A Mom’s Guide to Planning December/January Expenditures

The financial demands of the months of December and January can be overwhelming. Not only are parents under pressure to make Christmas as festive as possible with fun-filled holidays, hearty meals, and Christmas gifts their children covet year-round, but they also need to budget for back-school, with new uniforms , stationery and school registration fees.

A financially savvy mom — a veteran news anchor at Citizen — turned year-end planning into a science. Narissa Subramoney shared her organizing tips with the masses to help them live their best life in the most financially responsible way.

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Rule #1: Start as early as possible – prioritize school

“As a parent, I start my financial planning for December as early as July,” she says. Narissa prioritizes her daughter’s school expenses over Christmas and travel expenses.

“School uniforms are available online year-round, so I usually start restocking uniforms (like replacing worn/lost items) in August and even July.

She points out that summer uniforms are cheaper in winter and encourages parents to buy them and save them until next year. “I’ll be buying a few items every month through October. Once the school sends out the orders for stationery and textbooks, I’ll buy those too and ship them by October. So at the end of October there is no more school shopping and I only have to concentrate on the school fees. We’ll also pay January’s fees and transportation once the December salary comes in,” she said.

“We also set up the January budget that will take us away by the 25th. We forgot about it for the rest of December,” she said.

With those things done, Narissa focuses on the Christmas festivities.

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Rule #2: Make a list of gift recipients – distribute those purchases

One of Narissa’s family traditions – like most families around the world – is to visit family members who live far away. Connected to this visit is the presentation of a gift. “I’m making a list of the people I’m going to see. Then in August I’ll start shopping for it. In this way, the purchase of gifts is staggered and does not burden my budget as much. We set a limit of R350 per person and host a secret Santa where we pull family names out of a hat and buy for one person. There’s also a fun “gift stealing” tradition. We pull a ‘gift stealing pass’ out of a hat, usually only two people can steal/trade,” she said.

Rule #3: Don’t visit everyone everywhere at once—change annually.

“We rotate between families in three provinces every year. The years I travel, I book and pay for flights/accommodation as early as July,” she explained. Narissa says she won’t apply for her vacation until mid-year and if it’s approved, she’ll book accommodation immediately.

“December bonuses usually provide the budget for petrol and tolls. We also allocate a certain amount for food and alcohol for the month,” Narissa said. She clearly emphasized the importance of buying Christmas alcohol from larger outlets rather than ordering services.

“While shopping for groceries for the week/month year-round, I buy my liquor of choice and keep it off. My partner and I also give each other alcohol,” she explained.

ALSO READ: Despite all the difficulties, South Africans are expected to blow up R250 billion this festive season

Rule #4: Do your grocery shopping in November.

“I typically buy a leg of lamb, whole chickens and braai for the main days: Christmas, Boxing Day, NYE and NYD in November and freeze them. That’s the bigger expenses out of the way,” she said.

After that, all she has to do is buy fruit, vegetables and other perishable goods. “I’ll buy these with my December salary,” she said.

“I don’t usually put everything off until December. Planning the end of the year well in advance really helps take the pressure off. Plus, you can enjoy this time of year for what it is – time with family to unwind and switch off from the past year,” she concluded.

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