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…After Christmas and New Year celebrations, the days ahead come with challenges; only the prepared pull through unharmed
By Job Osazuwa
For fixed income earners, January, the first month in the Gregorian calendar, seems the toughest and the longest. Many have come to see it that way. So, among the 12 months in the year, a lot of people, especially the paid-income earners, see January as the most unfriendly.
Oftentimes, January comes soon after many have exhausted their finances during the festive period; the month now seems to have 40 or more days. So, it is an agonising, long month of waiting before the next pay cheque arrives. Those in this situation often cry out, blaming their meagre finances and poor management habits, among other things, for their woes. That is why the long wait for January to end is often tinted with melancholy.
The reason for this widely-held belief is largely because many who receive salary before December 25 would have to wait till the first week in February to receive the next pay. Even self-employed people are affected by the January bug because it takes a while for their business to pick up after the December boom.
Apart from the long wait before the next payday, the lavish spending at Christmas and New Year leaves deep holes in many families’ pockets. It does not help their survival in the first month of the year.
Immediately after the frenzy of the Yuletide, many suddenly realise that their bank balance is in the negative. Then comes reminders about rent that is due as ‘back-to-school’ time stares them in the face. All these bug the mind and heighten wishes for January to quickly go away.
Days ago, a social commentator and property lawyer based in Lagos State, Adegbenro Olajide, told the reporter that one way to survive January was to be proactive. He wondered why people always complained of hardship during the month.
He said: “It is lack of discipline that usually leaves people cash-strapped. The same people come up with the same complaints every year.
“January has 31 days just like some other months. It looks longer to some people who are in the habit of lavishing all their life savings in December. They buy the most expensive clothes, travel to their villages largely at the expense of their children’s school fees.
“They forget that there are financial responsibilities awaiting them at the beginning of the year.
“The issue is that most of us create our own problems. Some persons go to the extent of trying to impress their neighbours, family members and friends. Then, at the end, they begin to blame January for their financial woes. That’s wrong.”
He recalled how he met an acquaintance drinking himself to stupor on Christmas Day. He said that the man didn’t just get drunk, he spent the last kobo on him buying beer for people at the bar. He recalled that the man had earlier turned down his counsel to control his drinking habit; the lawyer said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the man began to blame January for his woes.
Indeed, the festive period is over. Reality has begun to set in for many families. For some people, it is the same story of yearly struggle for survival and lack of money that greets them after the Yuletide celebrations.
As most people worry concerning how to scale through the seemingly toughest month of the year, another social commentator, chartered accountant and former chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Lagos Mainland District, Mr. Cyprian Nwuya, has handed out tips for surviving January’s financial challenges.
He tasked people caught in this web to become organised, noting that, no matter how financially tight the month might be, it is surmountable when the right things are done. He pointed out that the situation had nothing to do with one’s financial status, but taking time to review finances before spending in the month.
Nwuya recommended a new budget formula for the New Year, stressing that drawing a budget was a perfect way to plan what and how much to spend at a time like this.
“The best time to have a healthy budget is when money is insufficient. Some persons wrongly hold the view that when they are cash-strapped, they don’t need any budget. But one of the things a budget helps one to do is to get rid of excesses. That is one of the best ways to survive the month of January.
“Perhaps during the festive season, your kids got everything they asked for without hesitation. Now that things are tough, one should learn to teach them to make adjustments.
“You should put a brake on buying ice cream at popular eateries or taking them to fast food joints that are not even good for their health. The kids love Disney Junior but its subscription might be a luxury at a time like this; so one might not be able to afford it in January. This might a better time to let the kids be acquainted to local television stations that also stream some kiddies’ shows,” he said.
The financial consultant also advised against the temptation to get quick loans, because doing so might further plunge the individual into a mess after January has rolled away. He recommended drastic reduction in the family’s expenditure.
Similarly, another social commentator, Mr. Ikechukwu Emmanuel, head of debt the recovery unit at a microfinance bank in Lagos, blamed people who were in the habit of rushing to buy goods on credit in January. He described the trend as a lazy way of coming out of trouble.
Emmanuel explained that buying goods on credit was simply postponing the evil day to February and other months following. He advised Nigerians to only spend what they have after the Yuletide and shun tempting offers of credit, which he described as “debt traps.”
He, however, maintained that living within one’s means during Christmas and New Year periods was the first and safest step towards staying out of trouble.
For Akintola Matthew, a civil servant, who shared his thoughts on how he planned to survive January: “It is not easy surviving a month like January. The month is always tricky; after I overspent during the festive period, I’m left with almost nothing at the moment.
“No matter how carefully one tries to plan, the month is sure to come with its own challenges.
“But for me to survive the month, I have planned that I’m going to spend less; I have set aside a token to support my budget.”
Similarly, Ademuyiwa Kunle, a sales representative working at a popular juice company, admitted that “January is really a hard month, especially after most people have spent their money on Christmas and New Year.
“But, for me, I had to cut back on my usual expenses; I ensured that I took care of only the essentials. I knew that it was never going to be easy but I would surely survive, as I have always done.”
On how he intended to pull through January, a teacher at a private school in Ikeja GRA, Lagos State, Mr. Emannuel Chinedu, told the reporter: “I am actually faring well. I won’t say that the New Year has started off roughly, aside from the fatigue of the festivities. But everything is going good.”
He recalled that he was prudent in handling his finances during the festivities, noting that “the idea was to assist me overcome the long month of January without unnecessary panic. I know what I earn so try to live by it.”