Christmas is in the air! A time for new clothes, toys, chapati, rice and chicken for the kids. A time for a holiday for that nagging wife and a time to remember the birth of Christ. It is generally a happy season to enjoy with family; that is why most city dwellers usually travel to rural homes to be with parents and extended families.
Due to the demands of Christmas, too many of us stress about money. Planning is an effective way to reduce this stress because it helps you figure out what you can do and what you cannot afford. You ought to have planned for this Christmas at the beginning of this year. However, if you do not have a Christmas budget yet, don’t stress, take an hour this weekend and create one.
For each item you include in your budget, ask yourself, how is it increasing the happiness of my family. If it does not increase happiness, drop it off. Only happiness items should remain on the budget. For example, your spouse has suggested you take the kids out to a nyama choma joint that will cost you KSH8800. Your man will enjoy the choma and wash it down with a cold beer. But what about you, a tea-totaler and the kids? If there are no kids’ happiness stuff like bouncing castles etc at the joint, change the venue.
Now come to the funding bit. Your budget has happiness food items like chapatis and chicken kienyeji, alcohol, outing, clothes, parent’s visitation, and transportation, but where are you getting the money to fund it. Christmas items should ideally come from your Christmas savings kitty stashed somewhere in a Chama, Sacco or Bank account.
If you don’t have a Christmas Kitty, this is the first sign of financial stress. It means you have to depend on your month’s income which might not be enough to cater for everything. You might be forced to borrow.
If you are financing by borrowing, then you have to slush the budget to a minimum by being creative and ingenious so that instead of going out, you can do something in the house. Can you call your relatives to a get together co-funded? Can you have a walk to a free park where your expenses will just be the packed lunch and a soft drink? Can you convince your spouse to stay indoors and watch your favorite movies? Are you able to join other faithful’s in a church service and be nourished spiritually as well as kill time?
My best Christmas has remained in my childhood where my dad would take the whole family to the church headquarters 10 kilometers away on foot to enjoy Christmas carols. Although we would carry some packed lunch, the coronation of this journey came as a cup of treetop Juice and two scones. By the end of the day, we have enjoyed Christmas carols and summon, we have walked our heals off and everyone is happy but tired, a good recipe for a sound peaceful sleep and contentment.
Christmas funding issues usually spill over to January, therefore, ensure to operate within your limits. Your neighbors and friends will splash parties and entice your children with goodies. In traffic, hawkers will give things to your babies who will cry to arm-twist you into buying them. You have your budget to help you know what you can and cannot afford. When you go shopping, carry the shopping list and have a smaller shopping list for the children who accompany you too.
Being happy is relative, sometimes it does not require money, all you have to do is kick your imagination into gear, refuse to be swayed by all the spending around you and bigger than all plan well and plan early. If you are finding yourself in a tough situation this year, start planning for the next Christmas, because each year there will be a Christmas.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year from all of us here at Financial Matters.
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