Stretch that annual bonus

Stretch that annual bonus

 Don’t let poor planning turn you into the grinch this Christmas!

It’s December – and it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday vibes and the festive spirit! Unfortunately, all this
celebration can lead to reckless spending too. Be clever with your money this festive season and don’t get yourself into debt.

‘The festive season can place a terrible strain on your finances,’ says Graham Craggs from Budget

‘There are gifts to buy, and holidays and outings to pay for. But if you’re clever with your money, you can stay debt free over the festive season and possibly even save some cash.’ As tempting as the shelves look, before you spend your hard-earned bonus, you should budget mentally and review your current financial position.

This includes looking at how much money you have coming in, how much will be going out towards normal monthly expenses, and tallying up outstanding debts. From there, you’ll be able to allocate your income and any other
money you might have coming in, such as a bonus.

‘The most responsible and financially savvy thing to do with your bonus or any extra money you have is to pay off
outstanding debts, starting with those with the highest interest burden,’ says Craig. ‘Once you’ve covered your debt, allocated funds for your normal monthly expenses, and put away what you plan to save for the month, you’ll be
left with a sum that can safely be used for Christmas or your annual break,’ he adds.

It’s not worth the stress

’There’s nothing worse than seeing your credit card statement after a holiday or Christmas shopping spree, and feeling like it’ll take you the whole year to recover,’ says Claire van Wyk, a financial adviser at Discovery.

Claire agrees that forward planning is the best way to go, and has tips for holiday budgeting:

  • By saving regularly, you’ll have your holiday and Christmas fund sorted before the season arrives.
  • Don’t count on a bonus. Sometimes we’re let down and it’s smaller than expected or doesn’t actually happen.
  • Consider your options: set a budget for food and gifts – and stick to it.
  • Go window shopping before you take your credit card with you.
  • Shop online ahead of time. Often you can take advantage of extra discounts that’ll help your money go further.
  • If the whole family is getting together, arrange to buy gifts for the children only and do a ‘secret Santa’ for the adults, where each person draws a name and buys one gift up to a specific value.

Be creative and give memories

A good idea for festive budgeting and spending is to curb your impulse to demonstrate your love with extravagance – brainstorm less expensive, thoughtful and creative ways to give to each other. Homemade items are back in fashion!


Another great tradition to start in your family is the gift of giving back. Book time for your family to help out at an old age home or an animal shelter, for example – the lessons learnt are invaluable gifts. Pinterest is a great source of ideas for inexpensive ways to wrap gifts.

Keep an eye on your credit rating

Keep a close eye on your credit report to monitor your borrowing and spending habits. By registering with, consumers with valid South African ID numbers can stay up to date with their financial standing. Practise the art of mindful spending. Acknowledging your debt head-on and not postponing payment will reduce anxiety and allow you to build wealth instead of merely surviving. You’ll save yourself a credit card hangover in 2017!

Bank safely

Another point to remember is that carrying too much cash over the holiday season can be risky. Matthew Hunter,
head of savings and investments at ABSA, advises you to pay large sums of money electronically.

‘This way you’ll also avoid long queues in banks 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,’ he says.

Staying alert when handling money can save you a great deal these holidays, especially when using ATMs.


Keeping it real

Lauren Wepener, consumer care manager at Compuscan, says recovering from a splurge on top of existing debt is highly unlikely. Something as simple as planning your shopping time can help with your budgeting for the festive season. ‘Getting caught up in the madmall-maul can result in impulse purchases as you may be tempted to ignore your planned shopping to escape the frenzy,’ she says.

‘Always carry a shopping list in your handbag and you’ll actually have fun instead of feeling frazzled!’

Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


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