December, the 12th and last month of the calendar year, is here again. The month stirs excitement as billions of Christians and non-believers alike celebrate Christmas Day on December 25—the day designated as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
The festive mood extends to New Year’s Day on January 1, six days later.
The festive mood can already be felt. The Christmas Day countdown is on.
While different people celebrate Christmas in varying ways, feasting and merry making among Christians and non-believers alike is one of the common characteristics of the festive season.
During the Christmas and New Year festivities some individuals and corporations take an opportunity to share some goodies with the less privileged members in society.
In whatever way we decide to celebrate Christmas and New Year festivities, it is important to be on our guard by avoiding to get carried away by the euphoria. Many who have behaved “silly” after being drowned in the festive euphoria have paid dearly financially in January and beyond.
Being on guard means avoiding impulse spending. This demands sanity and planning for one’s personal finances. For instance, simply because your neighbour or family friend is going on holiday at the lake or abroad should not make you follow suit. They planned for it, you did not. Spend within your means.
Gifts are the order of the day during the season, you do not necessarily need to buy very expensive gifts that break your back. What matters is the gesture of sharing. Do not overburden yourself financially.
Retail shops are full of promotions to woo consumers to stock up for the festive season. You need to draw up your budget in advance, list down what you need and what should be prioritised. Budgeting helps you to live within your means and avoid incurring unsustainable debts.
Many employers pay December salaries earlier than usual to allow their employees stock up for the festive season. In some cases, based on company performance, some employers also pay bonuses either in form of what is called “the 13th cheque” or calculated at a stated percentage of one’s earnings.
It is important to prioritise living expenses before going merry. If you live in a rented house, make payment of rent a priority, school fees for your children, food and utility bills—water and electricity—should be sorted out if you are to have peace of mind.
If you happen to get a bonus, do not spend it like you have been cast with a spell. Plan to save for the rainy day. This December or early January, for instance, the Malawi Stock Exchange expects to list some new firms, including Icon Properties. It would be a worthwhile investment to plan to buy shares through the initial public offer (IPO) than buying oneself an expensive state-of-the-art smartphone, dress, shoes or suit. The shares will be a lifetime investment, spare a portion and invest.
If you did not save, do not borrow to spend.
Safety is also critical during the festive season. Ensure that your home and environment in general is secure. If you are driving, ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy. The festive season is a happy occasion, let us avoid excessive celebrations.
You can ensure safety by seeing to it that your vehicle tyres are in good condition and your vehicle has valid permits. Buckle up! It is primitive to wait until the sight of a traffic police officer to buckle up. Encourage your passengers to wear seat/safety belts where there is one.
If you are a passenger on public transport such as minibuses keep an eye on drivers. Your safety is entrusted in the driver so do not let them text while driving or indeed consume alcoholic beverages while driving.
Celebrations require money. Be careful where and when you get your money from. There are scores of automated teller machines (ATM) for customers’ convenience. Be cautious of your environment and make it a point to transact at ATMs in busy points such as shopping centres and service stations, especially when it is dark.
When doing your shopping, focus on your basket or trolley and respect your shopping list. Avoid being an impulse buyer who gets carried away by contents of another shopper’s basket.
Christmas and New Year festivities have been there before and will always be here. Be responsible in your celebrations. Let us avoid getting carried away by planning our expenditures to avoid a bad aftertaste come January.