December.13.17TIPS
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Money Matters with Nimi
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Do you look forward to Christmas or has it all become too much, too commercial and stretching us to our limits in terms of stress, time and money with little focus on the reason for the season!

Whether you are excited with the whirlwind of activity and shopping or dread the pressure and disruption to your life, the strain and drain on your resources, be careful not to overspend. Here are some tips on how to have a great Christmas without throwing your finances into disarray.

1. PREPARE A CHRISTMAS BUDGET
As we get close to Christmas and before the shopping frenzy gets underway, a Christmas Budget is a good place to start. How much can you afford to spend on all the trappings; gifts, decorations, foodand drink, clothes, charity, entertainment, phone calls, travel and a little indulgence for yourself. It’s one thing to prepare a budget but quite another to stick to it.

Compare the total with what you have available to spend. If it is more than you can afford, then cut back. It takes discipline when everything is geared up to make you overspend, but you will be thankful if you stop yourself from going above budget.

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Once you have a budget, make a list of everyone you plan to give a gift to, as well as the amount you plan to spend on each. Refer to your budget; how much can you afford to spend on each person?

Remember those who have been particularly helpful through the year that you should acknowledge with thanks. The exceptional lift operator, the receptionist, the cleaner, those people that just help and support you and make things easier along your way.

Include a few extra gifts for unexpected guests. Sometimes you receive a gift from someone not on your list and feel obliged to reciprocate. There are some people on your list who you’ve exchanged gifts with, out of sheer habit over several years. Perhaps you should forgo some gifts this year and spend time together instead.

You can’t give everyone a gift. If you are wondering whether you should drop a particular person or family from your gift list, you can be sure that they are also considering dropping you! No hard feelings!

We are very excited about our new game: The Bible Game: Saints and Sinners which is a great game for all the family. It is Engaging, Educational and Entertaining. Board Games like our Monopoly editions and the Bible Game make it possible for you to give one substantial gift to a whole family instead of several smaller gifts.

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This year, it seems like Christmas advertising started in September! For months, stores have been featuring Christmas decorations, trees, wreaths, lights and gifts. It’s like one celebration runs into another without us actually considering what it is we are celebrating!

Many people take on debt to fund Christmas. Some use their credit card, borrow from friends and family, or take out a salary loan at exorbitant rates. Some even dip into their retirement savings account! That is a no-no! Funding short-term purchases with anything other than cash can have harmful effects for years.

Paying off credit card debt for months can mean paying 15%-20% more for your purchases once you factor in interest charges. Raiding your emergency funds for Christmas presents makes you so much more vulnerable when the inevitable emergency occurs.

Be realistic and spend what you can comfortably afford today without going into debt. Many families will be paying for their Christmas overindulgence well into 2018 at a time when school-fees are due. Don’t let that be you. Christmas should be about celebrating the birth of Christ, creating memories, and enjoying friends and family, not about creating debt. It should be a wonderful time; don’t jeopardise your financial security.

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BUY IN BULK
Food is one of the major Christmas expenses. In the run up to Christmas, we tend to buy far too much food, and so much of it will end up in the bin wasted. Plan ahead for your Christmas food requirements and make a list of all that you will need. Include some for your office and household staff as well as friends and relations that you know have little prospect of a decent Christmas.

Consider bulk buying of some items as a way to make significant savings, but be careful; buying in bulk can end up being very wasteful if you don’t share with others.

Make a list of friends, relations, colleagues that might be interested; you can share the cost of a cow, a turkey, a sack of rice, cooking oil, and other staples and other non-perishables that can be stored.

Prices have already gone up and are likely to go up even higher in the run up to Christmas so do try to get any bulk shopping out of the way this weekend before
the shopping frenzy kicks in!

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ARE YOU GETTING A CHRISTMAS BONUS?
If you are fortunate enough to be employed, and even more fortunate to be getting a 13th month salary or a Christmas bonus, it’s worth celebrating! Don’t become too reliant on a Christmas bonus, as it is not guaranteed.

If you are expecting the extra cash, what have you planned to do with it? Before you spend it all on Christmas shopping, consider a few things:
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  • Will you pay down some of your debt?
  • Will you take your family on holiday?
  • Will you pay some of your overdue bills?
  • Will you save some?
  • Will you invest some?
  • Will you put a smile on the face of a family that is struggling at this time?
  • Will you give some away?
  • Will you pay your insurance premiums for your car, home, health or life?

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Don’t forget to include a little indulgence for yourself. You have worked so hard all year and do deserve it! No matter what you decide to do with your bonus, you can still provide yourself and your family with a nice Christmas within the confines of a budget.

Using your Christmas bonus wisely is one of the best Christmas gifts you can give yourself. Don’t forfeit this great opportunity.

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MUTUAL FUNDS: A PERFECT GIFT FOR CHILDREN
Are you a parent, grandparent, godparent, aunt or uncle thinking of what to give children this Christmas? Gifts that improve personal finances are an ideal gift; not only do they outlast expensive toys and gadgets, but they may continue to give, long after the gift-wrap has been discarded.

EQUITY FUNDS
The gift of a mutual fund investment is a thoughtful gift for a child and could be the start of a rewarding long-term savings plan. Children have the gift of time; if your plan is to put money away for your child for say, ten years and more, then it is well worth considering investing in a stock market mutual fund. You can invest with as little as N5,000.

Minors cannot hold mutual funds in their own name; an adult can add the child’s name to the account holder name and sign on their behalf until they come of age.

WORRIED ABOUT RISK?
Naturally, savings accounts are the “safe” and “guaranteed” investment vehicles but at a rate of 4-6% a year, inflation or currency devaluation are likely to eat away at the value; savings accounts are ideal for short term savings.

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Do you live in a house where piles of “things” have taken over every nook and cranny?

A wardrobe bursting with old and brand new clothes that will never ever fit no matter how hopeful you are, or just don’t suit you? A store full of unopened appliances or gifts? Sound familiar?

JUST START… BIT BY BIT
This weekend, I am de-cluttering my house. Clutter is one of life’s leading stresses. Studies show that a house full of “stuff” can have a detrimental effect on a
family’s mood and productivity. Take action to clear your physical space…and your mental space. A spring-clean frees up your mind to concentrate on
more important tasks.

  • Piles of paper work that need sorting
  • Unopened bank statements and bills
  • Bulging wardrobes
  • Boxes of stuff in cupboards
  • The leaking tap
  • Blown or dim light bulbs
  • Expired medication, expired food

At the end of the exercise, make someone’s day; ask them to come and pick up things; send some to your church or mosque. Did you know you can sell your
stuff and make some money?

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Are you feeling stressed about Christmas and the looming expenses? There are Christmas loans being bandied about; don’t give in to the pressure and end up in debt. As far as possible pay with your debit card or cash.

It may seem too late but you can still save for Christmas? How much do you spend eating out each day? Why not take packed lunches to work between now and year-end or car-pool and save on fuel costs? If you save N500 a day, that is some extra cash in hand.

SPLIT THE COST
If you are expecting the extended family this Christmas, split the cost so that one person buys and prepares starters, one does the main meal and another the deserts. The joint effort will save you all money and give you quality stress free family time.

“SECRET SANTA”
It would be great to be able to buy gifts for all your loved ones but the reality is that funds are limited and the extended family and friends can be extensive. A “Secret Santa” is lots of fun; everyone buys just one gift. Set a maximum price limit for gifts so that poorer relations don’t feel uncomfortable about not being able to afford much. Secret Santa ensures that everyone gets a surprise gift and saves money. Try it!

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