Before going on to discuss how these items could be manipulated to make savings, there is a need to say one or two things about budgeting as it is fundamental to any measures that one may subsequently take. Just as the nation budgets for those things that would be done with money during a given year in the light of available or anticipated revenue, most families also do this for a year and then every month. This is necessary because it helps the individual or family to estimate how much from all possible sources can be expected as total income during the current year or month. In light of this, the person goes on to list those envisaged expenses in the year or month and then goes further to decide on how much to allocate to each item.

In drawing up a budget, it is important to make sure that it reflects the current and anticipated economic climate. In other words, it should be made as realistic as possible. At the same time, allowance should be made for contingencies, that is, those money matters that might crop up but which cannot immediately be thought of or foreseen. Above all, when a budget is made whether for the year or month, a determined effort is needed to stick to the budget proposal. This can otherwise be described as budget discipline. One should not be tempted to deviate from the financial plan unless it is unavoidable.

Feeding

This is an item of household budget that consumes a large percentage of monthly income. Of necessity, one with other members of the household needs three adequate meals a day to maintain an acceptable level of health and welfare. Without the right quality and quantity of food, a person becomes emaciated and unable to engage properly in any worthwhile economic activity and thereby unable to earn a living. It is for this reason that proper attention is paid to adequate feeding.

Encourage bulk purchases: Having said this much, it is still conceivable to isolate areas of feeding where savings can be made and at the same time maintain a reasonable nutritional level. One of the areas that lends itself to serious consideration is the economics of bulk purchasing. This consists of buying the bulk of the food stuffs which can take the family up to a month or so provided the stuff can be properly preserved. In buying a large quantity of beans, rice, palm oil or meat one is likely to make savings on the cost per unit of measure of the items bought

This is a principle that appears to be commonplace but which is not often given the necessary attention. For example, it will appear everybody understands that buying a dozen milk costs less per tin than buying only three or four tins at a time. But more often than not, one finds people making repeated trips to the nearby corner shops or market to get one or two items as occasions call for them.

However, when bulk purchases are made, people should not be tempted to just dip their hands into the stuff and prepare unchecked measures of food. Instead, there should be a clear idea of how long the bulk of beans or yam flour bought is expected to last and measurements introduced to this effect. Closely related to this temptation is the cultural factor in most Nigerian groups which demands preparing excess food over what the individual or family normally consumes to cater to the anticipated visitors (it makes no difference if no visitor ever calls).

In our country, a visitor needs not to give his prospective host advance notice of the visit and when such a visit is made, the guest is bound to be housed, fed, and made comfortable in various other ways. There are certainly a good many virtues in all these. However the aspect of culture that expects a family to provide some surplus meals for unexpected visitors needs to be discarded in the light of existing economic realities. In those days, our forefathers hardly bought any food items as the economy was not monetized. Everything came from the farm. Such is not the case today.

Substitute a less expensive item of foodstuffs: Another area where some savings could be made in feeding is the possibility of substituting a less expensive item of foodstuffs for an expensive one both of which have identical food values. For example, there are several brands of rice in the market. The (long-grain)type is more expensive. There is no reason why a less expensive short-grain one should not be substituted for an expensive long-grain type in a hard time. A preferred taste should be sacrificed in this circumstance. The same argument goes for beans (you have the more expensive brown type and the white, black-eyed but less expensive type). Other foodstuffs that can be so treated are fish, vegetables, yams, milk, toothpaste, and soap.

Take adequate care of leftovers: One other possible area where substantial cost-cutting could be achieved in feeding is in taking adequate care of leftovers. No matter how much a person cares about using specific measures to gauge the amount of food to be prepared, there is bound to be some remnant at one time or the other. In the time of plenty, the usual thing is to throw this into the dustbin. But in most cases, the remnant could be salvaged by way of cold preservation or by warming on the gas or paraffin cooker. However, this should not be done if it is suspected that the food has gone so rotten that it becomes injurious to the body if consumed.

Minimize three square meals a day: Yet another area of feeding where costs could be minimized is eliminating one or other of the usual three meals a day to two. Even in the time of plenty, some people are known for skipping either breakfast, lunch, or supper, depending on what they consider their normal body requirements.

And they go healthy and strong. It is hereby contested that when the economic situation is critical a person or family may consider this as a deliberate measure. After all, the family should have two good meals per day for thirty days in the month, then have three square meals for the first seventeen days of the month and get virtually starved for the remaining thirteen or so days. When a person is finally prompted to adopt this supposedly temporary measure, some light snacks could be introduced in between the two meals especially at the initial stages until the practice becomes fully adjusted to.

Before we shift over to another consumption item, it is necessary to point out one other area of feeding where savings could be affected. This has to do with workers who enjoy and have indulged in taking meals outside the home even when they are not on a tour. Hotel restaurant meals are expensive indeed so some sacrifice made to forgo it and do some cooking instead is likely to yield a high dividend.

Housing

Next in importance to food is shelter on the list of consumer items. Housing accounts for quite a substantial proportion of an individual’s income. Just as prices of other commodities, rents have in recent years gone up on a disproportionate scale relative to income. In urban centers such as Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, and Port-Harcourt, most workers spend almost half of their salaries on house rents.

Move into good affordable apartments: Even though high rents are a characteristic feature of the urban centers, the rural areas of the country are also beginning to feel the wave of shortage of housing and therefore high rents. What then can anyone do to reduce cost in the area of housing during a period of depression? Firstly, a tenant may have to consider moving into a relatively smaller and therefore cheaper apartment, if this can be helped. Moving into a smaller apartment than hitherto occupied admittedly entails, making sacrifices in terms of reduced space per person in the household. In this circumstance, it is necessary to devise more efficient ways of using floor areas of the rooms.

Occasionally, some households tend to occupy much bigger flats and houses than they require especially during periods of relative boom. Consider a young unmarried university graduate who has a three-bedroom flat to himself with probably one or two dependants; or a family of one child occupying a four-bed-room bungalow. These are situations that need to be rationalized as the economic atmosphere becomes severe.

Consider your income: Some people may attempt to put up their own houses to afford high rents during a difficult period. It is important to reflect the general economic situation in the type of building proposed, the design, space standards, and the choice of materials. Two or more story buildings should be avoided if possible. Space standards should be modest while expensive materials are to be avoided. Emphasis may however be shifted to attaining proper structural stability.

In effecting actual construction, one is likely to save a lot of money if the direct labor method is adopted, in which case, the owner of the house undertakes actual supervision of the construction. A building entrusted to the care of a professional contractor will cost much more to construct. However, extreme care should be taken when a house is to be self-supervised. The person self-supervising should at least learn and understand the basic principles of building. In the alternative or as a complement, the assistance of a friend engineer or professional builder may be sought at different stages of the construction.

Redeem the old houses: Another way of making savings in the area of housing is trying to make habitable such old properties that have long been neglected or abandoned. In good times, such houses are normally pulled down and re-erected; but in hard times, those houses could be redeemed by up-grading them and by restructuring them at minimal costs. This ensures that the houses are put into some more years of good use.