When the festivities began, people ate chicken. As the festivities wore on, they ate chicken products (eggs). And when January finally came, they ate like chicken, descending upon chicken feed (cereals). Their graph dipped at an alarming rate.
This is a famous meme that tells the story of many spenders over the Christmas holidays. At the beginning, they spend almost all the cash as if they robbed a bank, and with little regard for the coming days.
Day in day out, they toss money about until they have no more to spend, impoverishing themselves to a point of failing to afford basic needs in January.
We are in that period yet again.
Stories of spending too much over the Christmas festivities are barely new. The spendthrift, however, barely learn lessons. Another December has just strolled past and with January 2022 here with us, the regrets will be kicking in within no time.
Those who threw caution to the wind and indulged in merriment, exhausting their savings, are braced for a torrid January, which is infamous for appearing to be as long as two months combined.
From gaily singing about the 12 days of Christmas, they are likely to change the song to the 60 days of January.
Celebrities organised top shows and people paid dollars for the fun. Tour and travel companies gave irresistible offers. Now, sitting to take stock of what happened in December, regrets pour in.
January is known to be a tough month. For those dependent on agriculture, which is the mainstay for most Kenyans, rains failed and farms are horribly barren.
According to the Economic Survey 2021, agriculture remained the dominant sector, accounting for 23 per cent of the total value of the economy in 2020. Most of this agriculture is dependent on rainfall.
Most January, businesses falter as people’s reduced earnings hurt spending. And more responsibilities are back with a bang; alongside other places that demand money, schools reopen and demand notes fly into parents’ faces.
The month is full of sobering experiences though others like bookshops, school uniform sellers and owners of learning institutions reap big.
But as Christmas approached, tweeps started sending a warning to peers, as they are wont to do, with the celebrations lurking. It is possible that even those sending the warnings barely followed their own advice.
“Do not get drunk by the festive mood and overspend. Remember December is only a few days to go and January has 31 full days,” wrote Selemogo.
“I know I cannot tell you what to do but please don’t overspend in your bid to enjoy this Christmas,” Saltpond warned. And Reverend Gershon Kanyandu told his followers to “be smart, safe, wise and responsible.” He told them not to overspend and to avoid unnecessary travels.
But people did travel in their numbers. After being locked up in the city for a long year, many yearned to visit their families in the countryside.
Flyp, a mobile banking app, even posted a not-to-do list.
“What are we not doing for the holidays: go into debt to buy gifts, stop paying bills to afford gifts, bust our budgets to fund the holidays, and feel guilty about not being able to spend the way we dream.”
Cometh January. Kenyans call it Njaanuary, with a corruption of January to make obvious the fact that it is a month of hunger, njaa. After huge spending, now comes the struggle.
“Stay safe. Stay alive. Keep everyone around you safe and alive. We all have to go through the valley of the shadow of Njaanuary together,” writes Wallace Kantai.
Twitter user Bullets posts a picture of a lion hiding behind a tree, watching as a zebra grazes in the distance, and likens the king of the jungle to a Njaanuary seated on its haunches.
“In Njaanuary, rent, fees, debts all waiting for you to finish celebrating,” he writes.
And Joseph the Mayor has advice based on past experience.
“English Premier League and The Champions League are very competitive but Njaanuary is on another level. Start practicing early, my friend. I once forgot to pay my December rent because my salary came on December 20. Come January I found the landlord’s missed call. Hell broke loose.”
Someone even said that after December festivals are Njaanuary fees-tivals. Here, school fees’ demands are hot on parents’ heels.
But one can rescue the month, and year, in spite of careless spending of December. Here are some of the most crucial things to consider in a bid to salvage the month:
Avoid the company that drew you to heavy spending
It is no longer the Christmas season, and the friends and family that had you drain your bank account should be put at bay. Oftentimes, these are not people you spent the better part of the past year with.
They are people that are for the special moment, and that was the reason you did not hesitate to dent your accounts for them. If you continue to hang out with them, you will still be under the illusion that it is okay to spend on and on. And before you notice, you will be ducking creditors right, left and centre.
Make a plan to track your expenditure
One of the biggest reasons you will be in the financial quagmire is because you did not make a plan in December. It was time to spend and not track that. But January is a different month altogether.
Responsibilities will demand that the movement of every coin be monitored. Furthermore, you do not possibly have the muscle to flex for two consecutive months. Make a plan. Track your money. Allocate every need an amount of money that you wish to spend on it. Commit and do not violate that commitment.
Cut your spending
The plan that you make should have, at the fore, a consideration for reduced spending. On everything, go easy. Do away with your excesses. Live with just enough. Tough times call for a lot of financial discipline. Whatever is not necessary for the moment should be avoided.
This is the time to make sure that the money that was left after the spending spree is not just lying idle. Invest. If you can buy government securities, it is time to.
If you can hammer a good deal in which you will get a return in good time, then take it. Investing, apart from giving you profits for your money, will increase your discipline.
You will not be tempted to spend the money because you actually cannot just access it whenever you want. If it is to start a business, do not turn back.
This is the time to make the plans you have always had become a reality. However little is left, invest it. If you do not, you might end up wasting it in an even more embarrassing manner than you did in December.
Start planning for the next holiday as early as now
Make a plan of how much you want to spend on the next holiday. Work towards saving that money purely for enjoyment.
That is the money that should be kept aside from the cash that you are going to be spending until then. The plan can be made as early as now. Hiving off part of your earning in preparation for the holidays will mean that the next holidays, the scars you suffered this past month will be minimised.