Until the 2007-2009 recession, the 1981-1982 recession was the worst economic downturn in the United States since the Great Depression. Records show that Ghana suffered a serious famine in the early 1980s. The crisis was the result of a drought that cut cereal production by 13 percent coupled with widespread bush fires that devastated crop production, coinciding with Nigeria’s expulsion order giving illegal immigrants there fourteen days to leave the country. Approximately 1.2 million Ghanaians returned home after that expulsion order.
Over the last three years, there has also been general economic downturn with several countries making effort to recover from their economic woes. This is underpinned by the Coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war. Just like many economies, Ghana`s economy has not been spared the brunt of the economic shocks. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate has been revised downward from actual position of 5.4% in 2021 (2020: 0.5%) to 3.30% for Q1`2022. Debt to GDP positioned remains elevated at 78.3% as August 2022. With inflation rate skyrocketing to 33.9% at August 2022, the country has joined the "uncelebrated" list of top African countries with the highest inflation. The local currency to the Dollar has depreciated close to 40% and trading 1USD to 10.04GHS. To further deepen the woes, recent Sovereign downgrades by the top three rating agencies have muddied the waters.
Generally, times are hard, and this has impacted the big 3 “F” - Food, Fuel, Finances. The key question that must be asked are 1). How have you experienced the inflation monster in your personal life? And 2) Have you had to employ any cost cutting measures in your personal life? These are two key areas I would like to share some thoughts on how to navigate your way around in challenging times like this. This piece is also inspired by a presentation delivered by Mr. Tsonam Akpeloo, Chief Executive Officer, SUKU Technologies at a Leadership Seminar. Amid the ongoing challenging environment, how do you manage personal finance categories. I will try to tackle some of the key areas.
Your health is your life and obviously, there is the need to pay a very close attention to health-related challenges. The biggest health costs are long term health costs for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks, cancer etc. In order to reduce the long term costs, you have to just stay healthy!. Do more exercise such us simple daily walks. For those who can afford, it is recommended to use and join a gym. Visit hospital regularly and stay up to date with annual check-ups. Take advantage of all health insurance packages to examine yourself.
Food & Beverage
I recall visiting the supermarket for some groceries and could pick only 4 items on the shelve with GHS300. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In times like this, it may be prudent to consider buying non-perishable groceries (e.g/ rice, cereals, water bottles, beans) in bulk on the Tradeford and also on the Marketplace. Currently, prices of goods and services continue to increase on daily basis. To make some savings, it`s worth considering items from the local markets in bulk that can last for a period.
Do not give small money changes, take advantage, and collect discounts and coupons that you may find in magazines, newspapers for discount sales. Most importantly, shop from local markets or less expensive shopping malls. I am sure we all know the expensive ones.
Restaurants and Bars
Believe it or not, some restaurants and bars sell food and drinks at exorbitant prices and extort money from the vulnerable. Consider cooking at home more than going out to eat on a regular basis. Home-cooked foods are a healthier option. Even if once in a while you want to give yourself a good treat, do go in for more budget-friendly establishments. If you are like me who loves to host parties, it will be appropriate and prudent to host events and parties with friends at home, rather than other venues or bars which may cost you more.
With the upward adjustment in crude prices from the International Oil producing countries, there is that natural tendency of a surge in transport fares across various jurisdictions. Just recently in Ghana, in consultation with the mother body the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) of TUC announced to the general public that there will be a 30% increment on fares starting September 21, 2022. Earlier in May, Transport fares went up by 20 percent and when the new fares took effect, petrol and diesel were selling at a national average of GH¢9.41 and GH¢11.12, respectively. At the moment, the price of petrol per litre has crossed GH¢11 and diesel sell for over GH¢14 per litre at most pumps.
For local travels, drive low consumption cars more often. For colleagues working in the same area in town or children going to the same school or nearby, it may be prudent to consider carpooling to reduce fuel cost. Sadly, in Ghana, everybody wants to look good and drive and so carpooling is unattractive to many. Aside carpooling, it is better to use shared ride services like Uber share, Bolt or public transportation like trotros.
For international travels, remember to book flights and hotels earlier and through online discount websites or download apps such as Bookings.com, Skyscanner, Expedia to have varied options. Interestingly, experts say that Sundays at 7pm (of departure location) is the best time to book cheaper flights.
Education is good and trust me, there is no way I will compromise my kids’ education. I am sure many of us reading this article share similar views. However, in times like this, one may consider foregoing expensive after class tutoring for cheaper alternatives online. Education materials are available online such as Khan Academy for all ages and multiple subjects. https://www.khanacademy.org/.
People allow ‘peer pressure’ to lead and send their wards to expensive schools whose dollar denominated fees they can’t afford. It`s better to rather look for moderate, affordable, and quality education for kids.
On personal level, self-development is very important, one can enroll in free or subsidized online certificates and programs such as Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/,EdX: https://www.edx.org/, Udemy: https://www.udemy.com/, Skillshare:https://www.skillshare.com/ to broaden knowledge.
Many working class people in Ghana hardly take a break and go on vacations. However, if you desire to go vacations, it may be good to consider vacations in low traffic season such as April, late or early summer (May or September), October. Venture into more local, African destinations to support local tourism. In Ghana, there are several cheaper destination centers such as the Kakum Forest, Crocodile Ponds and other several waterfalls within the country to explore.
Consider external vacations in North Africa: Morocco, Egypt (direct flights via Royal Air Maroc or Egyptair) East Africa: Rwanda, Kenya (Rwandair, Kenya Airways) Explore more affordable luxury destinations.
To make some cost savings, buy local products and refrain from importing cosmetics from abroad which has imparted the local currency. You may consider ordering from Laam Shea: https://laamshea.com/,CedarWoman;https://cedarwomanghana.com/,Ghandour:https://www.ghandourcosmetics.com/. It is always best to buy products such as Soap, Shampoos, and conditioners in bulk.
It`s an undeniable fact that men are moderate in spending on clothing as compared to women. I say this because, a gentleman can survive on a few nice tops and t-shirts for months and still look decent. I have a lady friend who sews a dress for each occasion and doesn’t wear it twice. For readymade clothes, explore more affordable online markets. For Tailor-made clothes, seek out less expensive but quality brands: Kiki (Made in Ghana): https://kikiclothing.com. Woodin Fashion (Made in Ghana): https://www.woodinfashion.com.
The list and strategies go on unended, the key takeaway is that times are hard and may continue to be hard if Ghana doesn’t become self-sufficient in production, it is therefore important to adopt a positive attitude where one need to consolidate the overall social support system. Take an audit and adjust lifestyle. Avoid impulse buying and rather buy in bulk to make savings.
In doing all the above, strive to save no matter how small the salary and try to invest as well. Also if salary seems insufficient you need to get a side hustle. Married people should both work so everyone brings some money home.
Thank you for reading and sharing.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are personal views and doesn’t represent that of the media house or institution the writer works.
About the writer
Carl Odame-Gyenti, PhD is a Banking, Finance, and Investment professional with an International Bank in Ghana. Contact: [email protected], Cell: +233 200301110