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The ultimate Christmas budget planner

Finance & Money

Posted on Monday, November 20, 2017

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‘Tis the season of giving, which also means the season of spending. If you want to make it through to the beginning of 2018 without the debt of a small country on your credit card, it’s time to put together a family budget planner, and then do everything in your power to stick to it. 

The average South African increases credit card spending over December. According to FNB Credit Card, over the 2016 festive season, customers spent R6.7 billion, which amounts to a 22% increase when compared to spending throughout the rest of the year.

Avoid getting into debt by adapting your simple household budget to fit this unique season:

1. Download a budget app.

There is an app for everything, and this applies to planning and tracking your Christmas spending too. Christmas Planner and ResPack 15-Christmas Budget are hassle-free ways of making sure you always have your to-do list with you and include reminders for tasks that need to be done as well as when to do them. You can share lists with family and friends to highlight their responsibilities and keep everyone on top of what’s happening. Read more about useful planner apps and find one that works for you.

2. Pinpoint your key holiday expenses.

December in South Africa isn’t just Christmas, it’s the long summer holidays too. When putting together your Christmas budget template, start by listing all expenses you expect to incur, from gifts and wrapping paper to travel, entertaining and food, to get the bigger picture. Problems arise when people only plan for gifts and forget all the other increased expenses, such as groceries and entertainment, for example.

3. Set a cap on spending.

Be clear about the amount you have available for your Christmas budget. Keep in mind the possible expenses you’ll have at the beginning of the new year – such as school uniforms and stationery – then settle on a figure that you’re comfortable with. It might be a smaller amount than you would like, but you can get creative with DIY gifting ideas.

4. Make a Christmas gift list.

How many people would you like to buy gifts for and how much money do you want to assign to each person? It’s very easy to get carried away while Christmas shopping with Boney M blaring through speakers and people grabbing at last-minute tinsel and toys. Without a plan in place, it’s a recipe for disaster. Go digital with an app such as the Christmas Gift List or Xmas Gifts Lists and easily split your gift budget over the number of people you intend to buy for.

5. Divide money according to your budget planner.

You have your final amount and you have your holiday expenses list, now before you hit the shops split the money you’ve allotted to your Christmas budget across each of the sections. Assign an amount to gifts, festive food and drink, wrapping paper and outings. This will help you see where you need to cut back and possibly cut out altogether.

6. Keep track of your spending.

Keep your Christmas budget planner on hand and cross off each item once it’s been bought. Weigh up the actual amount against the estimated amount and adjust your budget accordingly. Crossing off those items is a satisfying feeling and constantly referring back to your budget will help you stay on track.

7. Creative gift giving.

Google DIY gift ideas and you’ll be overwhelmed by all the creative ways you can spoil your loved ones without spending a fortune. From “swap don’t shop” ideas to upcycling and regifting (google “regifting etiquette” to ensure you cover all your bases here), you just need a bit of time and some creative energy to come up with really thoughtful presents.

8. Pay off debt quickly.

Once the tree starts to wilt and all the leftover gammon has been eaten, it’s time to check in on your budget and take note of where you’ve overspent. If you did go into debt, the best thing you can do is pay it off as soon as possible to avoid interest from accumulating. Read Budget Insurance’s tips on paying off holiday debt