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5 ways to enjoy the holidays without spending money

Here’s how to enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank.

11 December 2018
4 minute read
mother and child painting

It’s time to celebrate! It’s the school holidays and the end-of-year downtime, and many South Africans celebrate Christmas. It’s such a happy time, but the festivities can often lead to overspending and an unhealthy bank balance come January. That’s not how you want to start your year – so here are great ways to stop your spending in its tracks while still having loads of fun this festive season. 

Get friends and family to share the load

If you are the entertainer of the family and will be hosting holiday festivities, don’t take it all on yourself. Ask your family members to each contribute a component of the meal. But remember that the financial outlay of hosting usually involves more than food – ask for help with drinks, braai charcoal, ice, table decorations and anything else that goes into making a family meal special and festive.

If you find it too difficult to be a demanding host, try suggesting meeting on neutral ground. Take advantage of the gorgeous summer weather and have a picnic on the beach or in a park.

Develop a gifting strategy that works for you and your family

If you celebrate Christmas or exchange gifts for any other reason over the holidays, consider approaches that will result in everyone spending less. Here are some ideas:

  • Set a price limit for all gifts.
  • Play the Secret Santa game, in which each member of the group draws a name from the hat and buys a gift only for that person.
  • Everyone buys one gift and wraps it. Then you each draw a number out of a hat to see who gets first choice from the pile.
  • Buy gifts only for the children in your family.
  • Buy a gift for each nuclear family, rather than each person.
  • Have an “official regifting Christmas”, where everyone selects a gift that they have received at previous birthdays or Christmases – but never quite got around to using – and gifts it to another family member who might appreciate it more.

Find out about free or cheap events in your city

When looking for things to do to keep your family or you entertained over the holidays, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of spending money. But there are often free or very cheap excursions over the Christmas holidays – finding them just takes a bit of research. Or you can check out our selection:


Walk or picnic at Zoo Lake – free! – or take a rowboat on the lake for only R15 per boat, plus R10 per hour for every adult and R7.50 every hour for every child under 14.

Take the kids (and the dogs) for a ramble over the Melville Koppies – free! – or check out the website for paid-for organised walks and tours.

Cape Town

Join the crowds for festive fun at the V&A Waterfront New Year’s Eve Party – free!

Go along to Promenade Mondays, from 6pm starting at the Queens Beach parking lot – free!


Spend time in the lush surroundings of the Durban Botanic Gardens – free!
Brush up on your knowledge of the Earth’s natural history at the Durban Natural History Museum – free!

Plan ways to keep your kids entertained on the cheap

Without school keeping them busy, kids soon find themselves bored and on the prowl for something to do. And that can end up costing you! Plan ahead to make sure that there are some low-cost activities for them to engage in. Here are some suggestions:

  • Bring home any extra scrap paper for the office and get them drawing or doing crafting projects – building paper houses or planes.
  • Prepare some biscuit dough and store it in the fridge. When they’re bored, they can roll it out and cut it into shapes, or mould little biscuit creatures to bake.
  • Take them for a walk to your local park and play Scavenger Hunt. It is easy to arrange. Draw up a list of items for kids to find – a round stone, a Y-shaped stick, a yellow flower, and so on. First to come back with all of them is the winner.
  • Have a special evening under the stars. Let them stay up a little bit late with blankets and cushions in your – or a friend’s – garden. Look for bats and see if you can spot constellations of stars.
  • Visit your local library. If your kids aren’t already members, sign them up, and if they are, let them browse around for some new books to read over the holidays.

Work your rewards programmes

Like most South Africans, you probably have a wallet that’s bursting at the seams with loyalty cards. A good way to keep your overspending in check over the holidays is to use up all the points that you’ve banked in the year. Swipe, log in or scan to find out your balances and draw up a rewards budget ahead of the holidays. Buy a week’s worth of groceries, a small treat for yourself and your children or even use your points for Christmas shopping.

Have a happy holiday

The holidays are about celebrating good health, happy families and the end of a long year of hard work. Enjoy the things in life that really matter, without spending on the things that don’t, and you’ll start 2019 richer for it.

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