Do you look forward to the annual run upcountry in the festive season in December? It's primarily meant to be a 'Rest and Recuperate' (RR) period, but there's a lot to contend with. In African culture, family is largely extended - and a trip upcountry offers the perfect time for meet-and-greet functions. They are great for bonding and networking.
However, it's tricky navigating between having fun within your means, and maintaining cordial relations with the extended family members. There will be random requests for financial handouts, or other monetary favours.
First off, know the amount available for the entire holiday. Then, divide your holiday budget into three specific allocations, namely :
This involves things that you cannot do without while on holiday. Before we break down that list, it's imperative to note that it varies with the number of people involved. Are you travelling alone, or do you have a family?
What's the size of your family? Does a member of your family have specific needs? Do you have toddlers, kids, someone elderly, a person living with disability?
Now, the critical budgeting points.
Food - are you consuming home-sourced food, or does it involve a shopping budget? Embracing the local, home-cooked food considerably brings down costs.
Transport costs - do you have a family car, or are you dependent on public transport? Beware that travelling in the festive season pushes the budget slightly higher. Shelter - do you have a family home, staying with relatives or renting a motel? Utility bills come in, too. Costs of electricity, cooking gas, and so on.
This basically means setting aside some funds for unseen emergencies that could arise during the vacation. Over Christmas, I had my 5-yr-old son join his peers in the village in their game sessions - usually unsupervised by an adult. The game? Riding a locally-fabricated go-cart down an incline. Well, they are crude. My son ended up with a sprained arm, and bruised knees.
This resulted in a visit to the doctor.
This holds funds that are 'dispensable' over the vacation. It includes, and not limited to partying expenses, the neighborhood barbecue and related 'kuchanga mzinga' shenanigans!
All cash gifts and hand outs have to stay within the limits of the miscellaneous funds. If you wish to play Father Christmas, well, budget for it.
There's a rural misconception that a foray into the city is a money-minting trip. Do not seek to fuel that myth. Avoid the urban fairy tales peddled over time. Do not imply that the city has numerous 'money making' deals.
Do not be drawn into conversations aligned along 'how much' you make every month. Or, do you have a commission? You are being set up later, for an impromptu funding request. It's often veiled in harmless questions, like: Bro, hio 3-bedroom yako South C, unalipa rent ya how much?
Live simply. Eat local, everyday foods. Leave the pizza-mentality in the city. For breakfast, explore local options - sweet potatoes, et al. They are cheaper, and healthier.
Learn an essential word - NO. It's common to suddenly have distant, unheard of relatives dropping by, for financial favours. Politely, let them know that you ain't in such a position. Don't make promises. In any case, such loans are hardly ever paid - you'll lose your money, and the friendship.
Practice distancing techniques. Be immune to guilt story tactics. This is a story that's structured as an emotional blackmailing tool, to influence a financial request.
Uncle: Hey, nephew. If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have finished college. Your dad sold my goats for your graduation fees. See?
If you have relatives (especially younger), avoid hand outs. Instead, hire them for odd chores or errands around the home. You could have a nephew mowing a lawn, a niece sprucing up flower beds, etc. If they earn their money, it creates self-respect and nurtures a working culture.
Sometimes, there's a relative with a potentially viable business idea. You could consider helping out with seed capital to get it off the ground. However, it involves a more involved approach, and some mentorship.
If there's a deserving case, pick it. For example, you could pay tuition fees for a young, bright prodigy.
Find a way to infuse social skills in your everyday interaction. This is extremely valuable. especially, for the younger generation. Money management skills, for instance.
This is no guide to being stingy - that's just contrary to the holiday cheer. By all means give what you can comfortably give to deserving persons and causes. But first make sure you have set aside to a specific amount for that purpose - you don't January to find you broke because you were guilt tripped into blowing all your savings.
And since, you are working on a limited budget, you need to know who to say no to - and how to do so without appearing to be entitled and rude - family will always be family, so you want to protect those relationships.
Your first responsibility is to take care of yourself and your own household. It's important to remember that a vacation, however heady - is short. Future financial commitments still await.