The silly season comes with a history of excitement and expectation and these festivities are renowned for the toll they take on many consumers’ bank balances. The result is that these consumers may have to tap into their savings accounts in order to survive the months thereafter.

But why is it so difficult to manage expenses during the month of December?

Generally, December is the season that most people take a break from work. Irrespective of whether they are going away or staying at home to relax and unwind, extra cash is usually required. We see family and friends, accompanied by long relaxing dinners and soothing drinks. Gifts are placed under the Christmas tree and we seem to spend much more time doing those fun activates we never got around to during the year.

“The festive season is important to many people. It’s not a time where people worry about what they spend, instead, it is a period where we let our hair down and enjoy the end of another year. The issue however always comes in January where many find they have overspent and the next few months are spent trying to pay off expensive debt,” says Aneesa Razack, Head of Strategic Growth at FNB Investment Products.  “The trick is balance,” continues Razack, “we need to learn how to have fun with the money we actually have available to spend.”

Being aware of the main reasons for an increase in spending will help you make better spending decisions:

Getting into the spirit
Many have an emotional connection to this season. Memories of Christmas’ past bring with it happiness and excitement. When going into stores, we aren’t just confronted with choices; we see gifts and happiness on the recipients faces. Make sure that you don’t overspend when buying gifts. Allocate an amount you can afford per gift and stick to it.

Alluring Christmas lights
From as early as October, retail stores have displayed their extravagant Christmas decorations, while promoting their Christmas specials. Walking around, you’re exposed to all the bells and whistles at discounted prices, how can you resist? Don’t end up buying more things than you actually planned for. You need to distinguish between what you want and what you really need.

Buying to impress
Many people focus more on how people will react to their gifts than the actual meaning. There is always the fear that your gift will be opened with “that’s nice” while your sister gets an “oh wow! I’ve always wanted this”. Keep it meaningful, it’s not the amount you spend but the thought that counts.

Trying to be everything to everyone
The festive season is the time of year where family and friends get together. Watch out that you don’t end up playing hostess all season without setting some parameters. The end of the season will come and while you have fed and watered your family, you end with only some great memories, crazy photos and a bank account in the red. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to contribute towards expenses, it’s easy to bring along an occasional salad or drinks, which will ease your financial responsibilities.

So, when push comes to shove, how can spending truly be curtailed?
In an attempt to curtail your spending, make sure you draw up a realistic budget, particularly for the festive season. Include all your expenses and allocate a portion of your salary and bonus to savings. Once you know what you are capable of spending, stick to it. All too often, we draw up a budget but end up spending what we want. Rather spend according to your plan and at the end of the day you get to steer clear of the debt trap.

Remember that the festive season is not just about the gifts, it’s firstly about spending time with friends and family. “A small change in mind can leave your savings balance untouched,” concludes Razack.