Living within a budget

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Dear friends, most of you are too young or inexperienced to be aware of some harsh realities of life. Maybe you have no knowledge of the difficulties your parents must be facing. In the times of the ever rising inflation we are living in, it is becoming harder and harder for most people to make both ends meet.

Running a home comfortably, ensuring that the requirements of all family members are fulfilled to their satisfaction, providing quality education to their children and striving to save some amount for the rainy day, is becoming a daunting task for your parents.

Has it ever occurred to you that there are many different ways in which you can help your parents out to handle the expenses better. Here are some tips which could serve as tension releasers for your parents and help them to manage their budget in a better manner.

could serve as tension releasers for your parents and help them to manage their budget in a better manner.

Be realistic in your demands

Often children pester their parents with unnecessary demands, asking for things which they can easily do without. There is no need to change the school bag every year, get a new dress for an upcoming wedding or buy a gadget a friend had recently got.

Eating out is often expensive and you can refrain from pressuring your parents to take you out for dinner every weekend. A few hours spent in a park or by the seaside (with some homemade snacks) can be more relaxing and entertaining.

Most children ask for or do things out of peer pressure. You don’t have to do what others are doing or have what others have. You shouldn’t follow the crowd or the fad, follow your family’s instructions and be mindful of their priorities.

Learn to understand your parents’ financial situation and limitations and do not ask for things which may prove to be an extra burden on their budget.

Differentiate between needs and wants

Often we cannot draw a clear line between what we want and what we really need. You may want a new pair of jeans or joggers, but you may not actually need them. You may be asking your parents for a new rug or wall hanging for your room, but if you think rationally, the old one is good enough!

These are things that we ‘want’ but we don’t really ‘need’. So if we don’t have these things, it really will not make a difference to who we are as a person, but getting them can mean that parents have to spend the money that could have been spent on a household need or saved for the future for us.

Cutting down on your wants will go a long way in releasing the pressure on the family budget. Never buy anything in a hurry. When the urge to get something new hits you, take some time to think. And ask yourself these questions before insisting on getting something new: “Do I really need this”, “Can I do without it” or “Is there an alternate already at home”.

Shop wisely

When you do need to buy something, especially if it is expensive, spend some time in searching for it in different shops and you are sure to find cheaper options for the things you need. Some shopping centres, specially the fashionable malls, are more expensive and you can get the same things from other markets at much cheaper rates. Don’t feel shy to ask around, and always try to get a good deal for the things you need to buy.

There are also factory outlets of different products and brands, where some products and designs are sold at discounted rates. There are also wholesale markets of most things where you can buy things at wholesale rates, that are much lower than the retail prices of the same products.

All of us like to use branded stuff, but often we can get nearly the same quality in other brands in much cheaper rates. And if you really want to buy expensive brands, wait for their sales when you can get your required things at a reduced price. If you plan your shopping well in advance, you can always get the things you need at cheaper rates.

Be both penny and pound wise!

Only because a burger/pizza jaunt or a famous garment outlet is offering a “buy one get one free” deal, you needn’t rush to it. The shops are charging enough from the sale of one to give the other free to customers. Remember that you have to pay for one and even that can be an extra burden for the family budget.

Soft drinks slash their prices many times a year, this doesn’t mean that you must have them on the table all the time when the prices are down! These deals and advertisments misguide us into thinking that we are saving money when buying something, while actually you are being lured into spending unnecessarily!

Also remember that home-cooked food, plus homemade lemonade is always a better, healthier and cheaper option. The same rule applies for school lunch. Snacks made by mummy are always much better, healthier and cheaper than what you can buy at the school canteen.

Help out wherever you can

Be sure to switch off the lights and fans, when you are leaving the room. Keeping the television on the stand-by mode is unnecessary and it increases the electric bill.

If you help out a younger sibling in subjects he/she is weak in, your parents will not need to acquire extra help for them. This will be supportive as they will not have to pay expensive tuition fees which are always an extra load on the budget.

If you press your own clothes, make your beds in the morning, polish your shoes, assist mummy in laying and clearing up the table, you can help her in cutting down on the household help she employs. These small tips will prove to be both financial and physical relief for your parents.

Learn to save

Learning the habit to save money early on in life will go a long way in helping you in the later years. Small amounts you save from your pocket money, or the cash gifts you get on your birthdays and Eid, or even the loose change you throw about carelessly, can build up into a considerable amount. You can use this money to get things you may need without burdening your parents.

