This woman wants to help you save money this Christmas, and beyond

Arese Ugwu hopes her book The Smart Money Woman motivates other women to plan and save their money better.

(CNN)What to do when you're a single mom with a one-year old and a lot of financial burden? Write a blog about being more savvy about money, of course, and then a book too.

Lagos-based Arese Ugwu, who blogs about finances at, said she's combined her love of the TV show "Sex and the City" with her business acumen from her days working in financial services to write entertaining but practical advice in her book called The Smart Money Woman.
After Ugwu's marriage ended, she realized she wasn't saving and investing enough. "So I'm thinking, if I work in financial services and I earn money and it's hard to save, then what about others?" She noticed a massive gap in the educational financial market in Nigeria, and decided to write her book.
    "It's Sex and the City but in a very African context," said Ugwu, whose book tells the story of five Nigerian women and how they go through their journey to financial freedom.
    Arese Ugwu's book hopes to help smash cultural stereotypes about how women and money function in an African context, she says.
    Though her advice transcends all nations and demographics, she is particularly interested in helping fellow Nigerians break out of old-fashioned ways of thinking that hold many women back, saddling them with financial burdens.
    For example, in Nigeria, it's common for one child to have the responsibility of working to support their family, put siblings through school and pay for their parents, explains Ugwu.
    Another common cultural pressure is for a woman to think marriage will bring her financial freedom. "This whole idea about marriage as the end-all be-all, and the issues with that, the cultural and societal pressures, needs to be discussed."
    In the lead-up to the often expensive Christmas season, here are some of her practical tips to help make next year more financially astute.

    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.
    One of the keys to financial freedom, says Ugwu, is learning to set aside a bit every month.
    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."

    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."

    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.

    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."

    Rethink 2017

    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 next year, and ask 'What is your vision for 2017?'"
    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."

    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.