No matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself; borderline elite, comfortable middle-class, borderline middle-class, hustler middle-class, any small breeze, and you will join the 70% chilling by the poverty line. At the risk of sounding like Randy (see previous post for reference), I’ll say, spend as least as possible. It’s not your job to save the economy eventually. Stress caused by financial difficulties and worries can become chronic. Decisions made under stress are usually terrible. So how do you deal with it? Many people don’t. Money is one of the most difficult subjects for people to talk about. Introspection or with partners or with parents or friends, nobody gleefully starts discussing money problems. As you read this piece, be ready to have a frank conversation with yourself.
A lot of us have a poor saving culture. I was speaking with a friend in Lagos, he talked about how a bus driver can earn as much as N20,000 in a day, then head to mama-put, and spend N15,000 buying cow leg, goat meat and beer. Normal sturvs. We take our YOLO very seriously. “If I perish I perish”. It sounds pretty powerful to throw your last cash into immediate pursuit of pleasure versus delaying gratification. We’ve seen people buy a car and start begging for fuel money.
Financial responsibility is about having money, and knowing the right time to spend it. It is about you being able to sort your needs and even unforeseen emergencies. Basically, self sufficiency. This isn’t denying that people are genuinely poor/broke. This is that one person who is always asking to borrow money to pay back month end. We know some who earn well, are single, have no mouths to feed back home, not building a new house or driving a luxurious car or paying for their education, and it is not “showing on their body”. There are parents who earn enough, maybe even live in low cost housing, who are not sending their kids to Montessori, but can’t stop being broke. We don’t often earn enough to live our dreams, but we’ve never truly had the burning desire to cut our clothes according to our coats and live with contentment. Living your best life isn’t about squandering or conspicuous consumption. It is being reesponsible.
Hey, here’s some reality check. This new world we’re entering; you cannot go with this your same old money habits. You cannot afford to live life on the edge because you believe you’ll make money again tomorrow. You’ve seen what happened with overnight lockdown. I am not here to give you talks on binomo and investments, because right now, investment opportunities are slimmer, your investments might be crashing, and liquidity is just king. I am not here to tell you to save 20% of your 20k salary because that’s for motivational speakers. I am not a motivational speaker. We are simply going to try some strategies and hope our lives can improve from practicing them.
Some ideas that can help you get through these hard times:
- Know where your money is.
- Cut back, rather than cut out expenses.
- Swap unnecessary costs with long term smart ones.
- Eliminate non-essentials.
- Make sacrifices.
- Make a realistic budget, stick to it.
- Start an Emergency fund.
- Practice mindful eating.
- Find more modest housing.
- Don’t be afraid to get help.
- Reduce your car usage.
- Safe guard your current job.
- Ask for your pension.
- Start looking for new opportunities.
Know where all your money goes.
Track and know your expenses by heart. It sounds ridiculous when a full blown adult genuinely don’t know what they spent money on in a day. Your money is a messenger not your god. It goes ahead of you to open doors for you. With cash or debit card, always know where you are sending your money on errand to.
Cut back rather than cut out expenses.
The goal is to get to where you can differentiate your wants and needs. Depending on your current situation, have a realistic expectation of what you can or cannot do without. You may cut an item out of your expenses, trying to be disciplined, but then start diverting other expenses back to it when it feels impossible. I remember some months ago when we were trying to bolster our savings. We tried cutting out “Hangout”. It wasn’t realistic, we strongly needed live music, a deejay, and watching people dance stupid, so we ended up eating into the savings, defeating the point of being financially responsible. You cannot cut out food for sure, but you can cut back how much you spend on it. Eat in rather than eat out. But if eating out is a pleasure you’ve always allowed yourself, think about how often must you do it, how cheaper can you do it, and that’s what goes into your budget. As they say on twitter, cooking is not a talent, it is a life skill.
Swap unnecessary costs with long term smart ones.
You can live another month without a new gadget or set of furniture, but servicing your car often, or getting an energy saving AC could net you a nice savings through fuel efficiency, and save you from expensive repairs later. If you can still afford health or car insurance, please go for it. It is a long term smart cost.
Avoid putting expenses on automatic pilot. Write down your purchases and services, and the price. Then go through the list and be savage. Be very savage. Also start cancelling all those four-four dollars monthly phone subscriptions. You’ll be surprised how much they add up to. Do not spend any money that doesn’t absolutely, positively need to be spent. Have a frank conversation with your kids if you have any. Those crack-heads are smarter than we give them credit for. By age 3, you can start introducing them to basic money concepts. By 7, they can have a firm understanding of financial responsibility. That way you can manage their expectations about frivolous things they tend to want, and you tend to buy.
You have to be willing and ready to be mean to yourself. You have to be cruel to be kind. You must understand that there is a bigger picture you’re after, and tough times don’t last forever. Don’t blame yourself for the cuts you make, don’t explain to anyone why you do it. Loving yourself can sometimes mean denying yourself what you think you “need” the most. Find a cheaper hobby if your fav cost you an amount.
