DRAFT A SPENDING PLAN

It all starts with a clear understanding of the time lapse in-between your December and January paychecks, says Gerald Mwandiambira, a personal finance expert and author of Imali Yami, Chelete Yaka, My Geld, My Money: A Financial Planning Guide for Ordinary People. “Most of us get paid mid-December, which means there are 40 days or more between our December and January salaries. This makes it essential to have a budget in place,” Mwandiambira explains.

Creating a spending plan empowers you to be more responsible and steers you away from the temptation of spending unnecessarily, says Ester Ochse, product specialist for wealth and investments at FNB.

“Set up a budget for what you want to spend and stick to it as much as possible. Guard your wallet and try not to give in to the temptation of spoiling loved ones over this season, especially if it falls outside of your carefully-planned budget,” Ochse advises. To avoid financial stress, look at how much money you’ll have between December and the end of January, says Kenosi Magosha, head of client solutions savings at Sanlam Personal Finance. This will help you not spend more than you have.

“Compile a list and split and prioritise your money according to your needs. This will allow you to work a lot smarter with your cash and avoid a financial hangover in January,” she explains.

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NAVIGATING ‘BLACK TAX’

For many of us, ‘black tax’ is still a huge factor as we travel back home to spend time with our extended family members. Once we are there, we’re met with varying expectations — from that uncle who wants an expensive bottle of whisky because he claims he taught you everything you know, to the nieces and nephews who expect a reward for their outstanding performance at school this past year. So, what do we do?

“Exercise the art of saying ‘no’ to any unplanned family and friend contributions, as it’s better to be known as a penny- pincher than a high-roller on debt,” Mwandiambira continues.

Being subject to paying ‘black tax’ when you visit home is a tough position to be in, Ochse acknowledges. She advises that you look at how much you can afford comfortably, without affecting your financial position. “Once you’ve looked at this, have an open discussion with your family to make them aware of what you can and cannot afford,” she says. This could be a tough discussion to have, but Ochse stresses that it’s important to address it, as opposed to getting yourself into unnecessary debt.

FESTIVE FREEDOM VS FINANCIAL SAFETY

“The holidays are a time to recharge, reflect and reset for the new year. All these will help you focus on you, the individual, during this time,” Mwandiambira explains. If you’re unsure about striking a balance between being overly cautious and being caught up in the spirit of the season, then ask yourself if your spending is for you or others, and whether your shopping sprees will hurt your financial standing as you approach 2019, he suggests.

And, go back to basics, Ochse advises. “Prioritise financial basics like your children’s school fees, groceries, investment and emergency funds,” she says.