Jingle bells in spite of the bills

Cash-strapped families make a plan to ensure the silly season remains festive

SAVVY consumers are ahead of the Grinch — and will not let anything steal their festive cheer this year.
On the back of yet another tough economic year, a weak rand and this week’s interest- rate hike, families are outsmarting the system with a range of can-do alternatives to make sure that they are covered this Christmas.
The annual overseas holiday is being downgraded to a local one, gifts are handmade and some are finally seeing the value in parking the pre-Christmas shop until the sales come around in January.
“All that matters is that you are happy and with your family,” said mother-of-three Can- dice Jooste from Mondeor, southern Johannesburg.
Jooste and her husband have decided not to cough up for a two-week holiday in Namibia. Instead, they are planning a week-long trip to Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
“We crunched the numbers and we realised it was going to be tight in the new year. And we have school fees and varsity fees to think about. Our children’s education comes first,” she said.
“When 1 think about our housekeeper who just wants to spend Christmas with her son whom she has not seen in three years, it puts things into perspective — it is not about where you are, it is about who you are spending Christmas with.”
Those clinging to their last bit of credit for the year-end splurge on clothes, food, gifts and big parties should think twice as it would only leave them worse off at the start of the new year.
Neil Roets, CEO of Debt Rescue, said that during the holidays “everybody has this mentality that ‘1 worked so bloody hard this year and 1 deserve a break’… [but] when the school fees are due, people are maxed out [on their credit facilities] and they have nowhere else to go.”
Thulas Ntsele of Cape Town is set on avoiding frantic pre- Christmas shopping. He plans to buy only “the basic stuff”.
It is not about where you are, it is about who you’re spending Christmas with
“In January, things go on discount anyway. That’s when 1 shop until 1 drop for things such as laptops or cellphones.”
Cape Town entrepreneur Bongiwe Mabala also started early.
“I buy only in bulk, and look for discounts when I buy gifts.”
She has a limit of R3 000 for gifts. “1 am going to save by buying meat in bulk and having a braai at home. That way we will all be in one place and save on travelling costs,” Mabala said.
This, said Ian Wason, CEO of DebtBusters, was smart.
The interest rate hike, along with factors such as increases in electricity prices and school fees, were driving more people to take out personal loans.
In Durban, the Christmas stockings at the La Lucia home of one family will definitely not have any tablets or electronic gadgets.
Recipients can expect creative and homecrafted gifts.
Mother-of-one Catherine Jen- kin said her extended family had set a R200 budget on Christmas gifts for the nieces and nephews.
“We are cutting costs in half. Everyone’s feeling the pinch when it comes to the rising prices and cost of living.
“Luckily for us, all our family are in Durban, so we are able to get together over the holidays instead of the added expense of travelling. The biggest expense is always gifts.”
She said the best idea this year was putting a limit on what they would spend on gifts for the children.
“It forces one to be creative and thoughtful. No iPads and big tech gifts,” said Jenkin.
She said it was also cheaper and less stressful to stay at home rather than travel, and spend time with family and friends.
“On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we will spend time with different families,” said Jenkin.
Retailers have already started rolling out their festive season campaigns.
Adrian Naudé, marketing director of Pick n Pay, said: “[We are] working hard to give our customers the lowest possible prices over the festive season. Our prices on the basics mean that customers can afford something extra for their celebrations. Throughout the year, customers also get SmartShopper points on all their purchases.”

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