This economy isn’t smiling. Mehn, it is not smiling at all!
Towards the end of last year, I had a feeling that 2015 would be a learner compared to 2016…but I had no idea just how bad it would be. I have written about how I had to return to paid employment earlier in the year, after taking about 3 years off to incubate some small businesses and also start this blog. Even though my husband supported me fully, in January this year, by the time I weighed everything, I decided not to let my hubby carry the load alone, hence my decision to return to work. And even though it has been tough managing my time and juggling all my tasks, I’m glad I did. When I returned to employment, the exchange rate was about N250 to the dollar. We all know where it is today.
With the value of the naira nosediving with a pull even stronger than the force of gravity, we are now in the worst recession we have had in decades! But, hard as the times might be, and we now have to learn how to adapt to our new reality. For those of us who need to undergo fertility treatment, because the dollar is on an express-train to exchanging at N500 doesn’t change the fact the fact that IVF might be what you need.
But it’s not only TTC folks who have to learn how to adapt. In fact, for parents, there is need to even tighten our belts a lot more. Apart from the fact that there are more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, things are just too e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e!!! Kilode!!! When we got the invoice for our kids’ September school fees, my husband and I almost fainted! The cost of their fees for only one term was just about how much we had paid for an IVF cycle back then! And that’s just one term oh! Truly, I don’t know where this country is headed. I keep telling people how I went to some of the best schools (St. Mary’s Private School, a Federal Government Girls College and the University of Lagos), but I don’t believe my TOTAL fees for all these schools was up to N100k. Total oh! From 1980 to 2000. Okay, maybe N200k…including pocket money. And that is for about 20 years of education oh! These days, you are even paying more than that for a child in nursery school!
So how are we to manage? How can we afford the treatments we might need, or take care of the children we already have? Well, here are a few suggestions which might help:
For TTC Women:
1. Save like an animal
If you fall within the income bracket of not being immediately able to afford IVF, but only could if you are able to save judiciously, you need to do just that….save as if your life depends on it. This is when you eliminate all ‘wants’ and only focus on your ‘needs’. This is when you sacrifice that expensive weave, or those to-die-for shoes you saw online. This is also when you substitute eating out for lunch with making your food from home. Apart from food, fuel, utilities and your tithe, you pretty much should be saving everything else. You might wonder what good will come from saving N1k here and N5k there, but these all add up. You’ll be surprised how much you would have saved after a year or two.
2. Get a Loan
For some of us, even if we save from now till the end of the world, we might never be able to reach the amount required for an IVF procedure. Or perhaps age is not on our side, and we don’t have the 1 to 2 years it could take to save that kind of money. No time to waste! Or maybe resources have already been depleted from a recent capital commitment, like paying house rent or maybe even a previous failed cycle. If you fall into one of these categories, you might want to take advantage of some of the facilities a few banks are offering TTC women. Access Bank is one of these banks that have specially tailored IVF loans, with reasonable interest rates which won’t lead to very heavy montlhy repayment burdens. So you might want to check these out.
3. Egg Sharing Programs
Some hospitals have egg sharing programs, wherein if you decide to donate your eggs to another patient, your cost of treatment will be significantly discounted. So, if this something you’re ethically fine with, it’s an option.
4. Shop Around
Even when you have the money you need for the procedure, and might have even selected your doctor, it’s a good idea to shop around, to see if there are other equally good doctors out there who just might be less expensive. We recently did a sampling of how much these hospitals cost here. However, I am adding a caveat to this option, as it was this same shopping around that got me into trouble with my first cycle. If I had just cycled with my longtime doctor jeje, I might not have had that failed cycle. It was looking for something cheaper that led me to that awful Ikoyi hospital, and I paid the price for it. But the mistake I made was using price as my only deciding factor. Perhaps if I had done more digging about the quality of their medical care, I might not have chosen to cycle with them. What I’m trying to say is that you should proceed with wisdom.
5. Get Help From Family & Friends
Depending on the kind of family you’re from, there’s no harm in asking for some financial support. I know a lady whose father funded both her IVF cycles, and I have also heard of couples whose families pooled funds together to donate to their cause. I have even heard of some whose help didn’t even come from family, but from friends. So it’s not uncommon. I’m not sure how the GoFundMe site works here in Nigeria, but I know that people have been able to raise money with it, for different causes, IVF inclusive. BUT, and I say a big BUT, if you know your family and friends are anything but generous and/or prone to gossip, such that the only thing you’ll gain is a tattered reputation and not a kobo extra in your bank account, I would advise you move on to the next option.
6. Get a Grant
There are those of who might never be able to save or qualify for a bank loan. Thank God for such foundations as the BeiBei Haven Foundation, Ibidun Ighodalo Foundation, etc. These awesome foundations have funded IVF cycles for many couples, and if my understanding is anything to go by, will continue to do so. So, keep your ears and eyes peeled for their next funding cycles, so that you can apply A.S.A.P!!!
For mothers, here are some of my suggestions that will help you tighten your belt and better manage your resources in these harsh economic times:
1. Look for cheaper alternatives
Young mothers! Bless them! Always ready to splurge without thinking twice. I remember back then, because my girls had a lot of colic, they started off with Similac Sensitive. Returning to Nigeria, I realized no shops had that variant (at the time). What did I do? I had them shipped in quarterly, in their dozens. I shudder when I think of how much I spent importing their food. By the time they hit the 6-month mark, I realized it wasn’t sustainable, so I switched to Aptamil, which they luckily liked. Back then, Aptamil was N4,000. It is double the price now! One baby might probably finish a pack in a week…my twins used to finish theirs in days! With today’s prices, that would have been almost N100k on baby food alone!!! Haba na!
