By: Zipho Mhlongo
The end of the year and summer holidays are a celebratory time filled with the temptation to spend money. From Black Friday specials to festive-themed marketing, there are pressures from all sides to overextend your budget that can be difficult to resist.
Although the festive season is a joyous period when people wish to have fun and relax, it can also be anxiety-provoking and lead to financial hardship if we give in to the urge to spend.
Remember that life continues beyond the festive season, with the usual expenses, and ideally, we should plan for it to continue comfortably rather than set the scene for the new year with “Janu-worry”.
Black Friday is a fairly new phenomenon to us in South Africa, and although the idea of “discounts” and “savings” are promoted to create hype and attract customers’ attention, don’t forget that Black Friday is a marketing gimmick used by businesses to maximise profit.
If you had intentions to get a new fridge, for example, then it makes sense to take advantage of Black Friday specials. However, if you had no intention of spending money otherwise, be aware that Black Friday fever creates a “fear of missing out” on specials that can lead to impulsive and reckless spending.
Some people struggle to contain the desire to buy luxuries they cannot afford or spend a lot of money on unnecessary trinkets before meeting their monthly obligations. If you feel compelled to spend too much and have tried to curtail your shopping but find you cannot do it alone, it may be time to consider seeking professional help.
An important starting point is understanding the difference between the things you want and the things you need. It is not wise to purchase a luxury vehicle when you cannot afford rent. It is not wise to buy expensive clothing brands when you cannot afford school fees. It is important to assess your budget objectively.
As exciting as the festive period may be, it can also be easy for parents to spend beyond their means by wanting to provide the best for their children. The impulsivity associated with the holiday period and parents wanting to reward children for their hard work during the school year can threaten the family’s ability to cope financially when the new year starts.
Have age-appropriate discussions to teach children about being careful with money and cultivate sentiment rather than materialism in children from a young age. Protect your children by developing strong boundaries of financial prudence and lead by example so they don’t fall prey to spending beyond their means in the future.
If you teach your children to value sentimental gifts and gestures rather than material things, you are inculcating richer and more solid values that will serve them well in life. Children should be raised to realise that happiness and fulfilment does not necessarily come through acquiring possessions.
Life’s greatest meaningful moments of pleasure shouldn’t cost a lot of money, and appreciation of the experience of spending time together is what should matter most. Find creative, personal ways to treat each other – a picnic of fruit or sandwiches where you can spend time together having fun and enjoying the beauty of nature can be more memorable than an expensive gift.
When buying gifts or booking a holiday, plan and keep an eye out for specials. Prices are often hiked in the festive season because businesses know people are in the mood to spend money. It is wise to plan months and make necessary payments before prices are hiked so that you don’t need to absorb these costs at year-end when there are often other expenses.
It is also sensible to tell children or other family members you will be spending the festive season with about your efforts to save and plan so that they are involved and their expectations are shared. This makes it easier to navigate this period with minimal tension.
Often, criminal scams increase at this time of year. Whether con artists approach us in real life or through text messages, phone calls, social media, emails, or the internet, we must always be on guard.
Tragically, seniors are more likely to be victims of cybercrime due to limited knowledge of technology, which leaves them more vulnerable to manipulation. Please help inform the older people in your life, as they need to be taught not to click on any links or give out crucial details like PIN codes and confidential information in phone calls.
The festive season can be even more meaningful without the need to get yourself into debt. Communicating with family and loved ones about financial prudence is not always easy, but it can help prevent further stress and anxiety in the long run.
* Zipho Mhlongo is a psychologist at Netcare Akeso Nelspruit.