgrades are unlikely ahead of the Treasury's February budget when it will be clearer if the economic revival strategies will work.
  •  The lower fuel price. Research indicates that the recent fuel price decrease could add to economic growth by about 1%, which would further lead to lower inflation and lower interest rates. In this environment, consumers would then experience improved disposable income.
  • Tourism procedures have been reviewed. Relaxed visa regulations will be implemented in the near future, making travel to and from South Africa a lot easier for business and leisure travellers. This is a positive step for SA tourism, which will boost economic growth further.

But we need to continue to be financially responsible. The real secret to personal finance isn't some sort of financial mystery. It isn't finding some loophole or discovering some magical "system" that will get your life in order. Rather, it's about following straightforward principles day in and day out that inevitably guide you to a better financial state.

We also need to address the holiday "black tax" as we approach the Easter holidays.

There is a trend in South Africa where many of us work far from where we grew up, and come the holiday season, we pack our bags and head back home. Spending money on family is something that's expected in African households.

It's prevalent within the black culture. I think it's more about how you have been brought up and if you're part of a family structure where you're expected to reciprocate in terms of giving.

If you're financially savvy, you would have planned for various holidays by now. As we continue with our daily chores, we should keep in mind the upcoming Easter holidays and the related black tax.

It's hard to say 'no' sometimes to family, particularly around the time of the holiday seasons because everyone is in such a happy mood.

You don't want to be discussing budgets and funds. At the beginning of the year, try to set up a separate savings account just for gift-giving contributions, and come holiday season, it's hoped that the savings account would have accumulated a reasonable amount. It boils down to planning and budgeting.

The South African Savings Institute provides the following logical considerations for the holiday season:

  •  If you did not save, don't borrow to spend.
  •  If you did not budget for a holiday season's trip, stay at home.
  •  Make the season's gifts instead of buying them, it lends more heart to the gift.
  •  Invest in money boxes for children.
  •  Avoid buying on impulse, resist those sale signs.
  •  When you see sale, think SAVE.

Final thought, failing to plan can result in devastating financial choices that could cause you to fall into debt. The best way to survive the holiday season is to ensure that you have enough money to get you through 2019.

Personal finance success is a long march, and this is all about taking good steps.

  • Sekese is a certified financial planner professional and member of the
    Financial Planning Institute (www.fpi.co.za)

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