Every once in a while, life will happen and throw you into utter chaos—it happens even to the best of us. One day you are in complete control of your life, but you wake up the next day, and you are grasping at straws. But what can you do? That is what life is all about.
There are many types of crises that can affect you as a person. A crisis can occur at a personal level, such as a sudden health problem (you or a loved one), a sudden job loss, or the death of a loved one. It can also be an unexpected community crisis like a natural disaster or the current global COVID-19 situation.
Whatever the case, the financial impact of an unexpected crisis can be crippling. A general example of how financially unsettling a crisis can be is the onset of the first COVID-19 case in the country.
The effects were far-reaching. People lost jobs, businesses went bankrupt, and even those who were lucky enough to retain their sources of income still saw unprecedented income cuts. It was chaotic for everyone.
However, even without a global pandemic to knock you off your financial pedestal, life is unpredictable.
Life is like a cheeky little boy that enjoys playing pranks on you by throwing little curve balls when you least expect it. And when these curve balls hit you, most often than not, your finances suffer the most.
That is why it is crucial to know what to do to stay in control of your finances even when the unexpected happens. So here are some tips and tricks to help you stay sane amid all the chaos.
When going to war, you first need to take stock of your ammunition. This is what will help you come up with a success strategy. Going to war with hope is just not enough.
In the same way, when you are hit on the face with an unexpected situation, your first thought after the initial shock should be to sit down, analyze your situation and take stock of what you have at hand. What is your current financial standing?
In layman’s language, an asset is something that is owned by you. This includes the food you have in your house, the ‘kaplot’ you inherited from your grandmother, and also that ‘thao tano’ your friend owes you from last year (don’t pin your hopes on this, though - especially when you think about the up and downs of lending to friends). A liquid asset is something that you can easily convert into cash, while a non-liquid asset will take a while to convert into cash—like your grandma’s ‘kaplot.’
So, the idea is to make sure that you note down everything that might be at your disposal when you need it. Do you have extra food in your house that you can plan meals around to lower your grocery bills? Do you have any gift cards you can use or sell for cash? How much do you have in your current and savings account? Do you have an emergency fund? What about Insurance? How much is the current market value of your car?
All this helps you know what you have and puts your mind in a good financial perspective. Knowing your playing field will help you plan more effectively and spend wisely.
Now that you know what you have, it will be great to estimate what to expect. It is like spying on the enemy’s battle strategy. It helps you strengthen your defenses and plan for the worst.
Let's take the pandemic situation, for example. What did you do when the first lockdown was announced? Did you just shut your doors and expect the best? Did you pack your bags and run out of the county before the doors were closed?
If you can remember correctly, there was a lot of speculation around whether or not the country was going into a total lockdown. If you are like me, this meant that I quickly needed to stock up on groceries so that my family didn’t starve to death. So my top priority was to shop and stock up as much as possible.
It also meant that there might be no income coming in for a while. So I needed to have my rent covered for the next few months, have my bills figured out, and ensure that my mother upcountry had enough to get her through the pandemic. Everything else could wait.
So that was my pandemic emergency strategy. Your strategy might have been different depending on your situation.
So whether it’s a global pandemic or a medical emergency, it is important to estimate the expected level of liability. The estimate might not be spot on, but it still gives you an idea of where the liability lies.
Now, this is where your high school math skills come in. You will make a lot of ‘brackets formula’ equations - additions, substitutions, eliminations, etc. In other words, you will need to learn how to prioritise quickly.
Remember that budget you had drawn earlier in the year? Yeah! Throw that out. It is probably going to be useless anyway.
What you are going to do now is draw up a brand new one that considers your current emergency situation. First, put down your income (Remember to make a mental note of everything on point 1 above, depending on your situation).
Then, one every expense you put down, ask yourself if you really need that in the current situation. Eliminate anything that you can go without for the time being.
Substitute what can be substituted. For example, consider downgrading your pay TV and streaming service subscriptions or cancel them entirely. If it is necessary, consider moving to a cheaper house to save more.
Have you ever made a meal plan before? Maybe this is the time to learn how to. Also, while at it, learn the best corners to shop on a budget.
At the end of the day, every little effort will go a long way.
This point acts as a summary of the above points. This is where you start practising the basic accounting you learned in school.
In an emergency, every coin counts. So start tracking every shilling that comes your way. This is not the time when you would throw in a ‘kam-pesa’ to a friend because, well, you felt like it. It is great to gift friends once in a while and make their day, but today is not the day.
So armed with your emergency budget, ensure that you know what is coming in and what is going out of your pocket.
Now more than ever, you need to earn every extra coin that you can. Do you have a yard that you can convert into a kitchen garden? Well, it is time to get your hands dirty. Maybe after a few weeks, you can sell your harvest to your neighbours for that extra coin.
Can you construct a good, grammatically sound sentence? Maybe you should try freelance writing during your free time—thanks to Corona, I am now a freelance writer, yay!
Just keep in mind that it is the darkest before morning and a little effort goes a long way. So keep positive and strive to earn as much as possible to get you out of this part of your financial burden.
When you are in a hole, debt can be a nightmare. But remember, creditors are humans too. So if your assets are inept and you are struggling, contact your lenders, explain your situation and ask what options you have.
Some financial institutions may have hardship options that allow you to apply for a short-term payment suspension or lower your payment terms - this was an option in many financial institutions during the covid pandemic peak period.
Alternatively, you can consider applying for a debt consolidation loan. Although this option does not alleviate your burden, it can help lower the monthly liability to a manageable amount.
In summary, just check with your creditor to assess your options. Remember, nothing is impossible.
Even in a crisis, remember it is not the end of the world. And even if it is, those who are better prepared will likely survive it.
Hence, when life throws a curveball your way, remember to keep your head up and your finances in control. It can be easy. Follow the above steps, and although it might not stop the bad from happening, it will improve the whole situation.