IN a few days’ time Christmas will be on your doorstep. Are you certain that you are financially prepared for it? There are various costs involved when it comes to silly season festivities. These include, to name but a few, travel, accommodation, pocket money, gifts, activities — and perhaps the biggest part of your expenditures — grocery costs. It is quite a mouthful, is it not? Matthys Potgieter, debt expert and spokesperson at DebtSafe, says it is, therefore, time to be proactive in the weeks prior Christmas. “There is undeniably still time to make sure you are financially ready to get through the festive season. And, remember, the last thing you should do is consider making more debt,” said Potgieter. Here are a few tips to get your planning and preparations going so long. These tips (together with your own keeping-it-frugal list) can help you to have yourself (and your pocket) a rand-wise Christmas this year. FOOD AND GROCERIES It is most likely that you and other South African consumers are still feeling the effect of the April 2018 Vat increase on your pocket. Groceries are very expensive, but there are a few things that you can do to not break the bank when it comes to meal planning this Christmas: • Make sure that your pantry, fridge, and freezer are stocked (note — not overstocked) with long-lasting ingredients this Christmas to keep your budget under control and to avoid last-minute, day-before-Christmas expensive buys. This can save you time and money — to work with what you have available and for the slightest possible festivity change like unplanned guests, for example. • Regarding Christmas Day, Potgieter recommends that everybody should club in and pay a certain amount to cover the necessary lunch/dinner costs. If needed — you, your friends or family members can also prepare in advance to make sure you bring your own drinks, meat and a family favourite dish along for the special celebration. This will make Christmas Day “memory-friendly” and frugal — showing that you care while you share. • Day-after-Christmas leftovers are the best. Get some cooking/baking creativity going this festive season and make your own (consumable) concoction with the ingredients and leftovers that you have available. Fuel and travel Although the fuel prices went down a bit this December, previous ongoing fuel hikes must have surely made you think twice about travelling. But, in many cases, what can you do when you, unfortunately, have to travel from point A to point B? Potgieter recommends the following:• If your friends or family members are also driving from and to the same area, consider carpooling. Using fewer cars means using less fuel and money. • Avoid toll routes where possible and take alternative, scenic routes instead.• Get the best fuel consumption by driving in the highest gear possible and maintaining a constant speed from your home to your destination.• Because Christmas time is also summertime, be aware that your air-con uses more fuel when you drive at a lower speed. GIFTS AND ORNAMENTS Presents and decorations should not cost an arm and a leg. Remember — creativity goes a long fiscal way: • When it comes to gifts, remember that it is the idea that counts. Christmas has been exposed as a spending and debt-filled season for far too long. Don’t you think it is time to trade the financially draining and silly Christmas ideas and rather go back to the heart and meaning of it — namely creating memories? Keep a gift personal, yet frugal and precious this year. What about letting the kids bake personally-designed cookies for your loved ones? Or, use available items and get going with your own arts/crafts (aka creative personal touch) skills to make ornaments, bookmarks, coasters, or jewellery items? Although the above tips are merely a drop-in-the-bucket, don’t you think it is now the time to get your own, personalised Christmas-action plan going? If you pre-plan your 2018 Christmas well, you will not only ease your pocket and nerves, but also set forth many more rand-wise (and minimum-debt) future Christmases to come. — Supplied.