The New Year is almost upon us, and the first month of the year is always a tough month financially as the festive season overspending hits consumer’s wallets  as well as the looming expenses such as school fees.

“The sooner you get a hold on your finances, the easier it will be to start 2017 financially afresh,” says Eunice Sibiya, head of consumer education at FNB. “This means making some tough decisions as early as possible, starting with the first month of the year.”

Take stock

Hopefully you managed to keep within your budget and use your savings to get through the festive season unscathed. But, if you have been overspending, now is the time to assess the damage and understand where you are financially.

The best way to do this is to go through your bank statements. Every transaction will be recorded and you will quickly be able to see where you have overspent or if you have kept within budget.

Note upcoming financial responsibilities

Don’t only look back at your spending over the festive season, but also look forward at financial responsibilities that are coming up. These will probably be in the form of school fees, stationary, bond or credit card repayments.

Understand exactly what your upcoming expenses are, and write them all down. This will give you an indication of where you are financially.

Make a plan

The best time to start making a plan with your finances is early in the year. Instead, now is the time to be strict, and make some good financial decisions to ensure you are able to cover your upcoming expenses without taking on extra debt, such as a loan or adding to your credit card to cover your shortfall.

Don’t be tempted to take out a loan to cover your shortfalls. This is a rocky road, and will inevitably lead to more financial stress and over indebtedness.

Instead of taking on more debt, consider making some real changes to your spending in January. This means cutting down on any extra spending such as going out or shopping for clothes.

You can be financially smart over this period. Take the down time to hunt through your home for items that you can sell second hand, use your rewards programmes, such as eBucks to pay for school stationary and make use of free entertainment, such as picnics in the park to entertain the kids.

More than likely you have been overspending without considering the consequences in the New Year. Take time to assess the damage and understand where you are from a financial position.

“Don’t panic if your festive season spending and your upcoming expenses are overwhelming,” says Sibiya. “The first step is to get a good grasp on where you are, and from there you can build a sustainable solution.”