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How to coast through January like a boss

By Graham Kajilwa | Dec 25th 2021 | 4 min read
By Graham Kajilwa | December 25th 2021

December holidays can be heady with all the merrymaking.

It is a time to be jolly, and many people’s judgement is clouded when it comes to money matters.

It is not until the New Year that the extent of our excesses during this period hit us, hard.

But it does not always have to be this way. It is possible to enjoy the season and get through January without getting into debt.

Elijah Kimani, a business development manager at Equity Bank says during this period, many individuals throw caution to the wind when it comes to spending, forgetting the bills are waiting come January. 

He noted that during the first two weeks of December, banks are usually teeming with people looking to make huge withdrawals as they make plans for the holiday season. 

“But come January, everybody is seeking help,” said Mr Kimani.

He advises that to avoid the January blues curse, one must make a budget and stick to it. 

But according to Waithaka Gatumia, chief executive at Centonomy, an outfit that runs a programme that trains individuals on personal finance, being careful with money during this season does not mean being tight-fisted.    

“And that is where we often make the mistake. We often leave the fun out of the budget,” said Mr Gatumia during a recent show about prudent spending during the holidays on a local television station.

He said a budget should not necessarily be restrictive but should help you control your expenses.

“When you look at someone’s budget, it shows you what their priorities are. My priority during this season is family,” said Gatumia.

He said your budget should include every expense, including such activities as swimming and dining out.

This will guide you in deciding which ones to knock out should you feel your budget is too big.

Your budget should also include miscellaneous expenses such as small amounts you dish out to friends and relatives, especially those who live upcountry.  

“Do not give and end up looking for a loan in January,” said Gatumia.

“You are only in control of where you are today. You are not in control of tomorrow. We are not saying the choice to have a party is not important, but have it in some context.”

For example, it might not be prudent to go out daily during the holidays. The amount saved by not overindulging, he said, can come in handy after the holidays.

One way of avoiding running into trouble in the New Year, he advised, is to pay all the major bills before proceeding on holiday.

“If you have cash now, don’t wait to pay the bills in January. Pay the bills as soon as the money lands in your account before doing other things,” advised Gatumia.

Equity Bank’s Kimani said it is also important to avoid peer pressure when it comes to holiday spending, noting that many people fall into the trap of spending “to please others.”

“The idea of relevance does not mean throwing caution to the wind and hence doing things without realising life continues even after December,” he said.

Kimani said the rule of thumb to avoid January blues is to stick to your budget.  

Gideon Nzukie, a director at Hashting Solutions, admits to falling into the trap of overspending during the festive season.

“Sometimes when you are caught up in the festivities, a lot of young people tend to forget how close January is to December,” said Nzukie, stressing the need for making a budget and sticking to it.  

He noted that many young people struggle with what he called FoMo (Fear of Missing Out), succumbing to peer pressure and therefore spending more than they had intended to.  

“One of the mistakes during this season is not having control over your budget when you travel to meet family and friends,” said Nzukie.

He observed that what happens when someone overspends is they tend to rationalise, saying “I have already done it, so what will be, will be.”

Centonomy’s Gatumia said during this festive season, it is wise to keep one’s emotions in check as this makes one vulnerable to overspending.

“If I do not have the money, I can’t spend it. So I should keep the money that I do not want to spend far away,” he said.

One way of doing this, Gatumia noted, is putting the cash in a fixed deposit account or giving it for safekeeping to someone you trust, such as a parent.

“If you do not have that capacity to control your emotions, use someone around you who is accountable. Remove the temptation,” he said.

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