The holiday season is a time for rest, however, it often brings about increased financial pressures related to gifts, travel, and social gatherings. And once the festivities are over in January, you are left with the stress and anxiety of unpaid bills.
Financial stress in January is a common concern for many individuals, leaving many wondering if the holiday fun was worth the financial burden.
Beware of the overspending trap
Kim Croote, who is a counsellor and life coach from Richards Bay, says overspending during December can result in a snowball effect of loans and debts that can be hard to escape from.
“The stress of not being able to pay what is needed is aggravated by the guilt of bad decisions and choices that were made,” she says.
According to her, financial stress after the festive season is caused by impulsive live-in-the-moment spending, causing a shortfall later or digging into emergency funds, and being faced with unexpected expenses in January.
Thabani Nkosi from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal says it is easy to overspend and forget upcoming January expenses during the holiday season because of the amount of time spent at home.
‘Be realistic about your budget’
“I experienced a lot of financial stress in January because I used to spend more money without using the budget. I’ve now cut my spending by avoiding drinking, and I advise others to also set a holiday spending limit and be realistic about their budget,” he says.
Precious Mhlongo from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga believes that the outings and trips enjoyed during the festive seasons are the ones that cause financial stress in January due to overspending a lot on unnecessary things.
“People tend to spend a lot on unnecessary things and forget about the next month of January. I’ve learned to always plan to avoid stress; hence, I’ve already bought most of my daughters’ stationery and uniforms,” she says.
“The back-to-school season in January that we forget about is the hardest because that’s where we need lots of money, like buying school uniforms, paying school fees and lunch boxes, and school transport.
Don’t avoid your problems
Croote highlights that no matter how well we plan, we are humans and do make those impulsive buys or get pressured into spending more than we can afford.
“When the fun is over, bills arrive, and the stress gets real, don’t spend too much energy beating yourself up; it’s done, and you need to put your energy into the solution. Look at where you can cut corners for a while and sell some unused items you no longer use. Avoidance will only increase your stress.”
She further mentions that stress is a huge factor contributing to many health problems; it also affects the mind and sits in the subconscious, where it will create negative emotions. Not to mention that a lot of the overspending involves food, unhealthy sugars, and such, which we know has its health issues.
Thus, to avoid stress after the festive season, she advises on what to do now and how to avoid overspending during the festive season.
- Planning, discipline, and being aware of the “happy” triggers. Plan your holiday budget; don’t take from your nest egg or borrow money to make it special.
- Don’t try to follow what others are doing; work with your budget, not theirs.
- Think three times before you spend on something that wasn’t in the plan and look at what you can cut back on or where to make that purchase possible, then decide if it’s worth it.
- Watch the spending on gifts, talk to the extended family, and make a pact that you will cut down on gift costs or only get for the children or those you see on Christmas day. Come up with something that works for your family; they will probably be grateful you brought it up. Everyone is struggling.
- Ask visitors to bring a dish of food and their drinks; fully catering for get-togethers is no longer a viable option, and do the same when you visit. If you drop kids off at a playdate, send snacks and juice with them.
- Treat December as any other month; don’t allow the Christmas spirit to make you feel like you need to travel or go on expensive outings to splurge and spoil everyone and yourself. It should be a time of rest and for family and friends to spend time together. The expensive “frills” are not necessary; don’t lose focus because the media and shops are pushing you to buy stuff you wouldn’t buy in March.
- And if possible, buy what groceries you can for January before the December holidays start and lock them away. Same for any school supplies, stationery, shoes, etc.
Live your own life
Most importantly, Croote emphasises that it’s your life and your budget; you don’t need to do what others are doing or make excuses. “If you can’t afford it, that’s okay, and you will be fine without it and avoid the financial stress in January. So live your own life on your budget. It’s a beautiful life and uniquely yours.”
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