With the lock down people round the world were forced to stay at home and spend time with their families. Prior to the lock down many people didn’t have to spend a lot of time with their families. You could spend most of your time at work during the week and get home to just sleep and then go out again during the weekend. Interestingly this is the kind of lifestyle I lived when I was in investment banking. A marriage with cracks could survive for many years infact decades based on this model of hardly spending time together but the lock down revealed the cracks in many marriages and families. In China it was reported that after the lock down many people filed for divorce. In February, in Nigeria before the lock down it was reported that over 4000 divorce applications had been received in Abuja with some of these marriages just a year old. I can’t even imagine what the numbers look like now post lockdown. More than ever the lock down showed that who you have as your family is super important and if you and your family members have a bond then you are one of the wealthiest people in the world.
For many you can say that thankfully the lock down wasn’t permanent but what if there is another lock down? What if there is a war? In times of crisis all you have really is your family. No friends or even pastors can substitute for the important role your family is to play.
Just after the lock down started the Lord asked me to go off social media and I had to leave WhatsApp groups one of which was so dear to me. In hindsight this was one of the best decisions ever. It allowed me to be present for my family at a crucial time in our lives. Our househelp left the day before the lock down started and so with four children two of which at the time were under 5, I kind of panicked at the thought of being in a lock down with no househelp. One of the greatest fears for me was not just cooking but preparing creative meals several times a day. In hindsight not having a househelp was one of the best things to have happened to us as a family because it was just us.
I thank God for the husband that He blessed me with. I remember when I was a young girl I always wanted to marry a guy like my best friends father. He was so hands on and used to cook major meals and it was a trait I admired and God blessed me with the most amazing husband who CAN COOK.
Meal times became a time when we could bond just by ourselves. It was the only time we had for lone time with everything we had to do managing a home with four kids. The kids will be with the baby while my hubby and I cooked in the kitchen. Like someone I look up to dearly, Aunty Alero Ayida Otobo said to me, it was like a dance. We were a team. We danced so well in the kitchen. We made so many new dishes that we had not made in the 14 years we have been married. I’m smiling as I’m typing this. If we were making shepherds pie, I’ll make the minced meat and he will make the mashed potatoes to go with it. If we were making roast chicken, he will season and make the roast while I do the garlic potatoes. You should have seen us making Amala for our baby. Hilarious. We got it on first try and we were so happy. My hubby helped stir while I poured in the yam flour. One day we bought new yam flour and we had to throw the Amala away like three times until we found our own unique way of making it because the yam flour we bought was quite lumpy. If we were making eba or semovita, I’ll pour the flour, he will stir it. I could make the dishes myself but he chose to do it with me. He was our frontline man. He would go out to the grocery store to buy food stuff . He braved the pandemic while we were safe at home. Another time we got to spend alone was whenever he bought groceries as we had to spend time together cleaning each item to ensure they were virus free.
We also got to eat together as a family multiple times and that helped us bond.
My girls were super. They’ve both matured so much as they had to grow up fast by helping out. They’ve learned skills that will last them a life time. They really helped us with their brothers. Bathing, feeding, changing diapers etc and all while also having to homeschool. We helped each other with our hair. My younger daughter gave me my best massage experience. I’m not joking when I say my best. Even though I have been to spas in countries like Spain, Mexico, Kenya, Gambia etc this was my best for the following reasons. She made the effort and even wore a robe as her spa uniform. She set the atmosphere with the light and we put on soaking worship music that sounded like rain drops. It was so relaxing for me that I even felt the presence of God and had a vision. While she did this my older daughter took care of the boys so I could really relax. My daughters and I also got closer as we got to talk about intimate stuff. We are friends.
I became a badass teacher having to homeschool my five year old son. I was really nervous because I had to ensure he learnt how to read etc as he is going to primary school. You should have seen me during his exams I was so afraid it was as though I was the one going to seat for the exams and guess what He did soooooo well. His results were amazing. All three of them did so well.
As a family we bonded. We played monopoly, Word racers( a really good board game based on the Bible). We started praying together every night, something that I had hoped for for years. We even started our own family church where someone was required to preach to the family every Sunday. I was blown away with my daughters sermons. Even my son too preached and taught us what he learnt in the story of Noah.
We also played together outdoors as a family. My hubby and I taught the kid’s how to jump rope. Didn’t realise they had never done that before. We played a game called fox which was so much fun. We played football together. Worked out together etc. We watched movies etc. etc It was important for us to bond this way because we were very strict and didn’t go anywhere even after the official lockdown.
My husband and I also connected more emotionally through our bi-monthly marriage webinar titled ‘The Basis of Marriage”. We were very vulnerable and learnt as we also shared with our audience.
The global pandemic made me fall in love with my family. It made us stronger and we bonded in a unique way. We prayed for each other and we were there for each other. It gave us quality time. Just the six of us. I believe we have created memories to last us a life time. It’s amazing how we ended up doing a photo shoot and honestly it was Gods idea. It was a fun way for us to unwind.
To think that this is the one thing that I almost lost in my old life when I wanted to live the rich life. I’m so glad that God saved my marriage and family and gave me the richer life. Family is priceless. Family is wealth. God loves families. He has his own family, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and the first institution, He created was family.
Family is the epicenter of society. A good society is only as strong as the family unit. If you see a broken society, then look at what the family unit is like.
More now than ever we ought to invest in our families because in the case of a global crisis like a pandemic, war etc, you have to spend time with your family. If you don’t like your family then you would have one of the worst experiences but if you do it would be amazing. So many people couldn’t wait for the lock down to end so they could go out, but if you are in an amazing family and love your family you would actually want it to last longer. God is so interested in restoring the family unit and this is exactly what He did with mine. For those of you that know my story, you know that we are truly a product of Gods grace because I would have lost this family as a result of the temptations I faced but thank God for Gods grace my husbands willingness to obey God and forgive. God restored us and even added to our joy.
I pray for anyone reading this who is lonely and desires to be in a family or have a family of their own, the Bible says ” He sets the solitary in families”….. I pray that God will give you a loving biological family and I also pray He would bless you with a spiritual family. I’ve been blessed with the most amazing spiritual families like my GLA family and Kingdom community. I also have been blessed with amazing siblings, parents, cousins, aunties, uncles. We are not perfect but God’s perfection is our cover.
For those who have broken families and desire restoration, I pray that the Lord who did it for my husband and I will do it for you too.
Tips to invest in your Family:
- Pray – More than ever spend time praying for your spouse and your children. Stormie Omartians books “Power of a praying wife, Power of a praying husband, Power of a praying parent” are really good books to start with.
- Pray together as a family.
- Intentional – life is busy and you would always find distractions or being busy. You have to beintentional about creating time for your family. One of the things we did earlier on was to have movie night every Friday and I also tried to do movie night with my husband on Sunday.
- Eat together: one way to bond as a family is during meal times. Prior to the Covid lockdown this was a luxury for us but with COVID we actually started eating together multiple times if not almost everyday.
- Play – play games as a family . Find games that would require you bond. Monopoly is really good. We played it for several nights in a row and it revealed a lot of things about our characters lol. Play video games, out door games etc
- Forgive: as a family you would hurt each other and fight but ensure you forgive . It’s importantfor everyone to know that you love each other period regardless of how many times you fight.
- Support each other. There were times I needed alone time to work out and my girls were super awesome to help me out with their brother especially the baby.
- Celebrate each other- even in a pandemic we managed to celebrate two birthdays. All our kids had landmark birthdays this year and we planned big parties however two of them fell during the pandemic. The beautiful thing is that the pandemic showed that you can actually have an amazing experience without spending much. We dressed up in super hero theme for our son, bought cake, balloons and pizza and for the baby we created a back drop with one of his favourite characters and hosted a family zoom call and we did a photo shoot.