Be happy with little

The key to a happy life is contentment. Once you learn to be satisfied with the best your parents can afford, you and your parents will both feel happier and satisfied. Competing for material things with your friends or classmates will only enter you into a rat race which has no ending. And the end result of this race is frustration and problems for your parents and later on for yourself when you grow up and start earning.

Be grateful for what your parents can provide instead of grumbling about what they can’t! Leading a simple lifestyle and curtailing your wants will make you happier. Remember, every advertisement is just a ploy to make us spend our hard-earned money on something we don’t really need. Even the latest and most expensive thing and gadget can only give you pleasure, not happiness.

Over the years when you look back at your childhood days, you will be surprised at how these simple tips made life easier, happier and more relaxed, both for you and your parents!

Published in Dawn, Young World, March 19th, 2015

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Tackling the Exams

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

January is usually a tough month for most children. They are back to school after the winter vacation and their minds are still occupied by the memories of the festive wedding season and visits from relatives who live abroad. It is hard to get over the holiday mood and be serious about studies as each one has an exciting experience to share.

Come February and the examinations schedule and the syllabus for preparing for the final exams are handed down. Those of you who are regular in studies the whole year round will be in a relaxed mood and looking forward to moving on to the next class. But those who are still trying to get back their focus on studies must be in a confused state of mind. How and from where should the preparations be started? This question is giving them the jitters as there is a lot to do in a limited time period.

Friends, those of you who are feeling nervous as the exams are approaching, must think over where you have gone wrong. You should try to find out why (unlike you) some of your peers are totally relaxed. They are the ones who have been steady in their studies all round the academic years. The grades of the students who have a non-serious approach to their studies in the early months of a new class usually suffer the most. They have to work harder than the more regular students, but still find it difficult to make up for the time lost carelessly.

Today, let us discuss some important tips which you should follow to make the most of the time left before your annual exams. Hopefully, these guidelines will prove to be a key to success, not only in your final tests, but most of the challenges you face in life.

Perseverance

A very important element of success is persistence in performance. This year you are frantically preparing for the upcoming exams during sleepless nights and exhausting days, but make a resolve that you will be more prompt and regular in the future. Setting aside a few hours each week for some extra studies, will keep you well-prepared and relaxed when the time for the annual exams arrives.

Optimism

A positive mindset is the most important key to success. Instead of sulking and spending the precious time left in the exams in bouts of nervousness, convince yourself that you can still do it! A firm belief in yourself, setting a realistic goal and planning the best way to achieve it, will help you to attain success.

Proper planning

Now that you have a clear picture of the days left to your exams and the syllabus you have to cover, plan your studies in a systematic way. Divide your time according to the time you feel you should give to each subject. Chalk out a day-to-day routine and follow it strictly, so that you can make your preparations in a systematic manner. But be sure that your plans are practical and can be followed with a little extra effort.

Hard work

Success and hard work go hand in hand! You cannot just sit back and wish that you get good grades without concentrating on your studies with dedication. Do not waste time on activities like watching television, playing video games, sharing useless text messages or hanging out with friends. Remind yourself each day that every moment is precious and all recreational activities can wait till the exams are over.

Remember, “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.”

Teamwork

Friends, some students can study better when they are in a group. Some of you may be good at mathematics, while others find languages easier. When they join heads in combined studies, students in a group can identify, discuss and overcome their problems. As time is running out on you, don’t hesitate in asking for assistance or make it an ego matter. But keep in mind that group study can only be fruitful when you utilise the hours with full devotion and do not waste time in chatting and cracking jokes.

Create a balance

With the regular school classes on, you have to cope with your day-to-day routine as well as prepare for the upcoming finals. Be sure that you do not lag behind in school. Divide your time wisely between school, homework and studying for the exams.

Healthy habits

A healthy lifestyle is a great component of success. Sleep well, eat healthy and drink a lot of water. Make sure that you do not over work yourself. A healthy body nurtures a healthy mind! You can only over strain yourself for a few days, but you will have to face the ill effects afterwards. Lack of proper sleep will diminish your learning skills and if you do not eat/drink properly, your concentration will be effected.

Take breaks

Instead of studying in long stretches, take short breaks when you feel exhausted. All of us need different activities to refresh ourselves. You can have a snack, go out for a brisk walk or exercise for a while so that you may feel better. Taking short naps also improves your learning skills.

Friends, you all must have heard the popular saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Instead of regretting that you wasted so much time and wasting more time in this process, get to work with fervour. There is still time to amend the loss but you must resolve to follow a better strategy from now onwards!

A quote from Carl Bard says it all, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending!”

I wish all my young friends the best of luck.

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 27th, 2015