Keeping the festive bright when money’s tight

At the end of a tough year, we’re all looking forward to spending a relaxing festive season with friends and family. But during this time, it’s too easy to splash out on extravagant festivities, parties and Christmas gifts, which can lead to overspending and an unhealthy bank balance, come January.

Remember, tough times aren’t over yet, so it’s wiser to keep your spending reasonable over the festive season. Buying gifts or experiences for your loved ones that you can’t really afford can only hurt your finances and prolong any money problems you may have.

We’ve explored 5 creative ways to keep the festive bright without overspending, and still make everyone happy. Here they are:

1. Start with a budget

If you’ve been saving for the festive season in one of your MyPockets, now is the time to tap into those savings. Decide how much is the absolute maximum you can afford. Make a list based on what you usually spend money on during the festive season and draw up a budget of all your planned expenses: for example, a family holiday, presents, festive lunch or donations to the less fortunate.

Set that money aside and choose gifts or plan events strictly according to what’s in your budget. That’s the difficult part. Although it’s a season of giving, it may be wise to share expenses. Don’t always be the one hosting friends and family at your house. Share the load. Change locations. Curb the desire to impress.

2. Get creative about gifting

Buying gifts can cause a lot of stress when money is tight, which makes it even more important to stick to your budget. Arrange a price-cap on gifts with your family so that nobody has an excuse for overspending. Be open with them about the need to curb spending. Little children may want the latest trending toys, but versatile and engaging educational toys can excite young minds without costing a fortune. Search out affordable gifts that promote imaginative play, motor-skills development, cultural awareness and language expansion.

You might agree as a family that no gift should cost more than R100 (or whatever amount is affordable to everyone). That way, people will be more focused on being creative with what they buy for each other. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

The trick is to make sure these gifts are beautifully presented, no matter how inexpensive the item may be

Also consider homemade gifts – they can be as much fun to make as they are to give. Biscuits, cookies and baked goods, jams, chutneys and smoked meats, handmade clothes and accessories, pottery, woodwork and all sorts of arts and crafts – depending on the creative talents of your loved ones, there are unlimited ideas for homemade gifts to share. What makes them special is that they’re unique, each one tailored with love to suit the receiver.

And don’t forget regifting – yes, it’s not a very caring gesture when you just ‘need to give someone something’. To regift sincerely, you need to know the tastes of your loved ones, and how they differ from what you like. That bath set you got for your birthday that would be stunning, except you don’t like lavender … but your aunt does. Even tools, gadgets, clothes, accessories, sweets and chocolates, drinks hampers, personal pampering products all have regifting possibilities.

The trick is to make sure these gifts are beautifully presented, no matter how inexpensive the item may be. The love and care you put into making your gift a delightful surprise to unwrap is what makes it memorable. Don’t splash out on shiny, decorated wrapping paper for this many gifts. With a roll of simple brown paper, some cheap glue, glitter, ribbon and festive stickers, combined with some creativity, you can make each gift exciting, attractive and unique.

3. Use your reward points and Avo to pay less

This is also an ideal time to use any points you’ve accumulated via the Greenbacks programme or Avo, to cut down on your festive spending. You can even convert your Greenbacks into Avo Points, saving even more when you shop on the Avo super app.

If you’re hosting a family gathering, remember to take sensible Covid-19 precautions

Avo By Nedbank has all the gift ideas you need, with products ranging from technology, gadgets, toys and gaming, to home appliances, groceries, vouchers and more. The massive range of products available is one good reason to shop on Avo; another is the great deals on top brands and the wide range of specials. Combined with those handy Avo Points, selective shopping on Avo will help you stay within your budget.

4. Keep it local

Even though we enjoy our festive season in the middle of summer, for many the ‘traditional’ Christmas is still set in a European winter wonderland – Santa Claus in heavy furs, surrounded by fake snow, plastic reindeer and those glittering lights, using too much expensive electricity. All the traditional trappings can be quite an expense for products you’ll only use for a few weeks once a year.

Why not buck the tradition, and start creating your own South African decorating traditions? You can still have a tree, decorated with ornaments and sparkly lights, but pick a local variety and get creative with the decorations you buy or make. What about Santa in a wire-frame car, pulled by beaded African animals made by local crafters? It will certainly be a conversation starter! Green boughs from local evergreens and flowers like poinsettias and hydrangeas from your own garden can all be combined in centrepieces and wall hangings to create a festive atmosphere.

5. Rethink the Christmas lunch

If you’re hosting a family gathering, remember to take sensible Covid-19 precautions. It might be wiser to celebrate in smaller family groups to allow enough space for social distancing, rather than gathering relatives from far and wide into one big group. Wear masks if you’re taking public transport to a festive lunch, and encourage everyone to continue with regular hand-washing with soap or sanitizer.

For most people, a table packed with a variety of luxurious and aromatic dishes signifies a merry Christmas lunch. But too many fancy dishes could bore a hole in your pocket, so keep it simple. Given our climate, braaied chops, boerewors and salads, or simple roast chicken, followed by light, summery desserts, would make more sense than stuffed turkey or gammon and Christmas pudding.

The gathering around the table to share a meal after a long hard year is a blessing enough. Leftovers can go in the fridge to be snacked on in the lazy days following Christmas.

There are many ways to have a bright Christmas, even when finances are tight. It’s all about planning well and being sensible with the limited resources you have.