Hints and tips on how to Avoid the festive season debt trap

Johannesburg – Retailers will be going all out this December to entice consumers to spend as much money as possible to make up for slow sales during 2020 as the result of the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Many retailers will offer what the trade calls ‘loss leaders’, items that are sold at a loss because they bring people into the shop, and consumers then up-sell themselves by filling their trolleys with more items than they need, says Deon Nobrega co-Founder and MD at Paymenow.

While there may well be necessities you need that are on sale, there are many other things that don’t need to be purchased immediately that retailers will try and entice consumers to buy.

“The key to successfully avoiding a debt trap this festive season is to plan. And then plan again,” adds Bryan Habana, Paymenow’s Head of Business Development.

1. Budget, budget, budget

Work out what your income is over December, and what your expenses are based on last month’s bank statement. After that, you can budget for the festive season with what’s left – safe in the knowledge that you won’t miss any payments or have to go into debt.

2. Make a list and stick to it

Decide upfront what it is required, and write that down. Check out prices online or in the local knock-and-drop – there will always be specials inside the pamphlets that make up the bulk of the paper. That way, you can put a price against every item and determine what you have left over for items you want or need but are not absolute necessities.

3. Shop online

If possible, take advantage of retailers that offer to deliver your groceries to your door, at no charge. Checkers, for example, offers a 60-minute grocery delivery service which lets shoppers browse over 7,000 products from a smartphone and get groceries delivered in an hour or less, and you can track the delivery. Pick n Pay offers a similar service, although it doesn’t promise a set delivery time. This way, you are more likely to only buy what’s on your list as you have to search for it, rather than walking up and down the aisles, being tempted by, well, everything…

4. Don’t leave it to the last minute

If you are planning on roasting a chicken, buy it and freeze it when it’s on special at your local butcher (if you have freezer space). A last minute shop often means paying higher prices, especially if you have to dash into a convenience store. Stock up on specials whenever they fit into your list and then remember to use them. There’s no point having hundreds or thousands of rands of groceries sitting in a freezer or pantry.

5. The gift of giving

While there is little that is more satisfying than giving a gift to someone else and seeing their face light up, you can introduce some ‘rules’ within the family that will prevent everybody from being out-of-pocket come end-December and in trouble at the end of January. One may be to not give gifts to the adults – this is particularly helpful in large families with lots of in-laws and children. Another may be a Secret Santa way of giving: every adult draws a name and only gives to that person. A third option is to find a cost-effective way of giving a bit of yourself without breaking the bank, such as doing a painting for friends.

6. Have rewards?

Many retailers and banks offer a rewards programme. It’s well worth signing up for these at the beginning of the year and taking advantage of the accumulated points when it comes to the festive season. Don’t worry if you haven’t already signed up, do so now so you can benefit next year.

7. Don’t borrow

Instead of borrowing money and having to pay interest, if you really need some extra cash, rather chat with your employer about responsible early access to wages. This way, you receive wages you have already worked for and don’t owe money to either the formal financial institutions or loan sharks.

8. January is coming up

All your budgeting, lists, and planning should take into account what is often a forgotten month: January. January frequently seems to have six weeks in it because many companies pay salaries in the middle of December. On top of that, January means back-to-school uniforms, books, stationary, and the lot, which has to be paid for out of December’s salary, which has often already gone to festive season spend.

“As the infamous saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. With a bit of planning, you can avoid the festive season debt trap and enter 2021 feeling a lot happier than in previous years,” concludes Habana.

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