No matter how many advisers we listen to, or articles on personal finance we read, our wants outweigh our resources and most of us are struggling financially. Here, I’m supposed to throw in some fancy statistics about our Nigerian savings culture but who is measuring that? So let’s get on with it. If you have steady income but you are somehow still drowning in “gbese”, “bashi” or debts, chances are you’re doing something wrong and here is why.
1. You Can’t Say “No”
Every week there’s a colleague or the other selling “asoebi” for an occasion that doesn’t really concern you, but they bring some for you to buy anyway, and you feel obligated to purchase. Weddings, funerals, cooperative society meetings, you name it and they will bring it. Before you know it, you are promising to pay at the end of the month and are consequently in debt (Onigbese, aka mai-chinbashi). If you don’t need a new wrapper, learn to politely decline. “Congratulations” or “My sincerest condolences…but I can’t afford this right now. However, let me support you with XYZ”. If the asoebi is N5,000 and you support with N2,500 you have saved yourself 50% on an item you don’t need and the cost of sewing, while still keeping your colleague happy.
We are not strangers to those who habitually call and text for financial assistance, particularly at the end of the month. I’m not about to imply that you leave your loved ones out in the cold. However, be sure you have met your needs, or soon enough you will be the one out there borrowing. Get over your fear of being tagged as wicked or stingy. Be slow to make financial commitments by saying “I’ll get back to you”. This way you have time to process the request and come to a favourable decision.
Finally, dad said “Never lend money you are not prepared to lose”. If you know the amount requested is too large, don’t lend it. You won’t just lose money, you’re likely to lose your friend too (double whammy) because often, people don’t pay back personal loans. . You’ll start getting responses like “But that one don teeeey now, I don even forget” or “But you dashed me now” or my favourite “You don big pass that one now”.
2. You Don’t Ask Enough Questions About Your Money
“Everyone is doing it so I just joined“. They said it was a cheap loan so you took it. They said it was a good deal so you bought it. But good for who? You take the cheap loan only to discover there are all kinds of hidden charges, or the “good deal” is a fraud. Don’t be afraid of looking ignorant, it’s your hard earned money. Before you part with it, ask as many questions as you need to and don’t be afraid to say “Sorry, I’m not convinced this is right for me” or “Thank you but I am not interested”. At the end of the day, it is YOUR money. They cannot beat you.
3. You Use Cash
Cash is a lot like water, and water in hand will always sip through your fingers. With cash, you don’t get the full effect of your spending in comparison to what you have left. I recommend that where you can, use your ATM card. That debit alert will hit you hard after every expense, telling you exactly what you have left. Even better, when you get your account statement, you can track exactly where and how you spent your money.
4. You Don’t Differentiate Between NEEDS and WANTS
Let me be clear, needs are things you must have or face adverse and immediate negative consequences. You need drinking water. You need to get your kids school fees, you need to pay the rent. Wants on the other hand, are things you can forego without any immediate negative consequences. I want a leather jacket. I want a new lipstick, but if I don’t get them, nobody will die. Wants may eventually become needs, but in the meantime, focus on meeting your needs. Before you make purchase ask yourself “Do I really need this?”
5. You Don’t Have a Budget
“Aunty, I kept this shoe for you”. “Sister, this bag will fit you”. But is this in your budget? Understand something, these sellers are not your BFF. They are about their hustle and profits. Your financial well-being is not their priority. You have to decide if what they are selling is important to you and that’s why you need a budget. Like we did with your to-do list, get a sheet of paper and write down the things you will be spending on or saving for when that salary alert comes in. Learn to say “Sorry, this bag is nice but it’s not in my budget for now. Maybe next time.”
RELATED: Frugal Isn’t Cheap
6. You Don’t Set Financial Goals
Financial goals are the foundation of a sustainable savings habit. Without these, you will lack motivation to keep money aside and you will spend it inefficiently. Decide what you want to do with your money, how much you’d like to save, or invest. Perhaps a million naira in your personal savings account by the year’s end, or the house or car of your dreams. Whatever your financial goals are, make them simple, realistic and achievable. This way those cheap bags and shoes won’t distract you. You are focused on higher aspirations now.
7. You Don’t Use a Shopping List
Most women love shopping, it’s in our DNA. We go out for one item and shop for hours. Cooking up reasons to buy things we really don’t need comes easy to us. From clothes that don’t flatter our figure to unnecessary food items in the shopping cart. Consequently, before you leave home for the market or mall, write a list of the things you are going out to get. Focus on crossing off those items and nothing more. While shopping you are sure to see something that gets your attention. But Is it on your list? Do you need it? If the answer to both questions are no, find the discipline to walk a way by keeping in mind your long-term financial goal. “I’m buying me a new car this year”.
In addition, consider buying household items in bulk. Bulk buying can be daunting, but if you do the maths you’ll discover that you get more value for your money. Do a little maths and compare the per unit price. Where you can buy a sack of rice instead of a few mudus, “close eye” and buy it. You wont just save more on the product costs, but this will also save time and transportation costs you would have incurred going to the market frequently.
8. You Compare Yourself
Comparing yourself to other people and striving to meet their expectations can lead you to make very bad financial decisions. You’ll find yourself running a meaningless race when you could have just stayed in your lane. How she could afford that car is not your concern. You don’t need to buy new weave because your colleague has got some on her head. You shouldn’t be in competition with anyone but yourself. Spend time with people who are good money managers, friends and family members who you can be honest with about your financial situation. Meanwhile, please cut your coat according to your clothe and mind your own business.
9. You Always Procrastinate
Leaving things undone until the last minute often costs you more, hence the saying “a stitch in time saves nine”. Use your to-do list to get the urgent and important things done. Pay your bills and renew your licences on time to avoid penalties with additional costs. Get medication on time to avoid full blown illness and possible hospital admission. You get where I’m going with this?
10. You Have Bad Habits
Your habits directly influence your quality of life. Bad habits like gambling, impulse buying or flamboyant spending are dangerous and a sure way to financial ruin. If you suffer chronic conditions like alcoholism or drug addiction, please seek professional help immediately.
This post is not to say that there aren’t people who for no fault of theirs, have money problems. Many simply do not earn enough and are barely keeping it together. Neither am I suggesting some level of perfection. We will make mistakes occasionally. The goal here is to be aware of the subtle ways we lose money and make better financial decisions. Buy all means, spend your money. Just be sure that as often as possible, the expense makes you happy.
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