I’ve been a working girl from the age of 18. I earned my own money, I made my way in the world without help from anyone. I bought what I wanted, whether I needed it or not. Money was meant for spending, for good times, for looking good and living a comfortable life.
In the midst of my excessive spending, I saved where I could. I knew the importance of putting money aside for a rainy day. I could’ve saved more if I hadn’t indulged as much. But this isn’t a post to berate myself for not doing enough. I’m at a stage in my life where if you know better, you do better.
This year I read the book “The year of less” by Cait Flanders that set me on the path of financial betterment. Cait ended her addiction with alcohol through sheer willpower. Then she tackled her consumerism by not shopping for a year! She stuck to her pledge, saving loads of money for travel. She even quit her day job! Her story was so profound it altered my thinking, making me ashamed of my own addiction to shopping and aimless spending.
A seed was planted that I needed to change my shopping ways. I’m blessed to have a day job that pays my bills and provides me with a comfortable life. But I have a deep desire to be a full-time writer. How do I achieve my dream if I can’t curb my spending to provide for my future without the safety net of a monthly salary? I tried to stop spending like Cait and failed dismally realizing it takes mountains of strength to walk out of a store when I desperately wanted something. I caved in a few times. But I soon noticed I was consciously changing. I was becoming aware of my spending and wanted to do better.
So began my journey into financial betterment. The next book I read was “I will teach you to be rich” by Ramit Sethi. This is a no-nonsense approach to taking control of your finances. Ramit helped me see that I don’t need a financial advisor to take care of my finances. If I can’t take responsibility of my money, why would I pay someone to do it for me? And the excuse of I’m too busy doesn’t cut it when it comes to your finances. We should prioritize our financial affairs, no matter how busy we are! I’m no maths fundi, but he helped me take a closer look at my accounts, at all the unnecessary fees I was paying, advising me to pay my debt. I even began budgeting for the first time in my life!
On my birthday I attended a Fierce Money Management event hosted by Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping magazines. I’ve never considered something like this before and never on my birthday for that matter! I learned about investing, passive streams of income, saving money, selling unwanted goods to make money. I walked away from that event armed with a plan for my future.
Based on my journey of taking control of my finances, here are some tips I wish to share (should you wish to read further) 🙂
- Pay your debt – the first and all-important step to financial betterment! You cannot save for the future without getting rid of debt. Arrange payments to ease your debt, start small and make your way to eradicating it completely. Nothing beats being financially free!
- Save, save, save – automate your savings. Heard of the phrase, pay yourself first? Go ahead and do it! Start small, squirreling away even R100 in a savings account can help you save for a goal like a vacation, gifts for your kids, or spoiling yourself.
- Budget – Set up a budget, a manual spreadsheet or the old fashioned black book to keep track of expenses, debit orders, everything you need to cater for in the month. I recently downloaded the app 22seven after much research. South Africans are warned not to divulge or share their banking details with anyone because of cybercrime. This bothered me too, but I took the plunge and found the app to be safe and useful in tracking my spending. It even creates a personalized budget based on spending patterns.
- Pay your credit card in full – It’s so easy to tap purchases and watch the balance rise into a raging monster. Everything charged to a credit card must be paid off immediately. This is non-negotiable 🙂
- Become your own financial adviser – I can’t stress this enough guys. Take charge of your finances. Keep all your receipts, check your bank statements, study your investments, watch the markets, read up on finances and find ways to save money. Be open to it all and watch yourself blossom into a financial expert.
- You’re not married to your bank. If you’re unhappy with the manner in which they do business, give shoddy service, don’t have your best interests, they have got to go! Yes, it’s a schlep to join another bank, but it’s doable. With some research, time and effort you can find a better bank to take care of your money.
- Invest money – The earlier you start the better of course. Long-term investments are the best to double your money. However, buying shares is an alternative. There’s risk in everything, but you can’t make money without cutting your losses. Be open to investing and watch your money grow.
- Have an emergency fund – This could be a savings account or a tax- free account that’s all the rage at the moment. Automating money to the account takes care of pesky expenses like car services, medical expenses and the like. Having money on hand softens unexpected money blows.
- Keep your car for 10 years. Take care of it, keep it serviced and well maintained. People don’t consider when buying a new car all the phantom expenses that go with it, such as ever-increasing fuel prices, fines, parking expenses, maintenance, license renewals, etc. Trading and buying new cars is a costly exercise resulting in a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
- Grocery shopping and eating out: Food prices are soaring. We need food to live, but buying luxuries and eating out should be curbed to save money. Download apps like the Entertainer for 2 for 1 deals when you need to eat out for special occasions like birthdays. Make use of retailer points to pay towards your grocery bill. Write a shopping list and stick to it. Better still try online grocery shopping, no shopping queues or bad moods!
I leave you with this quote: It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits!