These days of austerity, limited supply of money and high exchange rate hitting households have meant that families now find creative ways to make their money stretch farther than an elastic band. No one imagines being hit by one of these hard times but like everything that comes along through change and uncertainty, it can…
These days of austerity, limited supply of money and high exchange rate hitting households have meant that families now find creative ways to make their money stretch farther than an elastic band. No one imagines being hit by one of these hard times but like everything that comes along through change and uncertainty, it can sometimes be inevitable. The extent to which it hits every individual is another matter even subject to controversy.
I remember during the good old university days back in Abraka, “alarm” was the term used to describe any form of hardship we faced as students. Alarm always came along irrespective of whose child you were – rich or poor. It just meant something different to each category of student. The controversy was not about the reality of the alarm as an experience. It was rather about the definition of what bank balance qualified a student to be in full-fledged hardship. The truth was that we all had different alarm thresholds. We could neither brag nor discard the existence of these thresholds in a hurry. Every alarm experience was unique bringing with it pain, sadness, dexterity, creativity and even hope.
I giggle whenever I remember the good old days. Now, fast forward donkey’s years later after signing contracts, chairing meetings, travelling the world, becoming a mum and basically-growing up, I can still tell when the good old alarm rears its ugly head. I can sniff it from a mile off. You cannot blame a girl for devising some alarm alerts. I find that with a good understanding of proper alarm alerts one can postpone or reduce the alarm impact when it eventually strikes.
Many of my alarm alerts are not new. The only problem is that we all generally choose to ignore them. The alarm impact will become severe enough to scar us for quite a while if we underestimate them. Alarm can occur as a result of controllable or uncontrollable reasons.
One of the most significant alarm alerts is losing your primary source of income. When you lose your main source of income, you must start readjusting your expenditure. Technically, when one’s income reduces, it makes sense to limit the level of outflow. This will be the most sustainable response in my opinion. Income constriction may be temporary or long term therefore appropriate adjustments should still be made to prevent reaching the point-of-no-income.
An increase in family size should also be another alarm alert. This can be expected or unexpected. When a new baby is on the way for example, there will be some inevitably new expenses to be catered for. These can put a strain on existing income. If income flow remains the same then adjustments must be made to the current components of our spending. Cutting down on some luxuries, increasing savings etc may reduce the impact of the alarm that may occur due to the increasing family size.
Acquiring new tastes and habits should be an alarm alert too. When we begin to engage in new habits and develop new tastes, we must remember that they may impact on our income. Spending some extra time hanging out with the boys, nkwobi and isi-ewu here and there for the babes may start to dent your bank balance if you do not watch it. Look at it this way, an extra 500 naira a day will create a 15,000 naira hole in your savings by the end of the month. Sometimes these costs seem small and irrelevant but they all add up, creating pressure on your existing income level. If you are spending more than you are earning then you need to have a rethink because you will be on your own when you go broke.
The only means of averting an alarm strike will be to confront the reasons for the non-sustainability of our current income. Why are our current levels of income no longer enough to sustain us? Are the reasons under our control? If so, then what steps do we consciously need to take to stay on top of things? Such practical steps can help to cushion the effects of the alarm strike. Here are some useful tips:
Living within our income will be the right place to start. We can start by calculating what our total available income is. How much income do we have at our disposal in terms of cash? We can determine this by totalling our cash in hand, cash in our bank account(s), cash received from our debtors and so on. Once this is worked out, the next thing to do will be to start taking active steps to try to live within this amount.
Personally, I make sure that I spend my money on only essentials as soon as I start to sniff alarm. For me, essentials are basically food and shelter. I do not normally add clothing to the equation because as far as I am concerned, my existing clothes will do just fine. I find that once I can eat and keep the shelter over my head I feel less pressured. At the end of the day, life can boil down to those basics- food and shelter.
Cut down on borrowing. Start cutting down on your level of debt exposure without delay. In this day and age a lot of us are living on credit. Car loans, jewellery buying “gbese”, various PSS schemes ( pay-small-small) in offices etc. If you can pay off any of your debts before an alarm strike, do not put it off. Before an alarm strike, if you find that all your earnings gets exhausted on paying off the different types of debt you have you may have to quit delaying taking steps to reduce your debt levels. You need to do this because failing to keep up with your debts tends to stick to your reputation like bad smells long after things settle down.
Sell off unwanted or less used items. This is one of my favourite things to do when I am a bit squeezed financially. Look around your home for items in the home that have not been used in a long while. You can actually have so much cash lying around your home without even realising. These can otherwise be put to good use. Personally, I try not to be attached to my stuff. Some items even perish naturally when left unused for a long time so selling them should not really be a big deal. Items can be replaced with more modern ones when things improve financially. After all if they were stolen or burnt in a fire you will still live. This is the concept that allows me let go of my things when the going gets tough.
In addition, I never lose sight of the fact that I can even drop dead leaving them behind. Remember that popular word? Vanity…It is all vanity at the end of the day. So with that in mind does it not seem a bit pointless spending your living days holding on to things that can create some comfort for you while you are alive?. Better to live a life of comfort albeit with less possessions than to live on on past glory- suffering within and smiling on the outside deceiving no one but ones self.
Some of your clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery can be sold to raise money during an alarm strike. You will be shocked at how much you can raise this way. Such funds can help pay some bills, provide some food or even create a bit of enjoyment for the family.For some others with bigger assets, land, buildings, cars and so on, selling up can pay off large debts and even provide capital for re-strategising and re-investing in profitable ventures.
You can buy some things second hand. There are lots of places to buy second hand items. You can buy from friends and family. Some places like Aswani, Yaba, Super, Katangora, inner areas in Lagos Island markets are popular for fairly used and sometimes first grade items. It is not true that only poor people shop this way. It is only fair when you feel a bit tight to check out good deals in these places. You can save money this way. Personally I feel that if you even “dash” people stuff, there should be no pride when you have recourse to these places. In the end, the things you “dash” out of your abundance are used by other people. They in turn become second-hand gear to them irrespective of their previous value. We are all human at the end of the day we came to this world empty handed. Let us not allow pride deprive us to some alleviation during alarm periods. Many people find lovely and rare items in some bend-down-select places. People seldom affiliate themselves with these sorts of markets but make no mistake about their prevalence in our society. They provide a life-line for families in financial distress. You wear the shoe so determine how much it pinches you and look for cheaper solutions where necessary.
Stop throwing useful things away if they are still good. During an alarm strike this is especially important. You do not have to throw stuff away if they are still useful. Some of us have the habit of patronising every seller that comes to our office or place of work. It is like a status thing. We buy things because we want to show that we have the highest efizzy. That is fine when we financially buoyant. However, it is still ok to attend functions with our existing clothes if we cannot really afford the aso-ebi. It will not be bad to use clothes from previous functions again if we cannot afford new ones and there is really nothing wrong with them.
Get creative. Some creativity can also save some cash during an alarm strike. Learn the power of recycling. Yes recycling does not only happen abroad. We can apply the recycling principle to anything. It can even apply to our personal items. You can turn an old Jeans trouser with worn knees into shorts to rock by yourself or with the help of a mobile tailor or obioma. You can snip the broken sling off a pair of sandals and convert them into slippers. Converting things with a bit of creativity makes them unique and equally saves money. It is totally win-win. When cash is tight any little amount that can be saved goes a long way and that’s all that matters. You can also get creative even with food by reducing waste. Some left overs can be made into yummy concoction jollof rice meals saving a few naira.
The good news is that alarm strikes like every other event in life soon passes. It can go away totally, reduce in severity or make us tougher. Hopefully, it will not go on forever.
So I hope you find some of these survival skills useful. Have you ever experienced an alarm strike of any sort? Please share some of your coping strategies with me I am keen to learn new ideas.
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