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At this time of year, many people will get their end-of-year bonuses or stokvel payouts. For some the word 'bonus' means a license to buy. 
You may agree, because you have worked hard during the year and want to reward yourself with luxury items you couldn't afford on your monthly salary. 
But before you rush off to buy fancy clothes and other unnecessary items, think again. 
The best way to spend your bonus wisely is to budget and plan for it. This will prevent you from buying things you don't really need and cannot afford. 
January follows just after the holiday season and brings new expenses. Spending your money wisely means you can save some for emergencies and for necessary things like school uniforms, school fees and books. 
You can also pay off some of your debt. Even if you pay only a small amount towards your debt, it will reduce some of the interest that had built up during the year. 
You can also use your bonus to buy in bulk. Many shops have end-of-year specials. Look out for items that can be stored like tinned food, dried food, soap and washing powder. 
Credit record
It is also wise to keep a clean credit record. If you enter into a credit agreement, read the agreement carefully before signing. If there's anything you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask for an explanation. 
Always try to pay on time. If you find you cannot keep up with instalments, don't skip payments. Talk to your credit giver about your situation. Make an arrangement to pay off less over a longer period. Many credit givers are willing to help you work out a payment plan. Do not wait until you get a final demand. 
New year's resolution
The end of the year is a time when people make new year's resolutions. Many decide to improve their lives. In this time of high food and fuel prices, let us decide to use our hardearned bonuses wisely and start 2009 with little or no debt at all. 
- Muzi Mkhwanazi