12 Pre-Christmas Savings Tips

It’s less than a month to go before Christmas, and the malls are adorned with festive deals encouraging us to over-spend. Research shows that South African consumers are increasingly using debt to fund their living expenses. So what savings can you make now to ensure a debt-free new year?


  1. Start with your budget

Most of us start Christmas with a wish list. This year, start it with a budget. 22Seven have a comprehensive budget application that can help you organise your Christmas spend and avoid going into debt. Use the application to categorise expenditure on everything from food and wine to holidays and gifts.

“22seven helps people see what they’re doing with their money, so they can do more with it,” says founder and CEO of 22Seven, Christo Davel. “Often our customers see things they didn’t know, like how much they’ve been spending on stuff, and once they see that, they’re able to make changes. A lot of our customers find hundreds or even thousands extra each month that way.”


  1. Get organised

Adhoc or last-minute shopping sprees lead to compulsive buys and over-spending. Use your budget to determine the cost per person for each gift, and don’t diverge from your list. Shopping online is a great way to avoid the malls, and there are plenty of gift planning applications such as GiftPlanner, designed to help you track your purchases.

Don’t forget to budget for unexpected expenses such as wrapping paper, sticky tape and ribbon. Keep everything in an allocated Christmas cupboard to ensure that nothing goes to waste.


  1. Cash in your points

This is the best time to cash in on all your eBucks and unused points, or to take advantage of double points days. Pick n Pay are running Smart Shopper specials on various festive items this week, and will continue to do so throughout December. This week, you can score double points on sweets, chocolates, cakes, pastries and cheeses, as well as a variety of wines and sparkling wine.


  1. Get honest with your family and peers

Clement Nhlangwana, marketing manager at Sanlam Personal Finance, says the December holidays often bear pressure on people to financially contribute to family gatherings, purchase gifts and travel significant distances.

“It’s time for festivities, but the big family reunions, the long list of gifts and the expectations from our loved ones and friends can be taxing on those who have little cash to spare,” says Nhlangwana. “While you want to contribute where there is financial need, you need to have an honest discussion with your family about your financial situation so that you don’t end up spending beyond your means. There’s a difference between financial assistance where there’s dire need and spending what you cannot afford in order to meet family expectations.”

  1. Find the best deals online

Deal hunting is the most effective way to save this Christmas. Sign up to Moneybags to keep up to date with all the latest savings and deals. Take advantage of Black Friday at Zando, big sales at Yuppie Chef and discount vouchers currently available at Superbalist.

Gumtree and OLX are often filled with hidden treasures, and Groupon is great for discounted beauty and massage treatments. CrushOnline are running their annual Advent Calendar Competition with fantastic daily prizes until Christmas day.


  1. Use discount supermarkets to stock up on extras

For budget-friendly Christmas stock like mince pies, biscuits, drinks and snacks, shop at discount supermarkets like Makro or Checkers. Chocolates or wine make affordable gifts for colleagues or acquaintances, so it’s worth spending a little extra upfront and purchasing these items in bulk. Makro are currently running a promotion on Ferrero Rocher chocolate gift packs at R285 for 5 boxes.


  1. Get crafty

Crafts can become part of your holiday fun, especially when you get the kids involved. “Doing things together means spending more valuable time engaging with each other, creating beautiful memories without breaking the bank,” says Nhlangwana.

eCards and ElfYourself are also great (and free) ways of sending your loved ones some holiday cheer.


  1. Make extra cash

“For many, the pressure to please while also having to budget for a new year can become unbearable, and they subsequently resort to spending money they don’t have or getting deeper in debt,” says Nhlangwana.

If you see yourself getting into debt this Christmas, why not earn a little extra cash to get you through till January? Sign up on sites such as Money4Jam, where you can access an array of casual odd jobs that will help to boost your bank balance.


  1. Don’t buy on credit

Ian Wason, chief executive of DebtBusters, said his company usually experiences a 50 percent spike in consumers needing help with debt between January and February. January can be a very stressful month if you have overspent in December.

“It may be tough to resist the lure to spend, but it’s important to understand your financial situation and if it doesn’t allow you to indulge, then it’s best that you don’t,” says Nhlangwana. “You have to think about the effect the new debt will have on your budget when all the festivities die down. Buying on credit costs more.”

If you foresee an issue with your holiday expenses, don’t avoid your bank statements. Rather call a debt counsellor and plan a solution to take you into the New Year worry-free.


  1. Shop markets, with a set amount of cash in hand

Local gift markets are a great way to support small business owners whilst cutting the costs of big brand items. The Neighbourgoods Market in Johannesburg or the Constantia Gift Fair in Cape Town are both great options. Make sure you take the exact amount of cash available in your gift budget, rather than swiping your card.

GreenPop are also running a Clothing Swap and Drop in Cape Town on 8 December, to promote sustainable fashion. You may find the perfect accessory or gift amongst the giveaways.


  1. Spend your bonus wisely

Rita Cool, certified financial planner at Alexander Forbes Financial Services, notes: “If you are lucky enough to get a bonus or thirteenth cheque use some of it to treat yourself. After all you have worked hard for that money, purchase something that will give you long term satisfaction and remind you of your hard work. Invest the rest in a tax free savings account or unit trusts.”


  1. Start planning for next year

By planning ahead and purchasing items early, you can end up saving money. Cool says: “It is best to buy Christmas decorations in January as that is when they go on sale. Usually buying last minute you land up spending more.”


Be careful not to get caught up in the Christmas buzz and overspend this festive season. If you are battling with your budget, Nhlangwana suggests you speak to a financial adviser and work out a sensible plan to get you through until 2016.