While we are all happy for this needed down time, consumers need to get better at planning ahead for this season of spending, indulging and festivities.

‘Christmas comes once a year’ is a saying that we are all too familiar with to justify bad money-spending habits. However, like any other recurring special day, we can always see the festive season  coming from miles away and yet preparation is left to the last minute, leaving one stressed and franticly  trying to make the holiday a memorable one.

The cost of accommodation, transport and entertainment accumulates while on holiday, and these expenses can easily spoil your time if you have not budgeted adequately.

Here are some practical tips to help you keep financially fit over the festive season.

Decide how much you can afford to spend

  • Before making any holiday bookings, prepare a budget and decide what you can afford to spend. There’s no point in booking a 5-star luxury getaway on your credit card, if you’re unsure how you’ll pay for it when you return.
  • To prepare a budget, subtract all your regular monthly bills and take into account any additional financial commitments that may be on the horizon, for example January school fees. This will guide you on how much you can afford to spend whilst on holiday. It’s also not advisable to use all your savings on a holiday, as you’ll only find things more stressful in January when you don’t have a buffer for unexpected bills.

Write down your budget

  • You're more likely to stick to your budget if it’s on paper. Write it down and make it fairly detailed, breaking it into how much you can afford to spend per day of your holiday. Share this information with your family in advance so that your children also understand the financial position.  
  • Don't forget to include the extras when you create your budget.
  • Costs for servicing your car before you leave, or additional day trips while at your holiday destination can all add up, build this into your budget.

Manage your accounts prudently

The last thing you want to come home to after a relaxing holiday is a pile of bills, so pay all your bills during the festive season.  By skipping monthly payments, you run the risk of negatively affecting your credit rating.

Bank safely

  • Avoid carrying too much cash over the holiday season because it can easily be lost or stolen.  If you are going to pay large sums of money, for example, for accommodation, it is safer to pay for it electronically, using the Internet, or by debit or credit card. In this way you also avoid long queues in branches when you could be enjoying yourself on holiday or having to deal with the frustrations of being limited by the amount of money you can withdraw from ATMs.
  • Bank safely this festive season by staying alert when handling money, especially while using ATMs. Never allow yourself to be distracted by strangers, as criminals are also active over the holiday period.  Only use ATMs that are in well-lit, secure areas and avoid using ATMs where people are loitering, as they may be fraudsters. 

Holidays offer you  time to relax and have a good time, so take all necessary precautions to ensure everything goes as planned and that your finances emerge from the holiday season as fit and as healthy as you do.

It always pays to write a list, set spending limits - and then stick to them. Whether you start with a large or small savings amount, you will find that starting to save early is well worth doing to avoid suffering a financial hangover in January.