The high spending season of December has come and gone, leaving many South African consumers in debt or struggling to make household finances last until the first paychecks of 2019 at the end of January.

Here are six top tips from Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay Insurance Head of Marketing & Brand, to help consumers lessen the “Janu-worry” blues.

1.    Pay back the money

“As we enter what has been rightly dubbed the ‘silly season’, it is more important than ever before to exercise caution and to avoid the threat of debt,” says Moloi.

Her advice? Don’t put that bonus straight into ticking off items on your bucket list. Use it to pay off debt, and remember that this will free you up to spend your money as you please later on.

2.    Don’t blow your budget – rework it

Accept that December is likely to be a costlier month than any of its predecessors. But rather than simply blowing the budget, consider reworking it instead to incorporate attainable financial goals, Moloi advises.

“That way, you will not simply discard your budget and write it off as ‘December damage’, but rather work towards a slightly amended goal that incorporates some festive frivolity.”

3.    Even when you spend, find ways to save

If you are going on holiday, your expenses add up – fast. This is especially true if you don’t have easy access to supermarkets or if you’re falling victim to ‘tourist trap’ prices.

Try planning ahead, Moloi advises. For example, buy non-perishables in advance, and allow yourself a fixed budget to spend. Draw this in cash, and stick to it.

4.    Only buy what you can afford

Shop windows may hold temptations, Moloi says, and using your card may feel like you’re not spending. But swiping now and dealing with the consequences later is no solution – specially since those consequences will usually come with a “heap of interest” attached.

“Before buying anything this holiday season, ask yourself whether you can really afford it and make your purchase decisions based solely on your answer,” she says.

5.    Make the thought count

Rather than packing those gift stockings to the brim, opt for the simpler and more financially savvy ‘Secret Santa’ option, suggests Moloi, where everyone simply buys one gift for a designated family member. That way, everybody gets something and nobody needs to be out of pocket.

6.    Consolidate expenses

Use December to look ahead and apply any changes you experienced over the past 12 months to your 2019 budget, advises Moloi. Maybe you got married, bought a home or started a new job – all of which can affect your finances, including your credit profile, expenses and insurance premiums. Re-evaluate, and check with your broker before completing your final budget.

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