Make a realistic budget, then stick to it.
After you have had these frank conversations with yourself or your family, prepare your budget as at where you stand right now, how can you fit your needs into your income? Stick to that budget you write down that very day. Do not deviate, Do not pass Go, Do not borrow 200.
Start a go-to fund for emergencies.
Keep it liquid and make it automatic. Literally, anything can happen. If you’re a small business, try as much as you can to sell things off. Try discounts. BOGO. People are not willing to let go of their savings, so if you can entice the few who have disposable income, go for it. Think less of profit and more of income. If you can pivot within your current space, pivot. What good is products at hand when you need liquidity.
Practice mindful eating.
Eating doesn’t have to be a mindless, meaningless act you do to fulfil a craving within you. A craving requires you to pay attention to something, and eating is not different. Mindful eating helps promote weight loss, reduce binge eating, those snacks you want to eat by 1am, and helps you feel better. Apart from feeling better which is important in financial distress, it definitely helps you reduce unnecessary cost on food. We spend so much on food, but because it is food, we excuse the excesses away because, we believe we need it to survive. 14 pieces of nuts can be great snacking, 20 is excess and wasteful because your’e trying to fufil a craving. Eating a filling breakfast as at when due reduces your craving for junk food, saves you money.
Find more modest housing:
Too many of us have larger (or more expensive) homes than we actually need. Consider downsizing to the least costly home that will meet you or your family’s needs. A lot of us feel like we need extra space because it gives an illusion of comfort. Why are you in a 3-bedroom apartment that is unoccupied? Who are you expecting? If you’re one of those who live in room and parlour that you cannot furnish, it’s time to talk to yourself. It may be an ordeal trying to get an apartment during this pandemic, but if it indeed applies to you, consider it for after. If your rent is about to expire anyway, you may want to consider it right now and find a way around it.
Don’t be afraid to get help.
Do not hesitate to admit you need help. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. And if God has prepared someone to help you, don’t turn your back on it. Not everyone will say yes, or no. Win some, lose some. And it is not always about money. There are organizations, churches, mosques that are offering aid to people, there are people willing to help other people, just waiting for someone to cross their mind. There are people giving out free food but you feel weird to queue. Before I started driving, I tasted free ride to and fro work for a whole year and after that, I actively sought out free and stress free transportation wherever I moved to. DO NOT be a freeloader though. And if the shoe fits, you wouldn’t feel a pinch.
Reduce Your Car Use.
When you’re on a tight budget, you should be attuned to minimizing your driving as much as possible and cut fuel costs. It may be easier for those on personal lockdown. It may be hard because you’re always in traffic, but you’re the one who can know what your movements are, and see what you can cut. For example, combining multiple shopping trips into one. The worst part is an unnecessary repair. I remember when planning my wedding and I had an accident. The amount we spent fixing that car burnt me more than I could put into words. Apart from being a learner, all I kept thinking was all the things we could do with that money. Maybe if I was driving to a very important meeting it wouldn’t hurt so bad, in this case, I was gallivanting at night.
Safeguard your current job.
Remain engaged and enthusiastic, keep a high profile and network, network, network. Has your salary been cut in half? So you want to also cut the effort you put in because that’s what the company deserves? It is yourself you will be doing. Make yourself visible, show you want to be part of the team. If you feel you’re getting bored from lack of activity, and not because your office shutdown operations, this means your role is redundant. Find work for yourself. Borrow somebody’s work. Apart from you needing the money, it gives you a genuinely productive way to pass your time. Analyse how much you save or produce for the company and don’t be afraid to let higher-ups know what key role you’re playing in the company. Also, stay current with the latest developments, education and technology in your field.
Start looking for new opportunities.
As the company is trying to survive, so are you. If you believe that your company or job is in jeopardy, update that resume. Reach out to your current network and hustle them, hit the job boards and ignite your job search. Getting a new job can be hard, getting a new job during a pandemic can be harder, but what would you be spending your free time doing anyway? Be ready for closed doors, and be hopeful for open ones.
Ask for your pension.
If you’re out of a job, but you had a pension account with your previous employer in Nigeria, by law you are entitled to 25% of your pension. Some sort of unemployment benefit. They won’t tell you about it so you won’t ask for it. You only get this once, so don’t blow it. It may also not be easy to collect, if we are going by the institutions Nigeria runs. But hey shoot for the moon, maybe land on a star. Get in touch with your respective pension collector and fight for your right. 25% of 100,000 is not nothing.
Exercise and pay attention to your mental needs.
You’re not aiming to lose weight, or for fad, but your mind needs that physical activity. Take a walk. Watch a movie. Spend time on yourself, don’t rush that soap lather in the bathroom. Listen to music. Work on your favourite hobby, or start a new one. My website is personally grateful for this pandemic. Jog, dance or participate in some other physical activity. No matter what happens, try to stay light and happy.
There is the season of plenty, and there is the season of few. There is a nugget here for everyone. Pick the one that works for you and make those steady steps towards them. Stay safe, stay uninfected. If you have other tips I did not mention, please comment below.