While growing up, I used to idolise the older people who would come home loaded during the December holidays. You would see them alight at my village bus stop carrying a heavy box. We all presumed it was shopping. They would briefly transverse the town centre, say hi to old friends, and head home. When I saw them being welcomed, I could only admire them at a distance. I would see the joy and excitement in their mothers, fathers, and siblings as they ushered them in.
As I am the firstborn, I had never seen this happen at home. I grew determined to grace my home one day, carrying the shopping box to see the glow in my parents' and siblings' eyes.
True to the word, a few years ago, I did. I had gotten employed a few months before December. As soon as I got employed I started saving for December. But I also kept a different savings account. Suffice it to say, I had been looking forward to making money and had all the theoretical personal finance one could have in their early 20s.
December came, and I went home, loaded. My siblings came to meet me at the bus stop. As soon as I alighted, they were excited to see me. They carried my box home, eager to open it and see what was inside. This moment felt amazing. I felt like a ‘Mheshimiwa.’ I got home and received a distinguished welcome, precisely how I had imagined it.
But then other things started happening. I would meet with old friends, and we would have a great catch-up, but almost always, they would ask for financial assistance. I had not learnt about this part of personal finance. I was generous. I did not know how to say no. I tried to protest their requests, but they were persistent and very good, guilt-tripping me.
That December, I dished out money. I did not know how to say no if my siblings wanted something at home. I wanted them happy. I wanted them to feel the impact of their brother having visited. So, I did the same when it came to my parents.
In the end, before I returned to Nairobi, I was left with only transport money to get me to my house. I had to return to Nairobi and take a loan to sustain me through January. That loan took me a few months to repay. It destabilised my financial planning for the year's first quarter.
Upon reflection, I was disappointed in myself because I had allowed myself to run through the December holiday budget I had been saving for and even deplete my savings and, to make matters worse, get a loan. Hence, how can one have a no-spend December?
Having a no-spend December feels like a tall order, but it is possible. You will need to adjust how you view and do a few things in December, but once you hack that, you will easily have a no-spend December. Here are a few things you have to do.
Festivities are times to have fun with family and friends. However, the fun is not free, and in today’s economy, it is not cheap. Whether your ideal festive season involves travelling, visiting upcountry or attending events, all these activities cost money.
Therefore, you must be frugal about spending your money during the festivities. You have to change your mindset and realise you do not need to break an arm and a leg to enjoy the festivities. Indeed, festivities are about family and friends, and there are other activities that are less costly that you can have.
You do not have to be like the younger me, a people-pleaser who wants to make everyone happy. Saying no to certain people and activities might feel uncomfortable at the moment, but in the long run, you will thank yourself.
Change your festivities mindset from an expenditure mindset to a quality time mindset. It is not about the expensive gifts, the extensive trips, or the exhausting parties. It is just about quality time with family and friends.
Write a very frugal budget to guide your expenditure during the festive season.
During the festivities, there is a lot of impulse spending. Impulsive spending occurs because many people are in a celebratory mood. Often, we do not want to be the bearers of the bad mood. Therefore, we go with the flow and commit ourselves financially even when we know it is against what we were willing to spend.
To curb this, you need a budget. You need to think through your festivities, factoring in the people and activities around you. Prioritise what is most important and set a budget for it—everything else you put aside. Once you have a budget, ensure that you are religious with it.
For instance, if you do not have a budget for your homies who will solicit money from you when you travel upcountry, do not dip into your pocket to make them happy. If you do not have the budget, that small, abrupt home project can be a few months late to give you time to get your finances in order. Have a budget and stick to it.
Read Also: 5 Ways to Budget for Christmas Now
Much of the money we spend during the festivities is tied to how we spend our time, where, and with whom. Hanging out at home and chilling with your family is relatively cheap. It does not have to be boring, but it saves you a lot of money.
When you decide to go out with friends, as much as you will convince yourself that you will not spend, your financial discipline goes out the window when the party starts, only for you to regret it the following morning.
Especially this festive season, be careful of the company you keep, especially if you want a no-spend December. Think of spending time with your friends and family who appreciate a quiet time indoors. There are a lot of fun activities you can do together without breaking the bank.
Mostly, we use the festive season to justify some indulgences that we would find hard to justify any other period of the year. To have a no-spend December, you have to be frugal. Part of being frugal is ensuring you spend only on the necessities.
This principle can be hard to adhere to, especially with peer pressure to go out and revel. However, the discipline will make your no-spend December ambition come to fruition.
Have all your necessities in a budget and only spend on those. Anything beyond the budget is only necessary if it is an emergency.
A savings goal specific for December is another way to ensure you keep to the no-spend December rule. The target is to see how much you can push the no-spend rule.
To make it fun, instead of just having a static number as your target, your target is to save as much as possible. So, whenever you forego spending on an unnecessary expense, you put aside the money you would have spent. Doing this throughout the month will save you a lot.
But the best part of it is you can use what you saved in January and reward yourself by buying yourself something that you need, or use the money to offset the January bills, which are quite significant, especially if you have back-to-school expenses to foot.
Travelling during the festivities is hectic and expensive because this is when everyone else travels. To save a dime this December, you can reconsider travelling. Plan for the travelling at some point the following year and get to travel when travel prices are favourable and when you get home, there is not much frenzy that would drive up what you would spend.
Having a no-spend December is among the best financial decisions you can make. Although it will be tasking emotionally, it will favour your bank account, and you will stand to benefit when the festive season is over. It might seem difficult, but it will be worth it once you taste the satisfaction of having saved in December rather than exhausted your savings. Give it a try.