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Desmond Bredu writes: Avoiding post-x'mas financial hangover


Desmond Bredu, Head, Client Coverage – Stanbic Investment Management Services

5 months ago
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Bronya oooo! Bronyaaa oooo! For many people, the Christmas season presents a welcome break; after all, it’s a harvest of joy considering a turbulent 2023 in many respects.  During this period, we think about how to make it memorable, sometimes with little or no consideration of the aftermath.

The occasion demands we keep spending on gifts, decorations, events, etc. A "post-Christmas financial hangover" is the term given to the financial stress or burden that many people experience after the Christmas holiday season.

Avoiding a post-Christmas financial hangover is essential for maintaining financial stability in the coming year. In this article, I seek to share strategies to prevent this financial hangover in 2024.

Before we explore what could be done, let’s assess some reasons contributing to the hangover, which I term the 3 S’s.

Social expectation- for many people, societal pressure to spend on gifts, events, parties, and travel is the number one reason for post-Christmas hangover.

Sales and Promotion- A funny story is often told about an item going for GHS 100 but not purchased by anyone until the shop owner puts a sign over it: “Discounted -on sale 50%” and increases the price to GHS 150. It was purchased almost immediately. Also, we may not often need these items on sale in large quantities, but the promos and discounts run by shop owners lure consumers into buying more than they had initially planned, leading to budget overruns.

Social Events- For many of us in Ghana, we have seen her become a popular destination for tourists during the festive period. We have seen many shows spring up during this time. Most of these events have been priced with tourists and foreigners being the target market, making it usually expensive for several people—the additional spend on transportation due to traffic to and from the events and food prices at some of these event centres are also contributing factors.
With this background, we often describe January as the “longest month”. This is not just about the number of days, even though January 2024 has 5 Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We especially feel the financial stretch because we may have increased our spending on festive activities, leaving us little financial room. For many, January is also when a new academic calendar begins and new commitments to school fees and associated costs. Therefore, we must reassess our spending habits during the festive season to limit the extent of the post-Christmas hangover.

Let’s explore what we can do during the festive season to avoid the financial hangover in January.

Make an allocation for “enjoyment” in your budget. Counter intuitive? Certainly not! As a matter of fact, “enjoyment” should be one of the goals every person should have, but it shouldn’t be fuelled by lifestyle inflation or the need to meet some social expectations. If you want to “enjoy” the festive season, it is crucial that you start planning or budgeting for it from January. A monthly allocation towards the festive season will ease the financial stress many people experience, primarily since many rely wholly on their November and December income.

Consider the Who, what, where and how- the festive season usually presents various events or things to do. Consider who you hang out with, where you choose to hang out, what and where you eat, how often you go out, etc. Choosing your circle is very important. You do not need to attend all the events you are invited to. Prioritize the ones you can maximize “enjoyment” at the least cost. Discussing this with your significant other and family is essential.

Consider Alternatives- Instead of going out to all or most events, can you look for low-budget alternatives like movie nights and free house parties? Also, you may consider activities to do outside the city centres.

Consider taking cash instead of using your debit/credit card- This may seem like a small but very significant one as we are usually constrained by the amounts we hold as cash. If you plan on spending GHS 300 at an event, take that amount in cash. If you have your debit or credit card with you during events, you may spend more than you plan to.

Manage expectations- This speaks to the societal expectations from family and friends on the kind of gifts to expect during this season. Don’t break the bank by getting an expensive gift.

Be mindful of sales and promos- Sometimes, these “amazing deals” genuinely aren’t, and some stores take advantage of the festive season to increase prices yet put a “discount” label on the item. It’s crucial that you look elsewhere and compare prices.

In this article, we have explored the potential cause of post-Christmas hangovers and how to mitigate it. We must plan and budget carefully, set realistic expectations, and find ways to enjoy the holiday season without compromising our financial well-being.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year in advance without a financial hangover!

source: Desmond Bredu, Head, Client Coverage – Stanbic Investment Management Services