Customers negotiate with traders over decoration items such as Christmas trees. Before you buy those Christmas decorations, consider if you could reuse them. PHOTO/Isaac Kasamani 


Navigating high prices this Christmas

What you need to know:

While Christmas is about celebration, prudent shopping helps ensure that your budget does not leave you limping.

It is Christmas again and festivities beckon a jolly mood. One marked with enjoyment, and sharing turned a notch higher. However, all this comes with dipping into the pocket. This expenditure has increasingly been affected by the high cost of living, which calls for caution on how much we want to splash.

No, I am not being grumpy. I am only being the ghost of Christmas present and laying the facts bare. 

According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, as of October, most food prices had increased, which affects expenditure margins. Sugar increased by 4.2 percent, ground nuts shot up by 4.6 percent, beef by one percent, matooke by 23.3 percent, tomatoes by 9.3 percent, beans by 1.7 percent, petrol by 1.8 percent, diesel by 3.8 percent. 
While these increments might seem small, they are on top of the already existing price increments.

A man arranges irish potatoes while waiting for customers in a market. According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, most food prices have increased, affecting expenditure margins. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

Therefore, one should exercise caution as they buy during this festive season. Otherwise, you might have to deal with high blood pressure when January sets in.

Ms Charity Mbabazi Byarugaba, a marketer, says people buy according to abilities, social status and responsibilities. 

Some people are parents, others are heirs and probably both. Therefore, a lot must be factored in as you have a family in town but also several others in the village. 

“As a parent, you must buy for your household. As an heir, it is your responsibility to ensure the other families that look up to you also have a decent Christmas. Therefore, purchases are driven by responsibilities and based on these, the standard is the basics such as food, clothing, shelter, and power,” she says.

If it is within your means, Ms Byarugaba says you could plan to add things that will facilitate a good time because Christmas is about celebration. 
“These include entertainment such as sodas to make the day different from the rest,” Ms Byarugaba says.

Social status
As one that many are looking up to, say an heir, your social status dictates that you must attend functions such as baptisms, thanksgivings, introductions, and weddings and what better time to do that than during the festive season? That is also because many go to the village once a year. 

“I had my introduction around this time and the social standing dictates that you plan ahead of time for such. That is because it is not your traditional budget as you will have to cater for visitors. Additionally, with your status as the parent to many, this might be the time to buy new clothes, shoes, school accessories and the like,” she says.

Thrift shopping
While the above plays a big role in how you spend during this season, prudent shopping helps ensure that your budget does not leave you limping. Here are some tricks to consider:

Analyse your needs
 Before you buy those Christmas decorations, consider if you could reuse them or if they are necessary. In regards to groceries, have a list of your needs and the sure amount of each item. 
“That will help you make an informed decision and also avoid last-minute buys because the groceries are not enough. It also helps to consider if you are hosting any families or are eating out. Obviously, the bigger the number, the more sensible it becomes to cook from home,” Ms Eva Magembe, the proprietor of Dubai Supermarket says.

Adding, “The children often appreciate such days when a gift comes their way. Will it be clothes, toys or a wall hanging? Plan it out as well.”

Have a budget
The holidays are such a big moment and the spending is sometimes emotional rather than necessary. Therefore, Mr Daniel Alifaki, the board chair of Mazima Retirement Benefits Scheme, advises people to create a budget. 

“After analysing your needs, create a budget that fits within your capacity. Without a budget, emotional buying may set in hence buying things you do not need. The folly of this is you will have less disposable income which will affect living in the coming months. It also helps to agree as a family on what exactly you will need for this Christmas season so you do not overrun your budget,” he says. 

Take a walk downtown
The heart of saving is in frugal shopping where you get more for less, without even going through the stress of haggling. Ms Magembe says Downtown Kampala tends to offer more for less for different products. 

“For example, a set of Christmas decor uptown worth Shs80,000 can be got at half the price downtown. The same goes for clothing materials and toys. However, that should not come at the cost of quality because whatever you buy must serve its intended purpose optimally,” she says. 

Bulk purchases
 For items with high consumption over the festive season, Ms Magembe advises that one opts to buy in bulk from wholesale shops in Kikuubo, Kisenyi, and the Industrial area. Such items include rice, beans, sugar, soap, oil, and flour. “For example, if you plan to do a lot of baking during the season, buy a carton of flour (12 packets) at Shs80,000 as opposed to buying each pack at Shs7,800,” she says.

Ms Byarugaba says those going upcountry do not have to buy things from Kampala as was the norm before because there are supermarkets everywhere. 

“Travelling with merchandise might make movement difficult. However, those who can access traditional markets in your villages can get items such as rice, sugar, and flour as they are cheaper,” she says. 

Buy early
While buying in bulk is a wonderful way to cut back on expenses, Ms Magembe adds that buying as early as late November also has a positive effect on your budget. 

At that time, the December price hike bug has not yet bitten traders. Therefore, you can get even more for less. The ideal items are cereals and other dry foods that you can keep for long periods. However, it also helps that you have a good storage area to put these to avoid losses due to things like moisture,” she says. 

Do benchmark shopping
With the mindset of starting your Christmas shopping early, bench-marking becomes feasible. It allows you to window shop so you spot shops and stores where prices are lower.

“It takes time to move through the stores and shops in search of a better deal. However, when done well, it will allow you to make some savings. It could be by a small margin but when buying bulk, that difference matters,” she says.

Matooke in Kalerwe Market. Matooke prices have increased over the last three months.  PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

Sales promotions
Just as is with the opening of the school term, there are several promotions during the festive season that people should take advantage of. These include clearance sales, Black Friday, and Black November. “At Quality Supermarket, for instance, they are giving a package of five kilogrammes of sugar and rice, as well as cooking oil. It is good that people take advantage of those offers to cut down on their expenditure during this season,” Mr Alifaki says.

Early bird shopping: While the narrative is that things be bought early, Mr Alifaki says perishables such as tomatoes can still be got cheaply if one hits the big markets early on Christmas morning. These markets include Kibuye, Owino, Nakasero, and Nakawa. 

“If you can be there as early as 5 am, the prices are still very low and affordable as you are buying directly from the farmers. Then, as opposed to buying a small tomato at Shs500 and a big one at Shs1,000, you will get a small basket of them at Shs10,000,” he says.

Avoid last-minute shopping: A dash here and there in last-minute shopping is not good when you need to cut costs or stay within your budget. 

“Planning earlier is crucial and buying early enough allows you a sombre mind to avoid impulse buying,” Ms Magembe says.

Do It Yourself concepts
Gifts are part and parcel of Christmas and while you may want to buy these, when finances are not adding up to your needs, it might be time to Do It Yourself (DIY). 

“You could turn card and gift making into a home project, involving the children. Apart from saving you some bucks, the children will learn and have a lot of fun,” Ms Magembe says. 

On another note
Despite the changing economic landscape, Ms Byarugaba people should not treat Christmas as a surprise. Planning should, therefore, not be far from the Christmas equation. In her case, she belongs to a Mother’s Union group at All Saint’s Church and the end of the year, they share dividends of all the money made at the end of the year. 

“Sometimes, we share up to Shs1m, which is what people normally use for their Christmas. With such planning, Christmas will not disorganise anything in my life because, in some instances, we reinvest this money,” she says.

The only time there should be a surprise is when there are many functions, someone passes on or falls sick. In regards to the functions, with a backdrop of many church fundraisings, more so in the villages, Ms Byarugaba advises that one only forks out what they can afford. 

“There is no need to yield to pressure during church auctions, only to fall back on your money allocation plan,” she says.

In instances where one’s funds do not allow them much leeway regarding spending, she says there is no need to buy what will strain you. In her case, buying new clothes for Christmas is out of the picture because there is no big deal about it. 

“They still have clothes bought in the previous years or even that year,” she says.