For many South Africans, the December holidays are just around the corner. Irrespective of where you are going and what you will be doing, it is only natural to want to indulge more than usual. No matter how you choose to enjoy your holiday, whatever, you do don’t overspend. Rather try and stretch your holiday budget as much as possible by planning with these tips.

1: Utilise all the free stuff

There is a good reason why many songs have the lyrics “the best things in life are free” in them. It is because it is true. And this is especially true while on holiday. Wherever you are going this holiday, make a list of free activities the whole family can enjoy together, i.e. trips to the beach, walks in the park, playing board games, hiking, beach walks etc. It is a great way to stretch your budget and encourage quality family time in the process. Remember to use all your other freebies too, like rewards and coupons etc.

2: Spend less on gifts

Naturally, one of the highlights of the December holidays is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when kids and adults alike partake in the joy of unwrapping presents. Gifts can be very expensive, and if at all possible try and stretch your holiday budget by spending less on gifts. Shop for sales or try and shop around to find a specific item for cheaper. If you normally buy several gifts for the kids, limit yourself to one expensive gift and a few inexpensive ones.

3: Pack snacks & drinks where possible

Snacking is most definitely a holiday favourite for most people. It is the time of the year to stop counting calories and indulge whenever whatever. But those daily trips to the café or vendor to calm your family’s cravings for chips, cold drinks, ice creams etc. add up very quickly – so save where you can. Pack the basics like chips, cookies, fruits, biltong and other nibbles as well as waters, cold drinks etc. Some days you can even pack delicious sarmies or hot dogs for lunch.

It might not be feasible to pack your own treats every day or for every occasion but when you can, do it – you’ll stretch your budget substantially.

4: Make your own décor

If turning your living room into a festive haven is q tradition in your house, try and stretch your budget by recycling old décor and making new ones. Making the decorations could also keep the kids entertained for an evening or that rainy day. You can use old magazines or left over wrapping paper, even newspaper can be used creatively and painted afterwards. Search the internet and Pinterest for ideas.

5: Buy food & drink in bulk

Stretch your budget by making a trip to a bulk retailer to take advantage of bulk shopping on things like cold drinks, chips, sweets, alcoholic beverages, meat and seafood. Not only will you save money doing it this way but you will also need to make fewer trips to the store while on holiday.

6: Cook at home often

Another holiday favourite is eating out. However, one simple restaurant meal for the family can make a huge dent in your daily holiday budget. Try and limit dining out to once or twice a week and cook/braai at home as often as possible. Eating home cooked meals or having a braai need not be boring at all. You can still eat exotic things like seafood, but by preparing it yourself, you will stretch your budget.

7: Collect coupons

Sales aren’t the only way to get great deals on the gifts you want for your friends or family. Before you shop online, perform a quick web search for coupon codes for your favourite online stores. Before you shop in local stores, comb through the coupons you received in your mailbox or in the newspaper before hitting the mall. While you search through the flyers, make sure to comparison shop for the item you’re interested in.

8: Organize Group Volunteering Instead of Holiday Parties

Your friends probably struggle with overspending as much as you do over the holidays. Give them the relief of forgoing buying gifts for you by organizing a group volunteer day instead. You’ll get to spend quality time together – plus, you’ll come out of the day feeling proud of your efforts rather than suffering from buyer’s remorse, and anyone can benefit from volunteering. Remember to take along a digital camera, and as you email pictures to each other, you can enjoy the day’s memories again for free.

9: Set Limits for Total Holiday Spending

Give your credit card and your mind a holiday by limiting what you buy to what can safely come out of your bank account. Use this opportunity to create or get your budget into fighting shape, and use it to decide how much money you can afford to spend.

The money you can reasonably spend on gifts is money that isn’t going to bills. That said, if you want to have a little more to spend, this doesn’t have to be just the money left over at the end of the month – you can also use the money that you would normally spend elsewhere, such as on your morning latte.

As long as you are using cash (not cash advances from credit cards) without spending your rent money, you are doing great. Just remember to be realistic about what you are willing to sacrifice. You may spend your monthly clothing budget on holiday gifts and then crave a new pair of boots to go to a holiday party. You need to set a budget and limits that you will stick to – without caving in and continue adding to your credit.

10: Use rewards points

Depending on the rewards program, prices of some items may be reduced during the holidays. You can use rewards points from debit and credit cards, as well as from loyalty programs, such as frequent flier and frequent traveller incentives.

Enjoy your time off

After a year of working hard, you and your family deserve a memorable break. Keep to your budget and stretch it where possible. If your finances and debt are currently too much of a mess, it is making it impossible for you to budget, contact Debt Rescue. We are here for you!

Manage your debt effectively

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your current financial situation, feel free to contact us. To Speak to one our consultants about debt review contact us here.