Coping with the pressure of Christmas
Most Nigeria families have been badly affected by the economic downturn. Debo Peters has recently been laid off by his employer, an oil service company that was forced to shed sixty percent of its work force. He is the primary breadwinner; his wife Anne works part time as a support teacher. The family now faces the prospect of having to withdraw their three children from an expensive private school for a more affordable option. Christmas for the Peters was a fan fair with shopping, fun and travel. Things seem so different now.
Do we put ourselves under far too much financial pressure at Christmas? Whether you look forward with excitement to the preparations or with some anxiety at the stress, and drain on already stretched resources, here are a few tips to help you cope.
Put a Christmas budget in place
You cannot afford to buy gifts for all your loved ones? The reality is that funds are limited whilst the extended family isn’t. Put a spending limit in place; it will help you determine exactly how much you can afford to spend on all the Christmas trappings; gifts, decorations, food and drink, clothes, entertainment, phone calls, charitable donations and travel. If the total is more than you can afford, trim it. Some bulk food staples can be shared with friends and family to manage costs.
Make a gift list
Make a list of friends and family for whom you wish to or feel obliged to purchase gifts and how much you can afford to spend on each person. Some names will have to be dropped; don’t worry they are probably dropping you as well! Remember those who have been particularly helpful through the year.
Before you go out to buy anything, rifle through your cupboards; you will find gifts from birthdays and Christmases past that remain unopened. These can make ideal gifts. Do keep a list of who gave you what, to avoid the embarrassment of giving back to Uncle Celestine the same basket of plastic fruit that he gave you!
It’s the thought that counts
A thoughtful inexpensive gift, something that demonstrates love and care, is of great value. Gifts of sentimental value, such as framed photographs, a potted plant, or a special book, aren’t that expensive. It is also a way of teaching your children by example that thoughtfulness is more important than price. Encourage them to use their talents to create handmade gifts for loved ones who will treasure them.
If you are fortunate enough to receive a Christmas bonus or 13th month salary this year, seize this opportunity to build some savings. Indulge yourself a little and invest the balance in something that will contribute to your long-term financial security. Reduce your debt, particularly high interest debt, put some money in your emergency fund and consider taking advantage of stock market prices to invest for the long term.
The gift of stock or a lump sum mutual fund investment managed by a reputable fund manager is a thoughtful financial gift to a young child and could be the start of a rewarding long-term savings plan that lasts long after toys have been discarded. A mutual fund is a professionally managed fund that pools money from several investors to invest in securities including stocks, bonds and money market instruments. You can invest in a mutual fund for as little as N5,000.
Give of your time and skills
Consider sharing some of your time. Perhaps you have a skill or some knowledge that others might value? For example, you could offer to teach someone how to improve their social media knowledge or give the gift of a few free lessons in your area of competence, such as piano lessons, cooking, coaching etc. Visit a loved one that you haven’t seen in months, make that telephone call, send a handwritten note of appreciation to someone, help with ideas on a project that a friend is working on. In our frenetic world, our time is precious, so this makes such gifts special.
Make a difference
You don’t have to look too far to bring a smile to the face of someone who is having a harder time than you have had. What issue tugs at your heart? Can you be proactive and do something about it in the run up to Christmas and beyond. Give some thought about the way you give; will it be one off, or something more far reaching that has a long term social impact. Be mindful of where you channel your resources to ensure that it is handled by only credible organisations.
Many Nigerian families will still be paying for their Christmas indulgencies well into 2016 when the serious expenses such as school fees come into the fore. Don’t balk under the pressure. In the midst of all the fan fare and activity find a moment to stop and reflect on the true essence of Christmas. May God’s gift of his son Jesus give you joy and peace this season and beyond.
Nimi Akinkugbe, Money Matters with Nimi , is a Money Management and Financial Specialist. Website: www.moneymatterswithnimi.com
Email: [email protected] |Twitter: @MMWITHNIMI | Instagram: MMWITHNIMI | Facebook: MoneyMatterswithNimi