The end of the year is so close you can almost taste it – braais at the pool, cocktails at sunset, sweeping seascapes, presents and everything else that December brings. Not to be a downer, but December also brings spending sprees, leaving a tough, lean January in its wake.

It’s not really the time of the year when we want to think about budgeting – in fact most South Africans aren’t very good about budgeting at all – but getting through the holiday months does take a little planning, if you don’t want to be broke at the end of it.

Now would be a good time to temporarily cut back on life’s little luxuries – stop and think before you stop to buy your morning cappuccino or take a rain check on that monthly mani. The money you save now – even R20 here and R100 there, really adds up at the end of the month – money that you can put into your last-minute holiday fund.

You could even start a savings jar at home – yes, it seems rather old fashioned but again, anything you put into the jar could translate into a big night out or a something new to take away with you, with very little sacrifice on your part.

If you haven’t already booked your holiday, you may be eligible for some last-minute bargains in terms of late cancellations. Do your research though and don’t be tempted by the first offer you see. Check out what’s available on websites such as Airbnb and look at options such as bed and breakfasts, which often make more financial sense than a hotel. Invite some friends or family to come along for the ride as sharing the costs of petrol, food and accommodation makes your end of year vacation much more affordable.

Of course, if you celebrate Christmas, December is also a time to spoil the people you love. Instead of promising yourself you’ll be more organised this year; do it. Starting your shopping early not only means you’ll miss the nightmarish holiday crowds that flood the malls, you’ll also be able to take advantage of the pre-holiday sales that you’ll find everywhere at this time of year, and you won’t end up overspending on gifts because you have to take what you can find, having run out of shopping time.

The same goes for groceries. If you’re hosting any holiday events, plan your menu ahead and buy what you can ahead of time and freeze it, especially if it’s on special. Don’t be shy to ask your guests to bring a salad, drinks or desert – people are always happy to contribute to the occasion.

Most importantly, plan a budget. Work out what you’re likely to spend on drinks, entertainment, food, transport, accommodation and gifts. Once you know what you’re in for, put whatever else you have aside to tide you over until you’re paid at the end of January – you’ll be so glad you did.

And now, all that’s left to do is eat, drink and be merry – of course!

Epic Discussion

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