It’s the Yuletide season once again. And as always, millions of Nigerians are busy preparing to celebrate, enjoy, and be merry. A major part of the preparation is shopping. Over the past few days, many have been shopping as if January does not exist. A visit, over the weekend, to some of the major shopping hotspots in Lagos for instance, revealed just how much Nigerians are willing to splash money, all in the name of Christmas.

Without a doubt, shopping for Christmas is a good thing. It is good for the companies, traders, and the economy. It is also good for the consumers themselves. After all, they’ve all worked so hard throughout the year and deserve to treat themselves as the year comes to an end.

But there is also the need to exercise caution when shopping during this season. The reason for this caution cannot be overemphasised. No financially literate and investment conscious person should ever shop with reckless abandon.

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This brings us to the importance of shopping on a budget. What exactly does it mean to shop on a budget? Well, it basically entails listing out your shopping priorities, bearing in mind your financial strengths and weaknesses long before buying anything at all. Shopping on a budget also requires that you duly plan out your expenditure in advance and be determined to stick to that as you shop.

Shopping on a budget is a very important financial literacy tip which many Nigerians are either unaware of, or fail to live by. Many young Nigerians especially have the bad habit of buying things on impulse, particularly at times like this. But the truth is that you cannot afford to spend your money recklessly unless, of course, you have loads of disposable income waiting to be spent.

Having said that, it’s now time to cut to the chase about how to shop on a budget; shall we?

The first thing to do is to create a budget 

The first thing you must do when trying to shop on a budget is to actually create the budget. Your budget, in this case, is a list of all the things you wish to buy. List them all out and put their estimated costs after which you calculate the total costs. This helps you to be sure that your list is within the scope of what you can afford.

I know, you are probably thinking, “But everyone always makes a list of the things they wish to buy na.” Well, first of all, not everybody. And some of those who do often fail to prioritise their list and as such, end up buying more than their bank accounts can actually afford. The ability to prioritise what is on your list is a very important step when shopping on a budget. And to do that, it is recommended that you focus mainly on what you need over what you want.  This has always been the best trick to saving money. Even the best homemakers, like Mrs Idowu who spoke to me as part of my research on this, agree.

Therefore, as you shop this Christmas, learn to focus on the things you need the most, and less on the “wants” you can do without.

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Go shopping with your list

Now that you have your list, the next thing is to embark on your shopping spree (if at all it can be called that) with that list handy. And before you think it’s uncool to go shopping with a list, just know that you cannot be too big for that. Come on, we are talking about saving money here. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can remember everything because you’d be surprised when you end up buying everything in the store! Having the list will not only serve as a reminder, but also as your caution — preventing you from buying what you didn’t plan to buy.

Shop where the prices are regulated 

Moving on, it is important to consider shopping in stores, supermarkets or malls where the pricing system is standardised. The importance of this is to enable you avoid all the uncertainties of unregulated prices. Now I understand that the drama of haggling is an interesting aspect of shopping in Nigeria. But it is also unnecessary and stressful, not to mention that you can actually end up paying more or even buying less quality products after all the haggling in the market. This is unlike what you would experience in a standard shop such as the ones you know. Instead, you get to enjoy the convenience of walking down clean rows of aisles while picking out the products that you need from well-organised shelves. Price tags are on every product, and these prices often match with what you already have on your list.
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Make cash payments 

Lastly, you should really consider shopping with cash as against your ATM card. The rationale behind this is to avoid overspending your budget. So let’s assume your budget for your Christmas shopping is N50,000, withdraw the amount and then leave your card at home, before heading to the shopping mall with the cash. Do not be carried away by the fanciness of having to swipe your card on the POS machine, unless you want to end up swiping away all your money. However, if by all means you must shop with your card, then it is advisable that you go with a card tied to an account without a lot of money in it.

Hopefully, you’ve learnt a few shopping hacks that will help you shop without overspending. Always bear in mind that the key to successfully sticking to your shopping budget is obeying all the rules.

Do have a lovely Christmas break. And may you have enough money in your bank account come January, for investments and other purposes.

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