The first month of the new year will be long for many South Africans. Not only will January bring on a money hangover from December, it will also be almost five weeks long because it begins on a Tuesday. After the free-spending festive season, many people will find they have ‘month left over at the end of their money’, especially if their December salary was paid in earlier than usual.
Lizl Budhram, Head of Advice at Old Mutual Personal Finance, says there’s hope for those who take action in December to avoid the money stress of January.
“Many South Africans experience the stress that comes with the new year after having made poor financial decisions in the festive season. However, too few of us understand that avoiding this pain comes down to making smart money choices in December, and consistently throughout the year,” says Budhram.
“Remember your relationship with money also affects those around you, in either a good or a bad way. If your money is a source of stress, you may pass that stress on to your loved ones, which is not the ideal way to kick off a new year.”
So if things get tense when it’s time to open your bank statements, it could mean that you’ve fallen into a bad relationship with your money.
“There’s even an illness, Money Sickness Syndrome (MSS), caused by financial worries. It displays all the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can be as debilitating. To prevent it, you need to make responsible decisions and avoid accumulating debt.”
That’s worth remembering during the festive season.
Budhram offers the following 10 tips to help you avoid Januworry.
- Treat savings as an expense. Put some money away before you spend or reserve a portion of your bonus or 13th cheque for January’s expenses.
- Use festive specials to tackle a part of the school stationery list.
- Avoid taking on new debt and avoid using your overdraft or credit cards.
- Now is a good time to check up and use your loyalty points. Programmes like Old Mutual Rewards offer rewards for financially responsible behaviour.
- Pare down or cut out traditions that no longer work for you and your family. When it comes to gifts, consider doing Secret Santa with an agreed rand limit.
- Resist marketing that offers you payment ‘holidays’.
- Consider waiting for the post-Christmas sales to buy things like clothes, appliances and furniture.
- Recognise poor money behaviours that result in your spending more money, such as browsing online shopping sites or checking tempting notifications from your favourite shopping apps.
- Use a free app like 22seven to track your spending and keep your budget in check.
- Keep your holiday expectations realistic. Use the time to connect with those you care about.