Not to put a damper on the festive season, but the New Year always leaves us with a financial hangover many people struggle to recover from. If you don’t look after your money, it can be hard to manage your mental health and vice versa. Dietitian Retha Harmse and financial advisor Donnovan Appelsammy have tips to help you beat those JanuWorry blues.
Kelebogile Shupinyaneng from Bloemfontein admits that she goes overboard with her spending in December. That is why she believes it’s important to save money early in the year.
“The children are home so I spend extra on food. Even if I leave them at my parent’s place I help a little. I am in sales and January is generally tough for any business. My advice would be that if you’re like me and have already overspent, brace yourself for a long tough month and don’t take loans. They’ll just make the rest of the year worse.”
Hazel Mofolo from Northriding in Johannesburg, agrees. She saves and budgets more during December than any other month.
“I usually overspend on food. We braai and buy takeaways quite a bit. The groceries that I buy during the festive season are almost the same, but just more cause we buy in bulk for back home [with the family]. We try to buy enough to avoid frequent trips to the stores.”
Preparing for worries
“For January I allocate and make payments in advance for whatever is important. I pay attention on what I spend on and ensure all important expenses have been settled,” says Mofolo.
Meanwhile, Orapeleng Seate from Bloemfontein adds that saving, in general, is most important no matter the month of the year. “My fear for the New Year is that government will hike interest [rates] in one way or the other, in turn worsening the already grim reality we are living in.”
Kagiso Mafatshe, also from Northriding in Jozi, is glad the silly season is over. He doesn’t get why people typically overspend in December because, to him at least, it’s just another month and no excuse for splurging.
How to stretch healthy food
Registered dietitian Retha Harmse, who serves on the Association for Dietetics South Africa’s executive committee, shares these tips for healthy eating on a tight budget:
Don’t cut back on vegetables and fruit
- Remember that fresh produce is VAT free!
- Focus on eating fresh vegetables and fruits that are in season.
- Choose whole vegetable and fruit options as sliced, prepared and pre-packaged packs come at higher prices.
- Form a grocery group with friends, family and neighbours so that you can buy vegetables and fruits in bulk and share among your households.
- Look for specials on frozen vegetables and stock up if you have freezer space.
- Grow your own greens at home or in your neighbourhood.
Get wise about grains and cereals
- Focus on fibre-rich whole-grain options such as wholewheat bread and brown rice. They keep you fuller for longer and provide essential nutrients.
- Be aware that ready-to-eat cereals can cost more than double the price of oats or maize meal. Maize has the added benefit of being fortified with essential nutrients and oats is an excellent source of fibre and will keep you fuller for longer.
- Dry goods can be stored for long periods, so buy in bulk and look out for special deals.
- Try to include a variety of grains in your diet, such as millet and pearled barley, pearled wheat and sorghum.
Expand your sources of proteins
- The protein component of a meal is likely to be the most expensive food item, so cutting back on red meat, chicken and fresh fish intake is often the easiest way to reduce your food costs. While protein-rich foods are important in a healthy diet, there are sources other than meat, such as eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
- Have at least one meat-free day during the week and eat plant-based protein such as soya, beans and lentils instead, along with wholegrain starch.
- Nutritious beans or lentils can also be added to meat dishes such as mincemeat, curries, soups and stews to make the meat go much further while adding to the nutritional value of your meal.
- Consider tinned fish such as tuna, pilchards or sardines if fresh fish is not available or affordable.
- Milk sold in plastic sachets is often cheaper than milk in bottles or cartons.
- Buy the large tub of yoghurt as this is cheaper than buying packs of smaller portions.
Use fats sparingly
- This is an important guideline for healthy eating and the soaring prices of cooking oils are a good motivation to put it into practice.
- Look for ways to reduce frying foods by steaming, boiling, microwaving and grilling instead.
- Use small amounts of canola oil when cooking, which has a similar composition of healthy unsaturated fats compared to more expensive options like olive, nut or avocado oils.
Planning is key
Meanwhile to get financially ready for the rest of 2023 you need to stay ready, advises Appalsamy, a financial advisor from Midrand, Gauteng.
“It’s not always possible or practical. Planning starts well before December to ensure that there are sufficient funds to cover the unexpected expenses and to provide for out-of-ordinary expenses in January.”
You also don’t really need to be spending all of that money in December.
“The reasons are wanting to treat their immediate or extended family to a good celebration. I would also say that it may even be social pressure to celebrate the festive season according to a certain level or standard.”
It’s important to prepare your budget for January and the months ahead.
“Most people receive a bonus or 13th cheque and should apportion the budget for January’s out-of-ordinary expenses such as school supplies, then apportion the budget for Christmas gifts and food, and lastly, apportion the budget for New Years’ celebrations. This money must be set aside in a separate bank account so that it cannot be unintentionally spent,” he says.
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