’tis the season to be jolly, but many a South African will feel more trepidation than delight as the celebrations of the festive season loom. These South Africans are shackled by the chains of reckless spending and unsound financial advice. Including by friends and family, they will be visited by the Fiscal Ghost of 2022 Past, but – to keep misquoting and paraphrasing Charles Dickens – the best of times can follow the worst of times. According to Professor Jaco Fouché from the School of Accounting Sciences at the North-West University (NWU), with some foresight the future can look a lot brighter.
“We are nearing the end of the year. Most people are physically and emotionally tired, especially since we have now had a few years of exceptional circumstances, including the Covid-19 pandemic, riots, and the current economic turmoil worldwide. Some people are emotional eaters, others become emotional shoppers. Now that you are emotionally weak, you can easily make big financial decisions or purchases that you may well regret in the new year,” says Fouché.
“We are also approaching the holiday season, with Black Friday sales and Christmas gifts. Remember, retailers are there to make a profit, and their advertising is focused on getting consumers to spend money. It is easy to fall into the trap of spending more this time of the year when we are in a holiday mood.”
Fouché goes on to explain why it is especially important for consumers to be frugal regarding their spending habits this time of the year: “Some of the best advice I have heard was from my father-in-law, who said: ‘You cannot save money when you are spending it.’ Let me explain. Retailers often announce specials and savings now. These may well be legit, but if you were not planning to buy something in any case, you are not saving – you are still spending money, just a little less. However, you can also use these offers to your advantage. When you spot real bargains – often after the holiday season – you can, for example, use the opportunity to buy gifts for the birthdays coming in 2023.
“Most people do not know what they spend their money on. Do yourself a favour and track your spending for three months. That will be an eye-opener for most people and may just be the motivation you were waiting for to change your spending patterns.”
Another area of concern to Fouché is that South Africans are not sufficiently financially literate, and this is a matter the NWU hopes to address: “Unfortunately, research worldwide shows that people are not financially literate. And, to tell the truth, few people care about your level of financial literacy. It may in fact suit some dubious people to keep you financially illiterate. The best advice is to take responsibility for your own financial literacy. Buy one book a year – and there are many – about personal finance, read it and implement what you have learned. You will be amazed at the progress you will make over five years.”
With the NWU’s School of Accounting Sciences offering programmes accredited by various professional bodies, including SAICA, SAIPA, ACCA, CIMA and ICFP, as well as the NWU’s proud commitment to an ethic of care, a financially literate future is within reach. “I can honestly say that the School of Accounting Sciences cares about its students and we care about quality. We measure this in the satisfaction of our students with the student life they experience, as well as in their performance in the national and international professional examinations.”
As a new year beckons, resolutions for 2023 will abound in conversations, but perhaps the most prudent resolution will be a resolve to make your financial future a literate, secure one.
Professor Jaco Fouché