As Christmas fast approaches, Jamaicans are being urged to spend wisely in order to avoid compounding their debt during the Holiday Season, and position themselves to take advantage of improvements in the economy.
Grants manager at the JN Foundation, Rose Miller, who leads JN Foundation’s BeWise financial empowerment programme, acknowledges that personal debt management is a problem for many Jamaicans due to poor financial behaviours and practices.
“Jamaicans know that they should save, but knowing that they should save has not always impacted their habits of thrift and spending practices,” she said.
To avoid racking up a debt this Christmas, the JN Foundation financial literacy expert says Jamaicans should consider the following tips for managing their money during the Yuletide Season:
Invest your bonus!
Christmas is a good time for investing, Mrs Miller urges, as many people earn extra during the Holidays. Instead of blowing your bonus on gifts, a significant portion, if not all the extra cash can be invested.
“Consider placing those funds in a fixed or long term saving account, where they will earn higher interest; or in stocks, bonds; or other instruments offered by regulated financial institutions that will yield great dividends,” she counsels.
Persons may also use their bonus to finance some, if not all, of their debt, she recommends.
Create a budget and stick to it!
“Create a budget specifically for your Christmas spending and stick to it!” Mrs Miller advised.
“There are many things you may want or need; or even causes you would like to support; or parties you would like to attend. However, you need to prioritise; and budget only for those items and activities, which you actually need,” she said.
And if you use a credit card as your main method of paying for goods services, use it in accordance with your budget, she maintained.
“Remember your credit card is a loan, which carries a very high rate of interest; and interest will be accrued immediately after the due date. Therefore, spend only what you can afford; and, most of all, settle your balance before the due date; or, as soon as you can, to avoid paying interest,” Mrs Miller recommended.
She notes, however, that using a credit card to pay for items can be advantageous to consumers, as it reduces the need to walk around with cash, which can be unsafe and support impulsive spending. In addition, some credit cards offer “cash-back” points, once you clear your monthly bill on, or before the due date.
“And, using your credit card instead of your debit card, also means that you avoid paying point-of-sale fees on your purchase. Those fees may be low, but they can add up and affect your budget,” she says.
Be creative with your gift ideas!
And, gifting does not have to be a spending spree, Mrs Miller said.
She suggests that instead of rushing to purchase gifts, people should consider creating their own gifts using their skills. Purchasing or creating gifts that can be shared by more than one member of the household, instead of providing individual gifts, is another idea to consider.
“It saves time and money, as you don’t need to shop for every single person.” And “Very often the gifts you create aren’t only less expensive, but they are more meaningful than items you buy in a store,” she said.
Let everyone contribute to Christmas dinner
Not even Christmas dinners and parties need be costly, Mrs Miller noted.
“So you’re hosting the annual Christmas Dinner or party, but why do you have to do all the spending?” she questioned. “Reduce your costs by spreading it around. Ask family and friends to take bottles of whatever they like to drink; or, to purchase a few of the items you will need, such as desserts or ingredients for cooking.”
“Invest and spend wisely. You will have a merrier Christmas and a brighter New Year for it,” Mrs Miller concludes.