Festive traps to avoid

Festive traps to avoid

The speed traps, financial holes and many other common mistakes are prevalent over the festive period. The silly season is aptly named because when in the festive spirit, people tend to make less than responsible decisions. 

It is okay to let your hair down a bit, though. After the tough year we have all had, it is understandable that we want to treat ourselves by splurging, or making our way out on a mini-vacation. But remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.


Traditional sentiment and emotions connected to the season are usually the culprits that made us spend every last cent earned in December, and lack of constraint is the order of the day. There may be pressure on you to overspend, or to exceed your budget – but remember the new adage: ‘January is two months long’. 

Many companies choose to pay their employees earlier for the December holidays, which seems like a kind thing to do to help everyone thoroughly enjoy the festive season – but what it really does is give you even more days that you will need to stretch your December paycheque. 

Try to remain within your regular budget to make sure that come the New Year; you have money for travelling costs, groceries and perhaps a few extra dimes for emergencies. 

If you do need a new bauble or Christmas tree, rather buy from a charity shop that has tons of everyone else’s decorations from last Christmas.

For many people, the festive season means they’ll get a bonus or 13th cheque and will be paid a few days before the 25th of the month. And in their heads, they’ve already spent the money, forgetting that January is usually the longest month of the year with very little or no money in the bank. 

Don’t spend all the money, financial analysts warn. Have a plan and make lists of what you would like to purchase but before that, pay your monthly expenses. And then go into your banking app or into your bank and open up a 24-hour or a 32-day notice account and open up some savings pockets and transfer at least a third of your salary, bonus or 13th cheque so that you know you are covered for January.


Everywhere you go, online or IRL, there are noble causes to donate to and support. This is really great and giving back is essential – but when it comes to animals, animal shelters and organisations like Paws R Us: SA urge people not to give pets as Christmas gifts. The cute little fluffy ball from the shelter may not be welcomed by the recipient at that precise moment in his/her life. 

A pet is a life-long commitment that recipients have to be psychologically prepared for and “most pets given as Christmas presents are discarded in January”, the organisation warns. Unfortunately, many of these animals end up on the road again and will have to be recaptured, or can even be killed; animals make up a percentage of obstructions that cause road accidents. 

If you want to offer a pet as a gift this season, approach a shelter, to request a special Christmas Adoption Card to invite the recipient to meet the animals at the shelter “with the view towards adopting”. At least the shelter can then chat to the people, do the home check process and ensure adoption contracts. All essential veterinary procedures, such as sterilisation, vaccines, deworming and microchipping are done.

Decorations could be hazardous

This could come across as a damper on traditional festivities, but tree lights and other Christmas lights and candles are in fact a fire hazard. Make sure to switch off all fancy lights when they are left unattended. 

And no, you don’t need a new tree or mirror ball baubles or new fairy lights, no matter how pretty they are. If you are going away on holiday, don’t leave them switched on in the window. 

Also, ornaments and small hanging décor are choking hazards for toddlers. This is especially true if the ornaments look like sweets or treats.

Budget, again

Consider using cash only. A further option is to purchase gift cards from the major retail stores where you intend buying your desired goods and load money on it. Use these cards like debit cards and leave your credit and debit cards at home, so that you are not tempted to spend more. Above all, avoid last-minute shopping, which is major pressure that leads to instant gratification purchases. 

In a 2016 report, the South African Credit Ombud Nicky Lala Mohan provided a useful plan of action: 

  • Avoid new debt. If you can’t afford it, don’ buy it. This is particularly true for smaller items. Of course, a house and a car are not in this category. This is mostly for luxury purchases that you could save up to buy. 
  • Have a festive budget. List and add together all your income and list all your expenses for December and January – and then stick to it! When doing this, add in items like stationery, school fees and transport. Minus your expenses from your income – what is left over can be your budget for the festive season.
  • Avoid ‘buyer’s remorse’. Make a list of items you want to purchase before going to the stores to avoid compulsive shopping.
  • Make food at home. Before going out to the shops, eat at home to avoid spending unnecessary money buying luxury food items on display or spending too much for the whole family to eat at restaurants.
  • Compare prices. Before you spend, compare prices between stores to get the best deals.
  • Be creative with gifts. Instead of buying presents, make them at home. This is one of the best ways of saving.
  • Be careful of festive adverts. Don’t be misled by stores offering you ‘gift vouchers’ with purchases or when you open accounts as you might find yourself buying things you don’t need and opening accounts unnecessarily.
  • Avoid unnecessary end-of-season sales.
  • Only enter into credit agreements with registered lenders.

Maybe this year social distancing and buying online may help people from falling into festive season traps. 

Whatever you do, stay safe. Remember that the festive season is an excellent time to relax, but it isn’t an excuse to be reckless. You still need to consider the people around you and their safety. If you do encounter an emergency, having the iER app at hand could save your life, or the life of someone you love. 

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