With the festive season fast approaching, it’s important to have your December financial plan locked down to avoid falling into the debt trap that can be the year-end holidays.

The key to surviving the festive season financially, says John Manlike, Old Mutual Head of Financial Education, is being realistic and sticking to what you can afford, particularly where family expectations are concerned. 

“People need to remember that there is life after December,” he warns.  

“Whether it is supporting parents by contributing towards their grocery bill for the December holidays, or buying clothes for unemployed siblings for Christmas, the trick is to stay within your budget to avoid visiting uMashonisa in the first week of January to cover the essentials like fuel, bus fares, groceries, back-to-school stationery and uniforms.”

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 Use these tips to be smart with your money this festive season.

Balance your budget

Don’t go into the festive season without a budget. Before spending anything on what can be classified as “luxuries”, first fulfil all of your regular monthly financial obligations. 

Then draw up a second budget to cover family expenses, entertainment and presents.

Be realistic about what you can contribute and don’t spend beyond your means. Using store accounts and credit cards to finance festive entertainment will leave heavily in debt and can jeopardise any financial aspirations you may have for the new year, Manyike warns.

Don’t fall into the temptation of faking success to impress family members and old neighbours you may not even like, with money you don’t have. Instead, communicate openly with your family members and make it clear that your budget is limited,” he advises.

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“Specify how much you have available to help. This will ensure that you stay out of debt and never have to avoid calls from friends and relatives demanding their January parcel.”

Reduce your debt

If you’re lucky enough to be receiving a bonus or 13th cheque this year, be smart with it by using the majority to pay off debt, school fees or back-to-school expenses. 

Unwind and have fun!

2018 has been a challenging year for most, so while it’s important to be financially responsible over the festive season, it is equally important to let your hair down a bit and have a bit if fun.

Set aside some funds so you can spoil yourself a bit, or put it towards your festive season social budget. Remember, though, that if you get paid early in December, you need to be disciplined to ensure you make it through to your next pay cheque at the end of January.