It’s January and as excited as we all were counting down into the new year on the 31st, I’m almost sure that the feeling has faded and has most likely been replaced by a realization that this month is like the ‘Monday’ of the year.
January. The month we all love to hate. Wonder why they don’t just remedy the situation by giving us a double salary at the close work in December. Seriously. Someone should campaign for that. Then again. Why should they? It’s not like we spent all year NOT knowing that January will happen right?
Well, water rationing and cash deficiency not withstanding, what you’re about to read are some helpful tips on how to survive all 31 days (well now it’s a lot more like 28 days) of this month.
I have divided the read into two. The first part is what we should have done and should be planning to do, to better prepare for the next and all future Januaries, and that will be followed with some tips to survive what’s left of this one in case you’re already counting coins.
This read was inspired by good friend and creator of Lifestyle website thevaluemama.com, Linda Kimaru, who has created a platform for people to share life hacks that are as essential as they are easy and fun to pull off. If you caught the show yesterday, (#Class124 Hustle Monday where I filled in for Mwalimu Rachel), then you may have heard her talk about some of those life hacks.
Part One: Prepping for Battle!
I just thought that would be a catchier subtitle.
In high-school, I’d make a timetable plan of how I would split my time between homework and study time (and TV time… cause that was important to teenage me) but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t ever seem to get enough time to do it all. I always wound up rushing over my homework in the morning before class time and I’d blame it on everything from traffic, the fact that I lived far, that the homework was ‘too much’… I’d blame everything until one of my high school teachers, Mrs Kiai, said to me, “Rachael, there’s no such thing as a bad time table. No timetable is bad. It’s just that if you’re to be really honest, you don’t really follow any of them.”
When you think of it, isn’t that what we’re like with our budgets?
We set them out with great intent but then somehow never get around to putting the money where it belongs.
According to Linda, one effective way is to…
a) Set out a plan (i.e. budget) and when you do, have your priorities straight. Like rent and transport should definitely come above you getting a new pair of shoes.
b) Make your appropriate payments AS you go through the budget and tick against the item as you do! (That’s right! No postponing! Do it right then and there)
c) If you’ve got any savings, put it in a place you CAN’T access. Limit the chances of you spending it unwisely.
d) Treat Yourself! Use what’s left of your budget to treat yourself but be sure to stretch out HOW you treat yourself so as to not end up with nothing too soon.
Don’t know how to make a budget? Well thankfully, Linda has gone a step further and set up a downloadable budget template that you can use regardless of how much you earn and that factors in changes in our national budget.
Part Two: How to get yourself out of the quicksand.
For some of us, it may feel like it’s a little too late for that. Like January is already here and you’ve spent such a considerable part of your earnings that you’re now weighing your basic needs against each other. Like “do I really need to eat three times a day?”
Because sleeping through the month is not an option although that would be a great one, there are a few helpful tips you can use to keep your head above water and they are:
a) Use what’s left of your earnings for your basic needs. i.e. Pay rent, buy food and cater for your transport.
Now while you can’t pick or choose how much rent to pay, you CAN find ways to minimize the cost of the latter.
- For food, identify the cheapest option that suits your budget. No one ever died from eating the same thing and even so, you could find interesting ways of recreating a dish using the same ingredients. For inspiration, visit The Value Mama’s Food Section.
- For transport, as Linda pointed out, you can save quite a bit of your money by leaving the house earlier. Public transport is always much cheaper in the wee hours of the morning and traffic (for those of you who drive) is practically none existent at that time. So leave earlier!!
b) Minimize all your costs. Use office WiFi to get a lot of things done then save on how much you spend on your phone use. If family lives close enough, let them know you’re caught in a bit of a financial rut and ask if you can maybe stop by for dinner every now and again. You could in exchange, offer to run some errands for them or maybe even babysit. (The same arrangement could be made with a friend).
c) Use your talents (or assets) to help make you some money on the side. A good example is a neighbor of mine who carpools every so often when he needs to make up for his fuel budget. He’d send out a group text to a few of us and have people pay him their bus fare in exchange for getting dropped off, provided it’s within his scope. You could offer to share a co-worker’s workload for a small fee or babysit for a family member over the weekend for a small fee (I know I’d pay for that).
All in all it’s a lot better to plan for it in advance but hey, we each have our ways of coping while dealing with the struggle to get through this month. Got any more creative ways to survive Njaanuary? Well please feel free to share them with us below.
Thank you for reading!