Arese Ugwu is the author of the bestselling and ground-breaking The Smart Money Woman, the financial-chick-lit novel that has taken Africa by storm.

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She is helping young Africans discover their power to build their future and make smarter money decisions through Smart Money Africa, a personal finance platform for the African millennial, engaging young Africans on the importance of financial literacy and the impact it has on helping them get money, keep money, and grow money. presents you with how Arese’s Smart money scheme is helping young people make smart money decisions especially among young women.

1 Budget — set aside something each month

The celebratory Christmas period is when so many people tend to overspend. It’s essential to plan ahead, says Ugwu, know what you’ll need to spend, and go into shops with a budget.

Many people see money in their account at the end of the month as money they’re entitled to spend. Everyone should articulate their plans in order to make them a reality and learn how to allocate limited resources, advises the former wealth manager.

In Nigeria, where rent is paid yearly, it’s particularly important to plan.

One of the biggest criticisms Ugwu has had with the book is readers have questioned why her characters in the book earn so much but they’re still broke. “That’s the point. Even these middle class people are living from paycheck to paycheck, so I really wanted to address that issue,” she said. “It’s as much about how much you’re able to keep versus what you earn.”

2 Every little bit helps

“There’s a huge misconception that if you earn a decent income it means you’re rich,” warns Ugwu. “We judge people here (Nigeria) on their spending habits. We’re very obsessed with the whole story of the boy from the hood who makes it.”

The reality though, she says, is that for the majority of people in Africa who get to that middle class, there’s no narrative of what you do with that money when you get there. “Most people think their resources aren’t enough to save. I’m trying to frame the conversation that if you can’t find a way to save and invest with a little, you won’t know how to when you have a lot.”

3 Know what’s yours (or not) before it’s too late

Estate management is a funny business for many in Africa, admits Ugwu. “We’re very superstitious about our wills. We have this cycle of families, whether wealthy or not, when the breadwinners dies, there’s no structure in place.”

An example in the book is one of her characters, whose father is supposedly very rich, but when he dies his business is bankrupt and this throws out a lot of issues to be dealth with.

Her advice: Make sure you’re prepared in case of an emergency, or job loss or worse, a death in the family.

Ugwu has been touring Africa to help promote her book, which she says should empower women.

4 Your bank statement should reflect your values

When you look at your bank statement at the end of each month, what does it say about you? If you’re spending over half your income on going out to restaurants and shopping, maybe it’s time to sit back and rethink your priorities, suggests Ugwu.

“In Nigeria, we have a huge amount of people who look like they have a lot of money, but they have no financial cushion. They have no assets. They look like Kim Kardashian but they don’t have her assets.”

5 Rethink the new year

The new year is a particularly good time to rethink your financial situation.

Think now about how to make money in 2017, says Ugwu. After a tumultuous year for Nigeria’s economy, Ugwu says to look beyond borders. “I think Nigerians need to think about other income streams for a new year, and ask ‘What is the vision for the new year?’”

Find ways to earn foreign currencies, for example, by tapping into the huge African market, suggests Ugwu. Selling your goods abroad can be lucrative. “Find other income streams that don’t rely on our currency.”

6 Just say no to spending

The simplest way to avoid debt is just to shun spending altogether, advises Ugwu.

Christmas, and all holidays, should be a time of sharing and spending time with family, advises Ugwu. “That doesn’t always mean you have to spend money,” says Ugwu.

“Focus on experiences instead of things,” she says.

So what are you waiting for? go get a copy of Smart Money Woman

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