IF you’re one of those people who are always broke before Christmas, know that you are not alone. If you’re already in a financial pit, the worst thing you can do is dig a bigger hole for yourself. Try your best to resist all temptation to spend this festive season. BUDGETING Saving money during the festive season starts with budgeting. Nicholas Murray, associate financial planner from Core Wealth Advisory Services, says, “Once you know what you are getting as an income, as well as your expenses, then it gives you a really good footing to be able to start saving.” Financial planner and commentator from Galileo Capital, Warren Ingram, gives a few budgeting tips you can use at home. “I would take my income for the month, divide it by the number of weeks in the month and only spend what I have per week,” he says. “You will still be able to enjoy doing the things you like to do. There are so many great public spaces, parks, botanical gardens, beaches and mountains in South Africa you can spend your time at. You don’t need to spend money in shopping malls and restaurants to have a good time.”THE CREDIT CARD Although a credit card gives you the power to have cash on hand, it tricks you into thinking the money you are using belongs to you and is not borrowed from the bank. “It is a gift and a curse. A credit card gives you access to a great credit record over time, which is a gift, but the curse is that if not used appropriately, it can leave you in debt and severely worsen your credit record,” says Nicholas. LOAN SHARKS When you are in a bad financial position, you might be tempted to borrow more money, especially from a loan shark. Warren advises that you stay as far away from loan sharks as possible. “I really don’t like loan sharks as they prey on the poorest of the poor,” says Nicholas.STORE CREDIT Store credit only works for people who are good with paying their bills on time but those who don’t, are at the risk of hurting their credit record even more. “Avoid buying clothes on credit, especially when you are struggling to manage your current finances. I know this is easier said than done because we are living in an era of buy now and pay later,” says Nicholas. “If you already have a store credit card, avoid using it, especially over the festive season, unless it is in good standing and has no outstanding balance.” BORROWING MONEY FROM FAMILY This should be your last option as it can change your relationship with those dearest to you. If you do borrow money from family and friends, treat it like a business agreement, meaning it should be in writing. This will cover both parties and no one can go back on their word. “Make sure everything is clear before you borrow them money. Know how much interest you are going to pay, how much your monthly payments will be and how many months it will take you to repay the money. You also need clarity on what will happen if you can’t repay the loan,” Warren explains. Always keep in mind that money has destroyed many relationships before, so make sure that it doesn’t ruin yours by honouring your agreements and paying your debts on time.