The financial costs of the December holidays are high, but the time is precious
“JUST calculated the cost of December; I won’t make it.’’ Lol, that is my favourite meme on Facebook this week.
It is funny because, my goodness, the two-week break will easily leave your wallet empty, and this is not because you are bad at managing your finances but because for most of us migrant labourers, the expectations back home in the village are huge.
Mind you, I am not at all complaining; it is what it is.
Now let me break down the costs to you so you have an idea, starting with the obvious one, which is travelling home. Everything is expensive during this season, whether you are driving your own car or taking a bus or taxi. I don’t even want to talk about the costs of flights: everything simply doubles.
In case you were beginning to wonder why we do not save and budget during the year because we know December is coming — hang on, every month of the year has its own costs, and not all of us have the luxury of being able to put aside money every month; it’s rough but we try.
We look forward to December even if we have not saved for it; we deserve the hype and the excitement in the air and of course we get to go home siyagoduka bakwethu!
Anyway, back to the breakdown of costs. So after you have sorted out your travel plans and have announced when they should expect you at home, you start getting texts about what to bring.
I mean, as we speak, my mother has already hinted that it would be nice to have her house painted. Now tell me how much does a bucket of paint cost, plus the labour?
Then it is food and lots of it, which is really what makes December what it is. This explains the food stokvels which some of my siblings are part of, which often get you non-perishable food items but you still need to fill up the fridge with the perishables.
Remember, everybody is home, and it’s not only the siblings but their children too, and sometimes cousins, aunts and uncles.
It would not be a real December holiday in the village without the local drunkards. Some of them are a nuisance and will make all kinds of sexist remarks that put you off for a couple of minutes until you hear your favourite song on the radio and are reminded that zi big days! Others are sweet and funny; they crack jokes and you laugh until your tummy is sore. Some of them were in primary school with you and they call you by your English or Christian name, which of course you now hate as a woke adult. Their jokes don’t come for free, and they are included in the costs of December. You will be asked for R5 or R10, and if brave enough they can go up to R30.
On a day you are most likely to be asked for money by at least three of them, and this continues until you return to the city in January.
And then there are the day-to-day costs, such as buying many loaves of bread and fizzy drinks at the shop by the bus stop.
While you are taking an afternoon nap, your little nephew wakes you up to say Gogo is asking if you have any money in your bag as she wants to pay the boy who helped cut the grass and chop wood for her last week.
Yep, sometimes December comes with paying wage bills you knew nothing about.
Oops, I almost forgot about the money you give to the nieces and nephews because they did well at school and were promoted to the next grade. They tell you about their grades with such excitement that your heart melts so much that you want to buy them data bundles. Yes, that’s what they forever ask for, and the younger ones with no cellphones want chips and more chips.
I’m probably forgetting other costs, but damn, I cannot wait to go home. I look forward to eating all day, loud music, dancing, laughter and all that jazz! Kusazoba mnandi woza December!
‘The two-week break will easily leave your wallet empty, and this is not because you are bad at managing your finances but because for most of us migrant labourers, the expectations back home in the village are huge.’
• Stha Yeni is a land, water and food activist and an Atlantic fellow for racial equity (AFRE).