Christmas spending tips

OK, perhaps this post is a tad late... or perhaps not. There's now 10 shopping days till Christmas. If you still need to get organised/motivated, perhaps there's some advice you can use here...


With interest rates hikes, massive spikes in petrol and food prices, as well as the new threat of armed robberies at shopping malls, many South Africans have found the Christmas cheer knocked out of them like a punch to the gut. The festive season has become a time where a lot of people succumb to despair, or go completely overboard, getting themselves into a vicious cycle of debt.

I do think the temptation exists to go overboard. I’m proud of myself for getting organised early on and keeping things under control this year, without succumbing to excessive spending. (Pity the bf hasn't done any of this shopping yet, so all my carefully crafted plans to avoid the shopping mall madness have been for naught). Ho hum:(

Anyway, here goes...

1) There’s nothing worse than receiving one of those bland, generic, meaningless gifts that end up being an unappreciated waste of money – e.g. toiletries for girls – so start thinking about meaningful (and affordable) gift ideas early.

2) September / October is a good period to start the thinking process. Pay special attention to what people say – we talk about things we’d like more than you think. Remember to write down present ideas in a notebook at the time, otherwise you’re sure to forget them closer to Christmas.

3) An alternative to Point 2 is to explicitly ask the person what they want closer to Christmas, but this ruins the “specialness” of the gift a bit – by asking the recipient they normally have a very good idea of what their parcel is come Christmas morning. Another disadvantage of the forward “What do you want/need” approach is that very few people come up with a good response when they’re put on the spot.

4) Always stick to a strict budget per person. If your planned meaningful gift is more expensive than your budget, approach others to see if they’re prepared to go in with you and share the cost.

5) Some people, especially the elderly, are impossible to buy for. They’re just not interested in “things”. So consider their favourite food stuff or a creative homemade gift, like a bag of fudge or a special photo blow-up and nicely framed.

6) Just browsing the mall – hoping that something will jump out at you – hardly ever works. Before you step into a store you should have a list of at least a few options for each person you’re buying for. It’ll save you a lot of time and frustration.

7) Believe it or not, there are more specials in-store during November, than closer to Christmas. Try and do your shopping then. As an added bonus, the malls are still festive frenzy-free. If you must do your shopping in December, always go early in the day – like “when the doors open” early. South Africans are lazy asses, so things will only start getting busy mid-morning. Alternatively, if you aren’t an early riser, take advantage of the longer shopping hours everywhere and go to the malls in the evening.

8) Skip the stores when it comes to DVDs, CDs, books, figurines and gadgety goodies. When it comes to these gifts, Online Shopping is the way to go. If you’re undecided about something have a look at it in-store, but online purchases are almost always cheaper (even with delivery charges) – with a much better selection. (with free delivery for orders over R350) and Take2 are 2 of SA’s biggest e-tailers.

Interestingly, 2007 is South Africa’s first very e-Christmas, where online shopping has scooped up a decent percentage of consumer spending.

In terms of the pros and cons of online shopping, the biggie is that the Internet means you don’t have to set foot in crazy shopping malls. Instead you simply wait for your parcel to arrive. Most local sites also feature a wide assortment of payment options, including credit card, electronic transfer and bank deposit – credit card is the easiest, of course.

If you’re put off by the thought of paying delivery costs, then you should consider the online stores for established retailers like Exclusive Books and Many of these stores let you pick up your online order from your nearest branch for free.

The only real disadvantage of online shopping is that you really should do it early. There are set delivery periods, and if a package is being imported from overseas, you usually need to factor in 15 working days – 3 weeks. So you should really be placing your orders (unless they’re on 24-hour delivery, or dispatched within 5-10 working days) back in November.

9) You've done your shopping and now it's time to wrap everything. The most economical way to buy Christmas wrapping paper is to buy those giant 5-20m tubes. One or 2 of these go far further than those little 3-packs that turn out to be more cardboard than paper. Alternatively, if you don’t mind losing festive colouring, wrap gifts in standard brown paper (much cheaper) or newspaper.

10) Save money on gift tags by cutting up last year’s Christmas cards. Come Christmas morning no one looks at the tag for long anyway, so just cut up the picture portion of the card into strips, and write your message on the reverse. Punch a little hole through the tag, feed some string through it and attach it to the present.

11) Finally, when it comes to Christmas day feasting, it’s not really polite to burden the host with all the food costs. If you’re earning any kind of salary, you should really contribute in some way – whether that’s buying the starter or actually making something for the meal.


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