While a time to take a breather and catch up with family and friends, the festive season ultimately wreaks havoc on your finances.

Although not ideal, most South Africans rely on some form of credit to help them get through the holidays, but whatever you do, make sure that you resist the temptation of approaching a loan shark.

READ MORE: Avoiding the December debt trap

“It’s easy to get lost in the festive season excitement and end up making financial decisions that will be costly over the long term. One of these is borrowing from a loan shark to finance festive season expenses,” says FNB Personal Loans CEO Emma Mer.

“The reason for this is simple – loan sharks operate outside of the country’s laws that govern the extension of credit.”

The problem with borrowing from a loan shark is that because this type of unsecured lending isn’t regulated, loan sharks have free rein to charge interest rates much higher than the maximum cap allowed by the National Credit Act.

If you do have to fall back on credit, Mer advises that you go with a credible financial services institution to ensure that you get the best interest rate possible and that you’re not being approved a loan that you can’t afford to repay.

READ MORE: Five great ways to save money this festive season

“It’s important to plan your spending wisely and then consider a personal loan to top up or to help you do the things that will benefit you in the long run, and that you would not otherwise be able to do. These could be supplementing education savings, doing home renovations or being able to take up a great travel deal even if you haven’t had time to save for it,” she says.