The festive season, also called the holiday season is here again! It is one of the most anticipated periods of the year. It is the time of the year when most private companies and government organisations shut down and people rest after a year of hustle and bustle. Also, at this period of the year, many people look forward to enjoying vacations within or outside the country.
Needless to say, the holiday period usually comes around with a large appetite for shopping and to make consumers buy more during this period. A lot of companies offer promos or discounts on many products, including fashion and household items such as shoes, clothes, furniture and electronics.
However, some people are usually carried away by the various discounts on products they had longed to buy during the year and in the process of acquiring the items, they end the year buying more than their financial capacities and start the new year with a pile of debts.
While it is not a bad idea to grab promo opportunities to acquire some good things of life during this period, it is advisable to shop smart and not end up spending all one has saved during the year unwisely. After all, there will be other expenses to be incurred during the period.
To avoid ending year 2019 without being under the burden of debt, the following seven tips are suggested by some finance experts.
Make a budget
Before you hit the shopping mall or organise a big party, it is advisable to have a comprehensive plan in place so you know exactly where your money is going this holiday season. This way, you can usher in the new year with a celebration rather than panic.
According to finance expert, Ms Jacqueline Curtis, one of the ways to keep your spending under control this period is to make a budget. Curtis wrote on moneycrashers.com.:
“There are a couple of different ways to set a holiday budget. You might want to establish a general spending cap or try allocating a specific amount to each person on your gift list.”
The expert, however, said while making a holiday budget was great, it could go sour in one of two ways: setting a budget that is too tight or forgetting the little things. She said,
“While setting a tight budget always starts with good intentions, an unrealistic one can do more harm than good. Without a little wiggle room for last-minute purchases or enough cash allocated for gifts, you can end up very frustrated.
“In fact, you might get so frustrated that you just toss your budget out of the window. To prevent this from happening, look over your numbers. Do you really need to spend $50 (N18,000) on wine or can you cut back in order to allocate more money to gifts instead?
“Don’t just pick numbers out of thin air – really think things over to ensure that you make the right decisions.”
While gift giving is a huge expense during the holidays, Curtis advised not to forget the other costs you might incur throughout the season. She stated:
“Parties, travel expenses, charitable donations and holiday-themed activities can all add up to destroy a budget. If possible, add some money into your budget for unexpected costs so you’re not left scratching your head.”
Track your spending
According to Curtis, your budget does no good if you don’t effectively track your spending. She wrote:
“Personally, I keep a separate Christmas fund in a dedicated bank account. This makes it easier for me to separate holiday spending from regular, day-to-day expenses.
“I also have my bank’s app on my phone, which allows me to check my balance and track my spending anytime, anywhere – even in line for the cashier.”
Curtis said spreadsheets were also an excellent and accurate way to track your holiday expenditures. She added,
“By establishing a budget and entering your real expenses, you can easily keep yourself on track. Just be sure to remain diligent.
“I find that if I can track my expenses in real time, I’m much more effective than if the receipts are lying around for days before I input them into my system.”
Cut back on extras
Of course, it’s always tempting to want to buy a bowl of ice cream, a box of chocolate, a new pair of shoes or a new smartphone during this period, however, you may get stuck in a trap where constant spending on extras eats into your budget.
According to Lagos-based investment banker, Mr Dayo Okunola, cutting back on those extras can have a big impact on your bottom line. He said,
“For example, if you buy a new smartphone worth, let’s say, N100,000, it doesn’t mean the phone will add any new value to your life. You probably already have a smartphone that is working fine enough. Imagine what that money could buy apart from a new smartphone.
“That money could be invested and you would get a little interest in the new year. You can also save the money or spend on gifts to family and friends or a generous donation to a charity of your choice. Before you splurge on a little treat or for yourself, be sure it’s really worth the price.”
Choose cheaper traditions
Traditions are what make the holidays so special, but they can be a financial burden. If your traditions include holiday travel, paying for a special attraction or surprising your kids with extravagant gifts, you might find yourself going significantly over budget in the name of family.
While traditions are important and admirable, Curtis advised they don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. She wrote,
“In fact, you might find that your kids prefer the cheap stuff to the grander gestures. So many activities and traditions are inexpensive or even free – you just have to know where to look.
“By making cheaper events and traditions part of your celebration, you can save money without skimping on the festivities and memories.”
Curtis identified some of the cheap but fun activities to include: setting up the Christmas lights, watching a movie with chocolate at home, baking pastries together, reading Christmas stories and attending carols.
Holiday sales can be an epic opportunity to save money on products, but be careful. Not all deals are created equal and some may not even be truly discounted, as some stores keep prices the same but simply mark items with a “discounted item” sign.
To avoid tricks by retailers, always compare prices at different stores before you purchase an item to make sure you’re getting the best deals. Curtis wrote,
“Of course, you never save money by spending, no matter how significant the discount. Sales are great, but they don’t mean much if the money isn’t in your budget.
“If necessary, bring a printout of your budget so you can check your spending in real time and avoid being swayed by a screaming deal.
“[Also] know when to stop. When your shopping list is finished and you’ve checked it twice, it’s time to stop shopping. Know when you’re finished and avoid stopping by the mall just to see what they have. This can lead to making poorly planned purchases and blowing your budget.”
Make financial preparations for new year
An economist based in Abuja, Mr Ken Bright, said the period right after the holidays was the perfect time to check over your budget and make plans for the new year. He said,
“After the festive period is over, the question is, what next? This is why it is not advisable to spend all one’s savings in December. There are only a few days separating the festive period from the new year. If you spend all your savings in December because of sales deals, you might have nothing left to start the new year.
“It’s all too easy to get caught up in the spending cycle during the holidays. Marketing campaigns are geared toward making you open your wallet in the spirit of Christmas, so it’s hard not to fall prey.
“Therefore, you need a good plan in place and know how to spend wisely. Focus on reality than fantasy. Remember, expenses are coming in January. Children will resume at school and you need to pay their tuition fees.”
Remember the reason for the season
Whether you celebrate Christmas or other festivities or not, keeping the holiday’s spiritual message at the centre of everything is very important. American finance expert and author, Clark Howard, wrote on bankrate.com.
“Instead of spending weekends leading up to Christmas in the mall, it would be a lot better gift to spend your time with your family.”
Similarly, Bright said remembering the reason for the holidays was the most important thing to have a successful celebration.
“People should not borrow money to have fun or impress anyone during this period. At the end of it all, it is not about the many gifts or food or drinks that make the festive period blissful. Spending time with one’s spouse and kids or other family members alone can be the most important thing to do,” he said.