• 2019 is going to be a rocky ride.
  • But with some smart planning, you can secure long stretches of holiday next year.
  • It won't be great for productivity and the economy - and given the state of household finances, stay-cations are probably in order.

2018 is rapidly drawing to a close and for most of us, not a moment too soon.

It’s been horrible.

The first half was overshadowed by recession, jobs were lost, rates were first cut, then put up again, fuel prices hit unprecedented highs and our politics were as robust and negative as we have become used to.

Sure, there have been some big wins. Some scoundrels were put out to pasture while others continue fighting frantically for reinstatement.

But the tide is turning.

Pivotal state-owned enterprises encumbered by debt have the best chance in a decade of surviving, and we held on to our credit rating.

Read: The sucker-punch that is South Africa’s petrol price

2019 is going to be a rocky ride. Especially up to the election. And then, depending on its outcome, after that as well.

So how do you get motivated to hit the ground running in the new year?

Plan next year’s holidays.

I have assumed you have already taken New Year's Day 2019 off for the purposes of this exercise. You also have the added benefit that just one public holiday that falls on a Saturday next year, April 27th - which means that South Africans stand to benefit from eleven out of the twelve official days off.

Plus, there will be at least one extra for the election - probably on the 8th of May to allow President Cyril Ramaphosa maximum campaigning time utilising the breaks to maximise his electoral reach.

Most South Africans receive the statutory minimum of 15 days leave a year. Some are more fortunate. But here’s the thing, by carrying over some of your leave from this year, maxing out the opportunities presented by the public holidays and cashing in all your leave in 2019, you can take off 25 days and get 50 days to yourself next year.

Here’s how:

March 21st falls on a Thursday. Take Friday off and get a four-day long weekend.

Good Friday next year falls on April 19th.

By boxing smart, and with a well-timed election, you could take 13 days of leave and have 24 consecutive days off. The 22nd is Easter Monday, followed by Worker's Day on May 1st and a possible election on the 8th – you stand to gain a long break without too much planning.

No sooner will you have recovered from your big holiday than June 16th, this year on a Sunday, arrives and you get the Monday off as a result.

Women's Day conveniently falls on a Friday this year allowing you another long weekend without having to take a day of additional leave. This is getting good.

Tuesday 24 September is Heritage Day. Take off the Monday and you have yourself a “Van Rooyen” - another four-day weekend – named in honour of the time in office of South Africa’s shortest-serving finance minister.

Then there’s the long final haul to December which in 2019 offers a great opportunity to get a good long break.

December 16th falls on a Monday next year, while Christmas and Family Day fall on a Wednesday and Thursday and New Year's day naturally a week later, on a Wednesday. You could take a break from the close of business on Friday 13th of December, fill in a leave form for 11 working days and return to work only on 6 January, a full 23 days later.

How you are going to afford all that leave is your problem.

2019 may become the year of the stay-cation considering the state of the economy, and if everyone follows this advice it’s unlikely to be the most productive of years for the economy. Experts are forecasting not much more than 1% growth for the whole of next year. And that is a positive scenario, provided we avoid a Moody's downgrade which would plunge the country to a new level of despair.

Politicians seem to think they have the rating in hand, but so much can go wrong. Eskom’s continued power woes weigh on every aspect of what we do and without massive structural reform, growth will disappoint in 2019, and beyond.

If it does all go pear-shaped at least you will be able to hide from the world in your bedroom and take extended breaks from a fractious office environment for long periods.

A win. Either way.

Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award winning financial journalist and broadcaster.

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