Post mortem: Christmas expenses versus New Year realities




The euphoria of excessive spending during Christmas always lands people in trouble during the new year as many people are forced to face the reality of paying school fees for their children, renewing house/shop rents or paying for new apartments, among other expenses. PAUL OKAH in this report takes a look at the development.

The greatest problem many Nigerians face is making and sticking to budgets during Christmas as they often engage in excessive spending to please friends and family members.

Christmas, which comes with the euphoria to give and receive gifts to/from friends and family members, also comes with the spirit of people spending more than they budgetted for drinks, parties, ceremonies and others.

Usually after the Christmas celebration come the New Year realities as many visiting families are faced with transportation problems back to their respective cities, with transportation companies hiking fares while passengers have to sell off their mobile phones and electronic gadgets to raise cash to complete their transportation fares.

Interestingly, as a result of spending more time in the village than approved, many workers often return from Christmas to receive sack letters from their offices, thereby having to look for nonexistent jobs and lowering their standards of living.

Travellers recount experiences

Usually, citizens spend huge amounts of money to travel home to interact with family members and friends, even when they are not financially buoyant.

It is common knowledge that transportation companies increase fares to different destinations, sometimes over 50 per cent or even 100 per cent, and consequently passengers have to spend more than they budget on fares alone.

Speaking with this reporter, a civil servant, Mr. Theophilus Chukwu, said he was prompted to travel home for a family meeting during the yuletide, but ended up spending a week as a result of different ceremonies.

He said: “As a result of too many expenses in Christmas, I had to avoid travelling home and instead sent money to my people to celebrate. However, we usually have a family meeting every December 31, so I had to travel home on the 30th. From Abuja to Enugu, I spent N15, 000 on transportation fare. However, upon getting to the village, I got involved in one or two ceremonies I couldn’t shy away from. It was just as if people were waiting for me to come back home to fix their traditional marriage, wedding, child dedication, music concerts and what have you.

“I ended up spending more money than I budgeted. Even returning to Abuja on the 4th of January was another thing as the transport fare was hiked by the transportation company I usually use. Instead of the normal N5, 000, I had to pay N12, 000 to come back to Abuja, in order to resume work. Give or take, instead of the N50, 000 I budgeted to spend in the village, I ended up spending above N100, 000. It is a matter of concern because I have to endure and manage until the end of the month when I expect to receive my salary. 

“If not for the importance of the family meeting, no force on earth would have taken me to the village. You needed to see passengers stranded in the village as a result of the hike in transportation fares. Officials of the transportation companies were having a field day extorting commuters as they charged money even for handbags. I can only advise people to pay particular attention to their expenses because this January is really something else. Many will definitely stay hungry as a result of the excessive spending in the village.”

Similarly, a teacher, Mrs. Rita Okon, said she had to return to her house with her children on January 7 as they couldn’t get a bus to bring them to Abuja from Abakaliki, after spending the Christmas in her maternal village.

She said: “This issue of spending so much during Christmas is really a matter of concern. As a result of the nature of his work, my husband couldn’t travel with him for Christmas, so we had to visit our village for the first time in five years. It was herculean going with our five children as we encountered too many inconveniences on the way. 

“Apart from paying double the normal fare, we had to also pay for our luggage, which was really annoying as we had to transact with touts who behaved like Lords of the Manor. At a point, I even regretted embarking on the trip as we spent more than we planned. Even Christmas was not as fun as we anticipated, so we just had to wait for the whole celebration to be over, attending functions we got late invitations to.

“However, coming back was another problem. It was just as if everyone had the same plan of coming back the same day we planned to come back as even the transportation companies ran out of buses. In fact, by 9am, there was no bus coming to Abuja from Abakaliki, whether Peace Mass Transit, Romchi, Royal Mass, Bright Mass and others as they had all run out of buses. We had to return home to come out to the park the following morning before we got a bus.

“If not for the additional money we got from my husband, we would have been stranded in the village, because the N36, 000 we paid for three seats were just unbudgeted for. What is more worrisome is that we have our house rent to renew this January, apart from the children’s school fees that will be paid upon resumption. Honestly, I regret even conceiving the idea of us travelling for Christmas as we would have saved money to pay other bills, instead of spending excessively during the yuletide.” 

Admonitions

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a development economist and board chairman of Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), Dr. Chiwuike Uba, said discipline and proper budgeting will rescue people from the yearly mistake of overspending every Yuletide. 

“Christmas, no doubt, is a period of celebration and it comes with so much pressure to spend. Truthfully, by experience, it is evident that a lot of people make extra cash during Christmas. How this happens is something I do not have the explanations for. Unfortunately, in the euphoria of the Christmas celebration or rather in a bid to belong, many of us, year in, year out, end up spending all our savings during Christmas. What a world!

“As I stated above, the major reason for over-spending is our quest to belong. Most of us do not want to be seen as not doing well or not belonging to the happening clique. Some go as far as borrowing to achieve the fretting and ‘soon-to-be realised’ painful (mis)adventure. Most of us are like Nigeria. We increase our consumption every Christmas even when our revenue is shrinking.

“To address this problem requires budgeting anchored on real planning. There is no idle fund. Any money that is not allocated or used for something will always end up being spent, one way or the other. Therefore, I advise people to articulate and write down all their accrued and expected bills before, during and after Christmas. These expenses include the children’s school fees, house rents, food items needed in the house for at least two-three months after Christmas, some money for emergencies, etc. 

“Let me say this: it is not enough to write them down (budget), it is important to make the needed payments for the items listed and keep the money for the emergency somewhere else. Christmas purchases/spending can only commence after the settlement of the bills identified.

“The truth is that almost all the festive spending creates significant waste and causes more sicknesses afterward. Some gifts are significantly unwanted and unappreciated by even those you give them to. Such wastes come at huge costs to the family’s budgets and should be discouraged.”

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