As we approach the festive season, most people begin their holiday spending. These expenditures usually include luxury and unusual costs such as catering for family gatherings, travel, accommodation, entertainment and gifts. Additional expenses are usually not planned for during the course of the year and most people’s budgets tend to be under a lot of strain in December and January.

It is important that you do not fall into the trap of overspending during the festive cheer. Some of the common mistakes you should try to avoid are:

  • Waiting until the last minute to do Christmas shopping
  • Spending on excessive gifts for children in order to ‘keep up with the trends’
  • Forgetting to count entertainment costs
  • Failing to develop a proper holiday budget

Below are a few tips to avoid overspending during the holiday season:

  • Gifts and related expenses: Christmas is the time for giving, but sometimes buying gifts can end up being a financial burden. This is often the case when someone is not able to afford the gift the recipient really wants, like expensive electronic devices. If your budget does not permit spending frivolous amounts of money on family gifts, you should simply not buy these gifts and opt for cheaper items or consider giving an ‘experience’ gift that involves giving your time rather than money.
  • Holiday travel: It is advisable to purchase travel-related tickets as far in advance as possible to avoid buying tickets during the peak period. Extended holidays should also be avoided during this period if your budget doesn’t allow it. Rather schedule a shorter, less expensive local trip.
  • Hosting guests: Hosting and entertaining guests could end up to be a very expensive event, as most hosts like to impress their guests with special food and treats. Consider cutting down on the number of guests you invite and don’t go overboard with fancy meals and expensive drinks. Basic food, snacks and drinks will serve guests equally well.
  • Entertainment: In the festive season, many people opt to eat out most of the time; others tend to buy a lot of takeaways because they don’t want to spend time preparing food. Try to find basic and cheaper forms of entertainment like going for picnics, playing games, and packing your own food and snacks for outings. At the end of the holiday, this will accumulate to a massive saving.


  • Drawing up a holiday budget ahead of the festive season can make a world of difference and will allow you to set money aside for specific expenses and not overspend.
  • Don’t forget about your finances while you are relaxing, as it may result in a financial hangover in January. After the holidays is the ideal time to revisit your budget and analyse your holiday spending habits to identify areas for improvement.

Author: Tiffany Boesch CA(SA) is group financial director of PPS