The warm breath of spring is in the air and the time is ripe for a new beginning… which means it’s the perfect opportunity to look at your financial situation with fresh eyes and do away with anything that’s keeping you back from your best!
Too often our budgeting and spending habits remain stagnant, when, in fact, we should be in a consistent process of reevaluation and reworking in order to adapt to the changes happening around us. Especially in a year such as this, which has turned all of our plans on their head.
Change is tough, especially when you have become accustomed to a particular lifestyle. But you’re not alone – we’re here to help you with every step of your journey to financial freedom, which is why we’ve put together this quick guide to turning over a new financial leaf…
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MAKE A GAME PLAN
It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged by financial matters, but it is essential that you keep your head in the game and get your ducks in a row before they eat all of your hard-earned cash. As with many things, the best way to start is to make three lists:
List your financial goals for the next 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and 5 years. You could include an amount you would like in your savings account, a target monthly income, investment plans, and even objectives such as getting debt-free and reducing your monthly spending.
List all financial responsibilities that you need to address or towards which you will need to contribute. You can include debts owed and loans to be repaid, as well as security necessities such as a retirement annuity, insurance, medical aid etc. Make sure to include all necessary details such as amounts owed and payment deadlines to be met.
This list needs to include everything, besides your aforementioned responsibilities, that you will have to spend money on each month. Items to include could be rent, groceries, airtime, data, electricity, toiletries, transport, cleaning supplies, stationery and pet care. It is essential to really take your time with this one to ensure that you don’t overlook anything.
When drawing up these lists, accuracy and attention to detail are key. The more specific you can be regarding numbers and timeframes, the more likely you are to achieve the change that you are looking for.
You can’t set things right until you figure out what’s going wrong. So, now that you have an outline of what you will need to spend your money on, it’s time to take a look at what you have been spending your money on.
As difficult as it can be to face your decisions head-on, it is the only way to forge a new path for yourself. So, get out those past receipts and statements and start categorising! Start by organising items into two groups: needs and wants. From there, you can further divide the categories according to what works best for you – examples include food, entertainment, gifts, impulse buys etc.
If you don’t have enough receipts or information to do this, opt for a simple process of elimination for the past month. Look at the income you started with, and slowly deduct everything for which you have a set amount, such as rent, Ubers (you can look at the receipts for your past trips on the website or app), airtime (look for SMSs from your service providers) etc. However, the details often add up to make a huge difference, so start collecting your receipts and making in-depth notes of your spending ASAP so that you can reassess in a month’s time.
As you go through this exercise, you will begin to gain an understanding of your habits, priorities and pitfalls. This will inform you as to the key areas that you will need to work on, both internally and externally.
Now that you have a solid outline of your financial goals AND your past financial habits, it’s time to get the two in alignment. And for that, we’ll need our old friend: BUDGETING.
Have a look at Your Complete Guide to Savvy Savings and choose a style of budgeting that best suits your goals, habits and personality, and get going! Try to keep things strict, but realistic – if you want to create lasting change, you should expect your lifestyle to shift… but you also don’t want to go in with unreasonable expectations of yourself as you will only end up discouraged.
As you go through the month with your new plan, continue to keep detailed records of your spending and adjust your habits as needed to keep yourself in line with your goals. It will be tough at first, but you have to keep yourself focused and remember that radical change requires radical action.
This is arguably the best thing that you can do to turn your financial situation around. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed of needing assistance, and you may be afraid that people will judge you for your money management. However, if you don’t seek out the help you need NOW, you will end up seeking it out when things have become much worse, and much harder to fix.
Financial management is complex and challenging, and many people (by no fault of their own) are simply not equipped with the skills and information that they need to keep themselves afloat. Luckily, we are – and we want to ensure that you are armed with everything you need to protect yourself and your future.
Our expert team is waiting for the opportunity to help you get back in control of your life – the rest is up to you!