Preventing January (financial) disease

2014-11-26 14:38

When I was young boy, I used to hear older people talking about the ‘January disease’ at the beginning of the year. Although I was inquisitive I never asked anyone what this ‘disease’ was all about- although it seemed it was a serious epidemic.  I used to have the following question in my mind, “if it is a disease which people know about, surely there should be a doctor or some medicine to treat it?”

Naïve as though my musings might have been when I was young, seeing we have just under 40 days left before the new year, I saw it fit to try and prescribe some preventative financial education (medication) for this disease that has plagued many people. Prevention is better than cure, that’s why I will put on my Ministry of Financial Health cap.

January disease

January disease refers to the state which many people tend to find themselves after they have splurged during the festive season and end up being temporarily financially inconvenienced- in other words broke. Akin to a hangover after bingeing, it’s a state whereby one suddenly wakes up from a financial stupor where they don’t realise or remember what they did, how they you got to where they currently are and this leaves them with a major headache. All they can realise is ‘die geld het opgedroog’ (the money dried up).

Some key things to take note in relation to the ‘disease’

1) Financial habits

The habits you have in handling your finances throughout the year tend to be amplified as you get into the festive period. If you did not have a good handle on your finances with money coming and going without you knowing how the flows are happening…this is the time to resolve to change your ways.

A resolution has to do with having resolve to do something i.e. planning something in advance. A new year’s resolution is not something which you should put in place on the first of January…now is the time to have the resolutions in place regarding your finances.

2) Lack of budget

Whether you will get a 13th cheque or a pay increment at the beginning of the year or whether your salary will remain the same, you need to budget how your money will be channeled. Many times the term cash flow is taken as a business term yet it applies to you as an individual as well. We often use the term ‘currency’ referring to money without realising it speaks to the term ‘current’ i.e. the flow of water in a river. You need a budget to act as a channel to manage the flow of your cash (cash flow).

Most of us (if not all of us) get paid in arrears i.e. you work first and then you get paid. Without a budget you will end up being one of those people who sits wondering where your money has gone to.

Start off by listing all the essentials i.e. covering your REAL needs and the associated costs. When money comes in before you step out to paint the town red…make sure you ring fence this money so you will not end up being in the red. Put it aside and resolve to not touch it. Even if you have debit orders on your account(s), make sure you take into account the totals of the money required.

Without being taken as a spoil spot…you still can go out and enjoy the fruit of your labour during the festive season, but you need to plan for it. Set aside specific amounts of money which you have earmarked for Christmas shopping, going out etc.

When it comes to spending, one thing you should never get caught up in is trying to keep up with people around you. This is one sure way of ‘contracting’ the January disease. People end up spending money they do not have, to buy things they do not need to please people that are not even paying attention. Knowing what your means are and living within these means ensures you do not end up starting the New Year with headaches which could have been avoided.

If you fail to plan you would have already planned to fail and the disease will definitely come and bite you. You don’t want to end up in the unenviable situation of needing to rely on credit cards or going to amashonisa (loan sharks) in order to cover your needs because you were more focused on your greeds.

3) Watch out for some of these strategies to make you part with your money

Many ‘specials’ will be dangled in front of you but you need to know what your needs are and what your wants are. Needs are things you require for survival i.e. food, shelter and clothing. Wants are nice to have things. As long as you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food to eat…with these you should be content.

The problem with many ‘deals’ or specials which will be placed before you in this period is that those offering them know the festive season is a ‘festive’ (joy filled) period whereby rationality tends to be thrown out of the window. Even if payment holidays are included for these deals, one needs to do the maths to see if it is worthwhile…don’t do impulse purchases or signing of contracts.

4) Align your expenditure with time of your cash inflows

Though this is part of Budgeting, I saw it fit to put it as a standalone point. The pay-check you will get at the end of November is the one you should use to budget for December’s expenditure.

One of the things which makes people vulnerable to the January disease is the early payment of their December salaries. Some companies pay people their December salary a week or more before their usual pay day i.e. one might get paid on the 15th of December instead of the usual 25th of December as companies are wanting people to have money to spend.

If you haven’t taken time to plan in advance that whatever money which will come your way earlier than usual is meant to cover January’s expenses…then you are left in a bind. Receiving a bonus though something very helpful can turn out to be a liability if one is not prepared regarding what to do with the inflow.

God bless you in this festive season.

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