- Go on vacation together – Covid was like vacation but vacation at home. When we travel as a family it’s those types of holiday that it’s just US. We don’t go on holidays that require us visiting people. So it kind of felt that way with COVID. As it was just us at home. Don’t go on holiday where you have many distractions like having to visit people. Go to places where you are required to spend time together. If you can’t travel out of the country during the lock down you can have stay-cation and go to resorts like Lakowe Lakes, LA Campagne Tropicana etc.
- Choose well: ensure you choose your spouse well. Maryy someone with vision, similar values but most importantly someone who has the fear of God most importantly pray before you get married.
As a family it is so important to create a family budget especially in these times of financial uncertainty.
Despite my extensive involvement in finance, I only began budgeting much later. In the course of my career, I prepared budgets for multi-million-dollar transactions, businesses and projects but didn’t have one for myself or my family. I had a mental picture of my ins and outs and felt that was adequate. However, I was constantly indulging in excesses and never had enough to set aside towards investments despite the fact that I was earning a good salary and had extra income from my various side hustles. Every now and then, I would spend money on random items that I really didn’t need. Ever since I began my love affair with budgeting, my life was not the same. As a result, I was able to cut out excesses and unnecessary expenses and was been able to make some investments. I was able to create a personal budget and also a family budget.
There are different types of budgets however, for the purpose of this session, I would focus on family budgets.
What is a budget?
A budget is a blueprint for achieving specific goals. In simple terms, it is a list of your likely income and expenses for a given period. It is a tool that helps you understand your inflows and outflows and helps you determine your financial health or condition.
In a family budget, all sources of income are identified and expenses planned with the intention of matching the inflows to outflows. These include fixed expenses, monthly payments such as medical expenses, food, clothing, recreation, savings and investments etc.
Why is it important to budget?
Scenario 1: After a very expensive Christmas holiday, Zainab’s car developed a major problem and her mechanic informed her that the engine needed to be replaced. She hadn’t planned for this expense and had to borrow N300, 000 from her close friend, Tutu, in order to buy a new engine for her car.She didn’t want to bother her husband with the additional expenses. After six months, Zainab had not repaid the loan. Zainab only earns N200, 000 a month and just couldn’t fathom how she could afford to repay Tutu with all her current monthly expenses. The family basically lived from one pay day to the next. Zainab then set a goal to repay the loan within six months and decided to prepare a monthly family budget. As a result, she was able to itemize and prioritize all their expenses. They wereable to cut out unnecessary expenses and realized they were able to set aside N75, 000 every monthfrom their income towards offsetting her loan with Tutu. Within 4 months, Zainab had repaid the loan and wished she had prepared a family budget from the beginning as she would have repaid the loan 6 months earlier. Based on her new discovery after she had repaid the loan, the family continued to set aside N75, 000 on a monthly basis and were able to purchase a plot of land within a few months.
The benefits of creating a budget cannot be overemphasized. Zainab’s family clearly benefited from budgeting as they were able to pay off her debt and make an investment in real estate. Like Zainab, many wealthy families have increased their wealth through the use of a strict budget. There are many reasons why creating a family budget is important. Some of them are:
- Debt Repayment: Like in the case of Zainab and her family, with the help of a budget, you can make your debt repayments on time and eventually pay them off.
- Increase in savings: With the help of a budget, savings becomes a priority and money is set aside towards short and long term goals such as retirement plans etc. As less money is spent, excess income becomes available for savings.
- Minimises conflicts: In marriages money can sometimes cause conflicts as there are differences in priorities. For instance, a husband may prefer to spend money on household gadgets such as an expensive music system whilst the wife may prefer to spend money on expensive fragrance oils or furniture for the home. Family discussions over the budget can reveal these differences and compromises can be made to reduce disagreements.
- Reveals Excesses: Comparing actual expenditures against a detailed budget reveals when money is spent on non-budgeted items. Once these excesses are identified, corrective actions can be taken such as reduction in spending in certain areas.
- Creates a family bond: In these times where there are a lot of things competing for family time, the budgeting process can form part of the family bonding time. It allows the family to come together at least once a month to provide input in the budget. A good way to incentivize kids is to reward them for staying within the budget.
- Changes perception about money: Budgeting changes a family’s mindset towards money. Money would no longer be spent impetuously but would be valued as a tool to reach goals. This is highly beneficial for children.
- Reduces anxiety: The budgeting process provides an accurate picture of the financial health of a family. Adequate measures can be taken to improve the financial situation of the family. Also families are adequately prepared for bills when they become due.
- Accelerate goal setting: Families that consistently live within budget have a higher likelihood of increasing savings and as such, they can begin to set and plan towards major goals such as retirement, education
Now that you know why it is important to create a family budget, I would finalize by explaining how to create one.
- Track your spending: The first step to take in the process of budgeting is to track your spending or expenses. Often times, it is the small expenses that often get us into trouble. A simple way to track your spending is to keep a spending diary for a given period. This is as simple as getting a small notebook to record every expenditure. At the end of the tracking period, you would have a snapshot of your daily expenditure.
Titi set a target to begin budgeting for her family. As the first step, she decided to track theirspending for a month by keeping a spending diary which would enable her to track theirmonthly expenses. She bought a notepad and began to write down all their expenses on a daily basis for the whole month. Titi soon realized her husband and her were spending a lot of money on ordering breakfast and lunch meals at work. In her quest to eat healthy, Titi refused to eat the food provided by the cafeteria in her office and ordered a smoothie from a nearby restaurant and had lunch at a restaurant every day while her husband did the same. Based on her findings, she decided to cut their excesses. She started making smoothies at home every morning for the two of them and started bringing lunch from home four times a week. She decided to give her husband and herself a treat by ordering out every Friday. As a result, the family was able to save a lot of money which was diverted towards an emergency fund.
- Determine the budgeting tool to be used: There are various tools that can be used. A simple budget can be written on a sheet of paper with a pencil. There are also various software available such as Microsoft excel or any other money management software or apps.
- Determine your income: Identify all your sources of income such as salary, dividends, rent, spousal allowances or pocket money, income from business opportunities etc. In your worksheet, create rows for each income source and include a column on the right for the naira figure. With regards to salaries, include your net salary (net of taxes) instead of your gross salary. For a family budget create rows for your income and your husbands income.
- Expenses: Courtesy of your spending diary, you should know what your monthly expenses consist of. Include rows for each expense in your budget worksheet. A suggested approach is to divide your expenses into fixed and variable expenses. Variable expenses are expenses that change from month to month such as groceries, whilst fixed expenses are expenses that do not change from month to month for example utilities.
- Sum up: Find the sum of your income and the sum of your expenses. Deduct the total expense from the total income to determine your budget surplus or deficit. If your income is more than your expense, then you have a budget surplus. If your expense is more that your income, then you have a budget deficit. A budget surplus shows you are in the right direction and are spending less than you earn whilst a budget deficit means you will need to cut down on your spending or alternatively, be creative and think of ways to increase your income.
Remember to always review your budget to ensure you are staying within it. Budgeting takes time but the rewards are worth it. Finally, remember to reward your family occasionally for staying within your budget. If you want to know more about budgeting I would advise you to take my wealth creation online course on my financial education platform “The Tech World of Finance – www.wofin.org . All you need to do to take the course is to start your journey to financial freedom by buying a financial product. Essentially you can either open a savings account for as little as N5000 or buy a mutual fund on the platform and you have access to the course.
“Living without a budget is similar to traveling across the country without a road map. While both can be accomplished, the result is usually expensive and wasteful.” – JeremyVohwinkle