The end of the year is almost upon us, and the economic effects of the pandemic mean that like many of us, you may have had to tighten your belt over the last 18 months, so you may not have as much money to spend this festive season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make this time of year memorable and special – all it takes is a bit of creative thinking and planning ahead. Here are five ways you can save money while still enjoying this festive season:
- Make the best of staying at home. If you normally go away on holiday at this time of the year, staying home can save you thousands of rands, not to mention time and effort spent travelling to get to your holiday destination. If you decide to stay home, make the best of where you live in South Africa: Joburg has some of the best weather in the country over December for example, so you could spend your days in the pool or in the garden. Most cities have festive events on, so you could join in these, or simply spend time exploring neighbourhoods you’ve never visited before. If you live on the coast, try seeing your town or city through holidaymakers’ eyes, visiting spots along the coast that you may not get to during the year.
- Seek out the freebies. Festive restaurant dinners with friends, cocktail parties at bars…all these events add up and can put a strain on your wallet. South Africa has beautiful natural scenery, so what about rather organising a picnic in your neighbourhood park, a breakfast hike on a nearby mountain, or a bike ride on a local trail? Beyond the great outdoors, there are usually free festive events being held in your area, whether it’s Father Christmas visiting your local shopping centre, carols being sung at your community church or a Christmas lights display in the town or city centre near you. Whatever it is, getting into the festive spirit doesn’t have to involve a huge outlay of cash.
- Make homemade gifts. Making your own festive gifts doesn’t have to be a consolation prize. With an emphasis these days on reducing consumption and being kinder to the earth, the thrifting trend is a big one, and there are plenty of resources to help you make gifts that are useful, beautiful and stylish. Plus, giving a homemade gift is far more personal and heartfelt for the recipient. How about a bath salt gift with lavender oil and Epsom salts and a homemade card, or dark chocolate brownies wrapped in a box with a pretty ribbon bow? If you’re a bit more ambitious, you can get more elaborate with things like photo calendars (great for grandparents), pottery or even homemade beads and jewellery.
- Cash in on your rewards. Now is the time to cash in on all those times during the year that you swiped your reward cards or earned rewards points. Use these discounts to shop for Christmas gifts, or to get cheaper travel rates if you are travelling away from home. Besides the rewards programmes offered by retailers and airlines, don’t forget those offered by other schemes you belong to, such as your medical aid. And while we’re on the subject of medical aid, staying on top of your health is another way to make sure you avoid big medical expenses further down the line. Before you wrap up for the year, think about taking advantage of medical aid benefits you do have – such as using the last of your medical savings to buy medication you may need in December, or using your free screening benefit offered by medical aids such as Fedhealth.
- Plan your festive budget. Chances are you use a monthly budget in your normal life, so why not apply a smaller version to the festive period too? You could either set a spending limit for the whole month, or allocate a specific amount to things like gifts, hosting meals or outings. The key here is to create this budget before you’re into the festive season and you get swept away with spending – and then have to pay the price in January. Throughout the month, keep referring back to your budget and see that you’re sticking with it, or reallocate money between categories if you need to.
With another tough year behind us, we’re all looking forward to a much-needed rest over the festive season – but that doesn’t mean you have to dig yourself into a financial hole and create even more stress while you do so. With some forward planning and careful budgeting, you can ensure that you stick to spending within your means while still enjoying the holidays with those who matter most in your life. Above all, remember to keep things simple: focus on the importance and meaning behind this time of year, rather than getting swept up in the commercialism of it all.