How to Enjoy the Holiday Season without Going Broke

  | 7 min read

It’s the season to be jolly and spend more

Even the stingiest and most frugal Tanzanian will most likely spend more money than usual in the month of December. You see, the last month of the year is the most festive time in the Tanzanian society, consisting of Tanzania’s Independence Day on December 9th, Prophet Muhammed’s Birthday on December 12th, Christmas on December 25th, Boxing Day on December 26th, and New Year’s Eve on December 31st. In addition to all these holidays, December is the month when  most Tanzanians go on leave from work and visit their relatives in their hometowns, travel abroad, or simply enjoy their break wherever they are. As a result, there tends to be a lot of money spent on food, drinks, partying, gifts, and travel. And once the new year arrives, most people are completely broke.

However, just because there are a lot of activities that take place during the holiday season, doesn’t mean that you have to end up broke by the end of it. In fact, there are a number of habits that you can adopt to ensure that you continue to have the best time during the holiday season without draining your bank account.

1.     Set your budget for the month

If you do not have a budget of how much money you can spend during the holiday season, then you are setting yourself up for financial failure. It’s so easy to lose track of how much you are spending on drinks, dinners, parties, gifts and other miscellaneous things, but a budget will make sure you know exactly where your money is going.

So, sit down and think of all the major activities that you will be participating in and calculate the costs. For instance, if you know that you will be going out to party with friends every weekend this month, and you know that you’ll be drinking 5 cocktails each night which cost TZS 10,000, then you should set a drinking budget of TZS 100,000 each weekend, so TZS 400,000 for the month. However, this does not include the cost of food and transport that you will use when you go out, and the cost of drinking during the week. As a result, you may decide to reduce your costs either by drinking less, or finding less expensive alcohol to consume so that you can add other expenses like fuel and food (when going out) to the TZS 400,000.

2.     Have get-togethers

The holiday season is all about spending quality time with family and friends, and there’s no better way to do this than by throwing a get-together party at your place. However, hosting a large number of people at your home can get quite expensive if you are shouldering all of the costs. So, instead of providing all the food and drinks, ask your guests to each bring one dish and one drink. This will reduce your costs of cooking and buying beverages.

Also, having small get-togethers with different groups of friends and family could be a great alternative to consistently going out to eat at restaurants, as you’ll only be responsible for preparing one meal.

3.     Purchase fewer gifts

We all know that purchasing of gifts is one of the most costly expenses of the holiday season, especially if you  have a fair amount of close friends and family members expecting a gift. One way to reduce the cost of Christmas gifts is to get your family members and friends, thoughtful presents rather than expensive ones.

For instance, a framed photograph of you and your friend when you were kids with a handwritten letter expressing how much their friendship means to you, will not only cost you less but will also show that you really value and care for that person (more than a new pair of shoes would).

Another great way to reduce your spend on gifts is to propose that your group of friends and/or family members play Secret Santa. Secret Santa is a holiday gift-exchange game whereby:

·      Everyone writes their name on a piece of paper, folds it, and puts it in a bowl.

·      Each person picks a piece of paper (without seeing whose name is on it) from the bowl. Whoever’s name you get is the person you have to buy a gift for.

·      This means that everyone in the group gets a gift and has to buy a gift.

·      You also have to set a budget for how much everyone should be allowed to spend – so, let’s say not more than TZS 40,000.

If you play Secret Santa with your group of friends, then you now only have to get gifts for your close family members.

4.     Plan a staycation

Instead of spending money on a trip to a new city, beach resort, or national park –consider planning a vacation in your own city. A staycation is simply a vacation spent in one’s own home that involves visiting local attractions during the day.

So, for instance, if you live in Dar es Salaam you can research local sites, restaurants, and neighborhoods that you’ve never visited or paid much attention to. And spend your vacation getting to know Dar better.

Also, to make it truly feel like a vacation, spice up your home by getting some fresh groceries, new movies, video games, and books, and other items that will help you relax in the comfort of your own house while saving money.

5.     Prioritise the most important holidays

As mentioned before, there are plenty of holidays in the month of December, and the fastest way to waste all your money is to celebrate all of them to the fullest. A better strategy would be to prioritize the holidays that are most important to you. So for instance, if Christmas Day and New Years are the days you truly care about, then it’s ok to spend money on an event, party, outfit, family members, and more, on these days (within your budget of course). Whereas, on Independence Day you can just relax at home and save your money.

Simply put, we can’t always have it all.

Bonus tip: Look for packages and deals

If you must do it all, then at least attempt to find a deal that saves you some cash. So, if you insist on going out each weekend, then make sure to research and find a ‘happy hour’ and food deals at different restaurants around town. The same goes for if you decide to travel, then find some affordable travel packages, and shop at stores that have sales and discounts.

It’s the memories that count

The holidays are all about taking the time to appreciate the people you love and the fact that you are lucky enough to live through another year. So, instead of focusing on living it up, put your efforts into spending time with the people that matter to you. And the beauty of it all is, memories that last us a lifetime can be created anywhere – whether you went to the party that everyone in town wants to go to, or you stayed at home sipping tea and playing cards. So prioritize the moments that will last you a lifetime, rather than those that you will forget about by next week.


Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.