In less than two months, the December holidays will kick in. Marie-Claire Mbuyi and her husband are already thinking of spending some quality time out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), their home country.  It is time to relax after a busy year.

But the middle class couple face challenges in terms of organising the trip to South Africa. They plan to stay there from mid-December until early January 2020.

“I have been there twice for work and I liked it very much, especially Cape Town. But that was three years ago. I understand that the country’s economic situation has changed,” Mbuyi says.


“Reports from the ground say that the cost of life has risen and everything is now expensive. Rooms, transportation and food,” she adds.

“My husband is very excited about holidaying in South Africa, same as me. But I think that we will have to be very careful on what we are going to spend there. January has never been an easy period,”Marie-Claire Mbuyi says.

Expenses will include visas, accommodation, local transportation, drinks and food and gifts, among others.

Besides, the xenophobic violence that erupted last month in South Africa means they might need extra security. “We might need bodyguards.”


“The holiday season is a great time to spend with your family and friends. But sometimes we tend to overspend on things that we don’t need. Having a checklist sometimes helps ensure that we stick to our budgets and don’t overspend,” notes Ester Ochse.

Ochse is a Product Specialist for First National Bank (FNB) Financial Advisory. FNB is one of South Africa’s largest banks.

Ochse’s suggested checklist and tips include the following:

Start saving early: You would have an idea of what you will be doing over the holiday season so start saving early. Saving from the onset will help costs over the holiday and festive season. It will also offset any unexpected expenses.

Tip: Start with a 2020 savings goal chart. List all your goals for the year. Be creative and ensure that you stick to these goals.

Budget for the month: On top of your yearly budget ensure that you have a dedicated December budget. Many families celebrate the festive season and holidays in December, so expenses can easily pile up. In addition to the holiday saving, ensure that you save adequately for festive season gifts as these can be quite expensive.

Tip: In your spare time, try and create personalised gifts for your loved ones. This will hold special memories for your family.

Travelling abroad or locally? Many families travel abroad or locally over the holiday period can expect an increase in expenses. While international travel is appealing, the allure of local travel is just as great.

When travelling abroad consider adding the following costs to your budget: visa (dependent on the country that you are visiting), return-flights, accommodation (Hotel, Air BNB), food, entertainment, transport, tours and shopping.

Local traveling be it by car or airplane still adds up as you must pay for toll-fees, food, fuel, entertainment and accommodation.

Tip: Keep a travel album where all your travel brochures, costs, maps and savings ideas can be placed. This go to travel album will come in handy when you ready to travel.

Staycation entertainment: The December period is a time for spending time with family and friends. So, while the occasional nights out at fancy restaurants sounds great, rather spend the time at home cooking up scrumptious meals or rather encourage bring and braais (barbecue) with family and friends.

This will help save costs as restaurant bills can add-up and become costly.

The holiday period is also a long time to be at home so encourage your children to be creative with do it yourself (DIY) fun activities that are free like movie or game nights.  Families with pets will also save as they will not have to put them in a kennel.

Tip: expand your cooking skills by trying your hand at different culinary cuisines; or get your friends involved and host an Indian or Japanese culinary evening. This way everyone will learn a new cuisine.

 Shopping: Make a list of what you will need over the holiday season and start shopping early. Those non-perishable items can be bought early and stored for the December period.  In addition, many clothing retailers will have major sales, so wait for those sales instead of making those early purchases.

Tip: Look out for online store vouchers, coupons and discounts which can be applied on checkout. This will help you save a little towards your shopping budget.

Ochse said that a simple checklist will help guide you through your financial goals. It’s another way where you can monitor and ensure that you don’t wrack up your finances in a short period of time,” she concluded.