The solution? Switch to a cheaper brand. If I was a new Mom now, I would have most surely switched to something else. Cow & Gate, SMA Gold, and a host of others are considerably cheaper. And if you have a toddler, ditch the toddler variations of these formulas and opt for a Peak 1,2,3 instead. Waaay cheaper.
Even cheaper still? Migrate them to solids earlier. Introduce something like ogi baba into their menu at about 8 months. This will keep them fuller for longer, and you end up using less baby formula.
Another area of savings? Diapers! With this unfriendly exchange rate, it might be a good idea to choose Nigerian brands over their foreign counterparts. Not only are they waaay cheaper, I hear they are just as effective. Who has N12 – N15k to be spending on diapers every week???! That money can be channeled elsewhere abeg!
On a side note, and while we’re on the topic of Nigerian and foreign brands, for a while now I have only been using the Nigerian Always sanitary towel. It wasn’t because I had made a concerted effort to, but simply because it was the most accessible to me. Imagine my shock when I was at the supermarket the other day, saw the foreign Always, started putting it into my shopping basket, until the price stopped me dead in my tracks. Over a thousand Naira for sanitary pad??? Whaaaaat?! I dropped the thing like it was hot! No need for bad manners. I immediately went for my Nigerian brand abeg!
So, you get the picture. If the price starts to pinch, look for a cheaper alternative.
2. Be prudent
Up until about two years ago, I was one of those moms who would banish my children’s clothes at the very sight of a tear. The emergence of even the smallest of holes would send such clothes to the ‘giveaway bag’. Oh boy, not anymore oh! The needle and thread has become my friend, and Sura The Tailor has become my nickname! The minute I sight a small hole (it’s usually better before these holes expand), I get to work and am usually able to stitch the affected clothes nicely, leaving them almost as good as new. I don’t trust anyone else to do the sewing, so I do it myself.
I can’t be buying clothes every month…not in this economy!
This is just one of the ways you can be more prudent with your family. Don’t encourage waste in any shape or form. Instead, learn how to make something out of nothing, and learn the art of preservation. My friends ask me why I don’t leave my nannies in charge of my children’s wardrobe. They wonder why I still painstakingly take the time to fold their clothes and match their socks. It’s because I don’t want to hear story. I don’t want to see unpaired socks flying all over the place, or suddenly have their clothes developing legs and running away. Mba. No thanks. I will do it myself, thank you.
3. Make weekly budgets, and be strict with them
How many of us go to the supermarket and almost faint when we see our bill when we get to the till? Or go to the market and almost pass out when you realise just how much you’ve spent? That used to be me oh. I would go to the supermarket thinking I would spend a certain amount, but by the time I would navigate through the aisles, throwing in needless item after needless item, I was always getting surprised at the till, and spending up to 3 or 4 times what I had planned to.
The solution? Making a budget, allocating amounts for various expenses, and being extremely strict with it. I had to learn it oh…now, I’m always always spot on with my calculation when I get to the till. Word of warning: it might mean you could look like a psychopath as you shop though. Armed with my list in hand as I throw in items in my basket, I’m calculating as I go. Imagine seeing a woman pushing a shopping trolley in one hand, and scribbling away on the other. Yep, psychopath behaviour. But I don’t care. I will continue happily doing it, so that I don’t end up exceeding whatever I have allocated for groceries. I even have provision for the knick-knacks the kids ask for anytime they come shopping with me (I wonder how many of those plastic tea cups a child can be satisfied with!!!). There’s no point ignoring these seemingly unimportant things. Include everything in your list, right down to the tip you leave for the guy who helps you carry your C-way refill bottle to your car! Yep, it’s that important.
4. Track your expenses
As you budget and spend, make sure you track your expenses. Monitor your family’s spending habits, so you’ll see if there are any areas you can make any cuts. Keep your receipts, and perform a weekly audit, so that you’ll see what you could do without next time. It really helps.
In this economy, this is critical. As much as we want everything, you might only be able to afford some things. So, you need to prioritise and decide what those things are. Anytime I’m shopping online for my kids and I, by the time I get to the check-out cart and see that, inclusive of shipping costs, the price na die, I return to my shopping cart, and what items do I remove first? You guessed it. My things. Because on my priority list, they rank a lot lower than what my kids need. If you don’t prioritise, you might end up spending everything on less important things and not having enough left for the more important ones…so it’s important.
If school fees are coming up, you can turn your eye away from that lovely bag, or that Aunty Funmi hair, or kindly decline that colleague’s aso ebi. Tell him/her that you have the colour already…so no need! If you want to give your car body work, make sure you have enough allocation for fuel that month. What’s the point in a freshly sprayed car that is moribund as a result of no fuel?
You just have to be wise, and not keep up with the Joneses. Cut your coat according to your size. Just because Mrs. A’s kids are in Corona doesn’t mean yours have to join them, especially if you can’t afford it. And just because Mrs. B’s family travelled to America for summer doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself to make it happen as well. With ticket prices and FOREX the way they are, you might actually, literally kill yourself if you attempt that.
The bottom line is that we live in hard times, which I hear could get even harder. As this doesn’t take away the fact that spending on fertility treatments and maintaining a family are realities for a lot of us, we need to find a way to make lemons out of our lemonade.
I’d love to hear from you all, about how else we can cope in these harsh financial times. Lord knows I’m also looking to learn new tricks.
Good luck folks!