We have all experienced the horrible festive season hangover that leaves us broke and depressed well into the new year about our spending choices. It is supposed to be a time of joy and reflection, an opportunity to recharge and course correct. Instead, it usually sets a bleak tone for months to come.

Here are 5 tips for preventing this festive season from becoming another regrettable financial exercise. You may think it is too early for this but with retailers (and kids) already having launched their onslaught, you should get your ducks in a row as soon as possible.

1. Work according to a spending plan

Having a spending plan is the corner stone of a sound financial life. This is never truer than over the festive season.

Create a detailed budget for November up to the end of January that includes both your normal monthly expenses like rent, electricity and transport, as well as the additional expenses specifically related to the festive season. How much are you planning to spend on gifts? Are you going away for the holidays? What will your meals look like? If you are entertaining people, remember that your groceries and electricity will be more than they normally are.

Use last year’s expenses as a guideline, but bear in mind that everything is more expensive now, including petrol. Do not assume your expenses will be the same, and definitely do not think they will be less unless you decide to cut out specific expenses.

Importantly, track your spending as you go along. It is senseless to have a spending plan if you do not actually follow it. If you see you are going to exceed your limits, make that difficult decision to slow down your spending. Your pocket will thank you in the new year.

2. Rethink gifting

Everybody loves getting them but gifts can be a major drain on your spending plan. From homemade gifts and only giving gifts to children to Secret Santa and a cap on the cost of the gift, there are ways to prevent this expense from ballooning.

As wrapping paper and cards usually end up in the bin, cut back on these too. Use ordinary brown paper instead and make your own designs.

3. Plan your shopping

Last-minute shopping is always a disaster. You feel overwhelmed by the crush in the malls and your jumbled to-do list. You are stressed about getting the perfect gifts and end up spending more than you had to.

Planning your shopping in advance is vital to creating a spending plan and sticking to it. This relates to gifts as well as groceries. It also allows you to keep an eye out for specials and compare prices across different physical and online retailers.

Black Friday is on 23 November this year. Even if you are not up for the stampede in physical stores, you can capitalise on some good online deals if you already know which items to look out for.

4. Do not get carried away by specials

While you should maximise special deals in this time, be careful not to get carried away by them. I am big on shopping according to the weekly specials pages but the psychology of specials is a dangerous one. You can easily be tempted into buying something you do not need. If you only have room in your spending plan for one pack of bananas, buying two packs so you can make use of the 3 for 2 special obviously doubles your expense. It makes little difference on one or two items but it will break your spending plan if you double up on a number of items.

Make sure you know which specials will truly add value and which you should rather avoid. This will again be easier if you plan your shopping in advance and work according to a spending plan.

5. Remember January

One of the main reasons the festive season leaves us out of pocket is that the bulk of our spending occurs before the 25th, which is the normal payday for most of us. We receive our December salary early and then throw the kitchen sink at it. By the time January comes around, we have already spent our salary and have very little left for the normal monthly expenses. This is bad in any month but particularly in January when we are faced with the additional expense of kids going back to school.

When you compile your festive season spending plan, do not forget about January. Your festive season financial challenges do not end on 2 January. Make sure you leave enough money in the bank to cover the unique expenses the rest of January brings.

Get in touch if you would like assistance compiling your festive season spending plan.