Have a merry time – and save

Tis almost the season for holidays, gifts and festivities, and while you might only be thinking about getting into physical shape for the beach right now, you’ll be smart to watch your financial waistline too so that you’re not left worrying nor doing last- minute budgeting come January.

“With the festive and holiday season around the corner, people might think it’s too late to start cutting costs or budgeting for December and January,” Budget Insurance spokeswoman Susan Steward said.

“Not everyone wants to crunch numbers ahead of the holidays, but there are some clever ways to save costs now without marring the fun – or having to resort to leaving the coins out of the Christmas pudding.”

Steward suggests one starts shopping savvily from now and finding ways to spend smarter, especially if there are new school books, uniforms and stationery that needs to be bought for the New Year.

She also cautions not to depend solely on Christmas bonuses as a way to pay for a holiday, Christmas presents or January necessities.

“Unless you know for certain you’re getting a bonus and what it is, don’t rely on one and its amount.

“Many companies are cutting back, and many people don’t get the bonuses they expect.

“While it might be tempting to spend it all on impressive gifts and good times, we advise you save as much as 50% of whatever your bonus is, which you can either save, invest or use for anything unforeseen,” she adds.

Budget Insurance offers these seven money-saving tips:

1. If you haven’t planned a holiday yet and are looking for something affordable, investigate places off-the-beaten- track, or away from the coast. There are some great towns and even camping spots that make for wonderful destinations.

2. If you’re staying at home for the holidays, why not make it an affordable and fun “staycation”? You can have pool parties, movie nights, games evenings, braais and lots of series and reading catch-ups that don’t have to break the bank.

3. Does everyone in your whole family need a present? Why not do a “Secret Santa” gift exchange so that you’re giving one gift, and receiving one.

4. Look out for sales, and get ahead with Christmas shopping now. You can save a lot of money by watching for specials on daily online sites and group buying sites.

5. It’s a small, yet significant thing but gift bags add up. Rather buy brown paper, and decorate your gifts with ribbons.

6. Track your spending from now, and use a spreadsheet or app. Knowledge is power – you could save money now on lattes and convenience food just by being aware of how much you’re spending on them.

7. Get an early start for next year-make realistic New Year’s plans

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