Tips to help you save money these holidays

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* Make a list – and stick to it! Sit down and make a budget plan for what you need to spend over the holidays. Take into account normal expenses and special holiday expenses such as bonuses for your staff, vehicle expenses if travelling, etc. If you suddenly think of something that you’d like to buy, add it to the list/budget and decide after you’ve thought about it for a while. Keep track of what you’re spending and make changes to the budget.

* Use your bonus wisely: If you are lucky to receive a bonus/thirteenth cheque at the end of the year, consider using it to lighten the load of normal expenses throughout the year instead of spoiling yourself and your family over a few weeks. Many monthly subscription services offer discounts if you pay a year’s worth in full, so speak to your service providers.

Think about paying credit into your much-used and essential accounts, such as the vet or doctor or dentist or cellphone account.

It is always a good idea to settle your debt early, as you may even get a settlement discount. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you are debt-free that you can get more – aim to be debt-free permanently.

* Put your holiday plans on a diet: Could you consider deferring your holiday to a time of the year when the rates are cheaper? Could you travel to somewhere closer instead? What about choosing self-catering over B&B? A cheaper holiday does not have to be a less enjoyable one. So consider also that the less you do, the more rest you get – and the less you spend.

* Make use of holiday offers: Some lending institutions offer discounts if settling debts early, or special rates offers if subscribing during the season. Take advantage of these offers if the products apply to you.

Many stores also offer specials and sales at this time of year. If you have shopping plans, try to work them around special offers. Defer purchases such as clothing to as late as possible, and you could catch some post-season sales. Or look around for early specials as well, such as meat that can be frozen until it’s needed.

* Get creative with gifts: Some homemade gifts are appreciated far more than store-bought presents. Focus on your talents and consider making tubs of biscuits, or potted plants, or whatever you are capable of making – the extra effort will be appreciated and you will save some money.

* Be charitable: It you are charitably-inclined, consider turning some gifts into donations. Speak to your family and friends about the idea of supporting a worthy cause instead of giving big gifts. This could become a heartening and special project for friends and family, and should mean so much more than another bottle of bubble bath or plastic toy. (Most donations should allow you positive tax implications as well – ask your tax advisor.)

* Shop once a week: Many purchases are impulse buys, due to the fact that you happen to be in the shop in the first place. Plan what you need for a few days in advance and buy that. Make meal plans that stretch your groceries further, and keep items in your cupboard that can be used in a pinch instead of rushing off to the shops.

Do your Christmas shopping all together if possible, and stick to an exact list of who to buy for and how much to spend. Try to avoid impulse buys, once again – plan what to get for each person and consider if it can be bought cheaper over the internet, for example.

* Do favours for your friends’ and family members’ budgets: Make the gifts that you buy useful and practical for the recipients as well, for example if you know your sister is going to need her hair done soon, give her an extra special hair salon voucher. If your children have schooling needs, buy extra nice schoolbags, or book covers, or sports equipment.

* Get your kicks for free: Focus on what’s important and what gives you joy – many of these things should be free! Time well spent with loved ones, smiles and good memories don’t cost a cent.

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