The festive season is filled with presents, feasting and holidaymaking, or at least it should be… There’s nothing more discouraging during the holiday season than not having any money to do the fun things you want to and treat yourself after a long year of slaving away.

If you find yourself in this situation, make sure next year December is different. And we’re not just talking easy-to-make and easier-to-break resolutions. If you are proactive from January next year, it won’t be a rerun of the same boring holiday show again. You can do 5 little things every month and have a good sum to spend on something fun in December.

1. Plan ahead

First things first: revise your finances. January is a good month to sort out your budget. This means taking a good look at all your expenses to get an idea of where you can make cuts.

Use 2015 as an example. Did you really use that gym subscription, or has it been an expensive white elephant? Cut it out and commit to a 30-minute walk every day after work. If you can stick to that for a few months, sign up for that gym subscription again.

Try to see where you can actively save money. Cell phone data, takeaways and bad habits have a way of eating away at your money without you even noticing and making saving especially difficult.

Be realistic about how much you spend on what. If you can’t live without takeaways, for example, limit yourself to once a week and work it into your budget.

Cutting down on bad habits is always hard, but simply put your foot down and stick to your guns.

2. Make saving a priority

Make January your first month of saving a bit. Some people recommend saving a little bit every week of the year, which is known as the 52-week Money Challenge. Use a big jar, print out your plan, paste it onto the jar and tick off what you’ve saved at the end of every month.

Here’s a line-out of how you can save:

Week 1: R52
Week 2: R51
Week 3: R50
Week 4: R49
Week 5: R48
Week 6: R47
Week 7: R46
Week 8: R45
Week 9: R44
Week 10: R43
Week 11: R42
Week 12: R41
Week 13: R40
Week 14: R39
Week 15: R38
Week 16: R37
Week 17: R36
Week 18: R35
Week 19: R34
Week 20: R33
Week 21: R32
Week 22: R31
Week 23: R30
Week 24: R29
Week 25: R28
Week 26: R27
Week 27: R26
Week 28: R25
Week 29: R24
Week 30: R23
Week 31: R22
Week 32: R21
Week 33: R20
Week 34: R19
Week 35: R18
Week 36: R17
Week 37: R16
Week 38: R15
Week 39: R14
Week 40: R13
Week 41: R12
Week 42: R11
Week 43: R10
Week 44: R9
Week 45: R8
Week 46: R7
Week 47: R6
Week 48: R5
Week 49: R4
Week 50: R3
Week 51: R2
Week 52: R1

You get the idea. Start big and save less every month. That way it doesn’t feel like hard work and you will end up saving money without even noticing it.

If you use the plan set out above, you’ll already have R1 378 saved for December. What a great bonus for merry holidaymaking. Don’t use this money for the ice-cream van!

save money in 2016

3. Set a goal for December and stick to it

Are you always sorry that you haven’t saved up for that trip somewhere exotic you’ve been wanting to take for years? Make that trip a goal in the new year. A goal gives you something to work for and look forward to.

If you’ve always wanted to go to Europe but thought it was much too expensive, you were right. A huge sum of money for an overseas trip is unattainable two months before you want to go, no matter how impulsive you are.

If it would give you immense satisfaction to put down a deposit on a new car to replace the jalopy you’ve had since your first year, that’s your goal right there.

Now, work out how much money you need to set aside every month to make this goal happen. Stick it on your fridge as monthly countdown and mark down how far you’ve come.

4. Think before you sign up for anything

Debit orders are terribly sneaky. They slip out of your bank account on the 25th or 31st of every month, leaving you feeling robbed and violated. These days we sign debit orders almost without thinking as it’s so much more convenient than standing in a queue to pay a bill.

But it also means that we don’t pay as much attention to exactly how many rands trickle from our accounts before we’ve even had a chance to look at our salary.

Don’t just sign debit orders for anything. The golden question should be: is this really necessary in the long run? If the answer is “no”, reign in your rands.

5. Treat yourself at least once a month

Living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean never doing something nice. Commit to a monthly appointment where you make yourself a priority. Spending money on other people and things makes us feel good, but it is easy to get caught up with work and life and forget to check in with ourselves.

Take at least half a day a month to reflect on where you are in terms of the goals you’ve set for yourself, and we don’t mean only the financial kind. This doesn’t have to be an expensive date, but do treat yourself with something you wouldn’t normally buy or do once every often.

About The Author

Angie Gallagher

Angie Gallagher is a freelance writer in the Upper Karoo. Aside from writing content for Counting Coins, Angie has tried her hand at a few juvenile attempts at poetry filled with storms and stress, and a marginally successful radio station, Radio Grootoor, recorded on cassette tapes when she was ten.

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