FOR Zimbabweans of the Christian faith, the Easter period symbolises the holiest part of their annual calendar. Easter represents the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the very foundation of Christianity.
As a result, most Zimbabwean Christians as in other parts of the world do not designate this as a normal holiday but a deeply spiritual experience. It is a period when, to borrow an old Karanga term, Christians ‘vanonzvera moyo’.
On the other hand, for the rest of our countrymen and those in between, Easter is just an extended weekend loaded at the front end and back end with an extra day. So for the sons of the soil scattered across several countries across the world, it presents an opportunity to add a few extra days to this long weekend and reconnect with the geography and history of our great land between the two great rivers.
The purpose of this article is to flag a few issues that often arise during this season which leaves your whole carefully thought out financial plan in ruins.
If you are going to spend a significant level of financial resources during the Easter period, then it goes without saying that you need a holiday budget to proactively manage any hump in your financial affairs.
Essentially, this would be a holiday financial plan that list of all planned holiday expenses against the money you have available to spend. Many people find budgeting to be a tedious and responsible activity which nevertheless can give you the capability to do what you planned to do and go through the holidays with your annual financial plan still intact.
Many of us just do some mental arithmetic and convince ourselves that the money we have in our kitty is enough and off we go on holiday. Before we embark on the great trek northwards it is essential to do the numbers properly.
Let us assume you are one of the people driving from Cape Town to Harare. Most of us are quite glued up on the fuel costs for the trip. There is need to add vehicle service costs and associated tire costs, toll gates, border expenses, entertainment, food, and transit accommodation. For such a long trip it is usually advisable to add some transport contingencies in the unlikely event of your vehicle breaking down between Bubi River and Ngundu.
It is important to remember that a holiday budget like any other budget is just a tool that helps keep track of all your expenses, not just the big ones. As with any other tool it is the discipline and proficient use of this tool which would yield the desired output.
If you are going to be in Zimbabwe for a week or two anticipate broadly what your full expenses are going to be including the money you are going to leave with your extended family for their sustenance. Your budget should include groceries, entertainment, in country travel and accommodation costs not forgetting any charitable activities and donations you may wish to make.
If you are a recovering credit addict it is insufficient justification to go on holiday just because everyone from Bambazonke will be undertaking the same great trek then relapse into uncontrollable credit binge that messed up your finances back in December. It is important in all situations to realise we always have options and once we have selected ours we must take full responsible for its consequences.
We always have to train ourselves to cut out coats according to our cloth. If I can go back to the Cape Town to Harare trip example, let us say after you have done the numbers and they do not add up. Instead of travelling the whole trip just the two of you it is feasible to find another two people going the same route then split the costs four ways. It could even be fun if the four of you are compatible companions who share some common interests.
The reduction in your collective carbon footprint might even bring you better personal fulfilment if you are sympathetic to the environment. If your numbers still do not add up you could consider public transport and if you are still off budget then consider canning the whole trip.
The current problems in the World economy bear testimony to what happens when individuals and nations spend money they do not have. It always comes back to bite you.
The natural sequence of events I normally advise is earning the money first then come up with a spending plan, rather than splurge then grudgingly put together a repayment plan. It is a mental shift which would require you to disregard some peer pressure. What I can assure you is that you will not regret making that shift. Living within your means reduces the level of stress in your life.
Holidays are suppose to be relaxing times to get our foot off from the rat race paddle routine while re-connecting with our human family and even communing with nature. The amount of debt some members of our community are carrying is really frightening.
The basic lesson I have learnt in life is that if you are in a financial hole the stop digging further and concentrate on getting out. Apart from the Christmas holidays the Easter holidays is the other time of the year which put people in our community into financial bondage.
Other people’s money can more usefully be deployed to develop and expand your asset base. It is however poor stewardship to use other people’s money to go on holiday and try to impress your old neighbourhood that things are really happening in the diaspora. It is not yours to enjoy. The key is to identify non financial draining activities to partake in. You will enjoy this financial discipline in the long run.
Tafirenyika L. Makunike is the chairman and founder of Nepachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity