It sometimes feels as if money is your boss, doesn’t it? You work as hard you can to earn it and to hold onto it at least until the end of the month. Yet money seems to have a mind of its own as it flies out of your account and your wallet. It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be this way. Your money should work for you. It should give you peace of mind, help you achieve your goals and enable you to enjoy life. Let’s see how this is possible.
Getting your money to work for you, does not depend on how much you earn; what you do with the money you have is what counts.
To get an idea of where you currently are, take this quick quiz (answer with a yes or a no):
- Spend money on impulse?
- Identify and cut out unnecessary expenses?
- Have insurance to protect your family and your property?
- Take on more debt than you can afford?
- Pay more than the minimum instalment whenever you can?
- Have plans in place to reach your goals?
- Have an emergency fund?
- Educate yourself about financial concepts?
- Pay yourself first? (If you earn a salary, this means putting money in your savings account before you start paying bills or other expenses.)
A “no” answer to questions 2 and 5, and “yes” answers to all the other questions is a good sign that you are on the right financial track. However, if your answers are the other way around, you have some work to do.
How to get your money to work for you
- Draw up a financial plan. Financial planning is not something you do once you have money; it’s what helps you to get, keep and grow your money. A financial plan helps you to stop making money mistakes by helping you to decide how to spend your money. It helps you to understand the impact of your money decisions and, most importantly, helps you realise that YOU are in charge of your financial health.
- Get all your financial information together. This includes policies, contracts, bank accounts, and so on.
- Do a financial health check-up to determine where you are at the moment.
- Set goals for your life and agree on them with your partner and family.
- Come up with a plan for how you can achieve your goals.
- Keep track of your progress.
- Review your financial situation regularly and make changes to your plan if necessary.
You can do your financial planning on your own, or you can ask a professional person to help you. The important thing is to start. Make a promise to yourself that you will stick with your financial plan for at least one year – the results will be worth the effort.
- Set financial goals. These are money-related things you want to achieve. They can be short, medium or long term.
A sheet like this can be helpful:
|What?||Pay off my short-term loan|
|When?||By the end of June|
|How much?||R12 000|
|How?||Pay R300 a month more than my minimum instalment|
|What?||Pay next year’s school fees upfront so that I can get the discount|
|When?||December this year|
|How much?||R20 000|
|How?||Save R750 per month more by not buying takeaways twice a week|
|What?||Have savings to deal with emergencies|
|When?||By the end of November|
|How much?||R5 000|
|How?||Save R300 per month|
It is unlikely that you can achieve all your goals at the same time, hence you need to decide where to focus first. If you have a long list of goals, choose only five to start with. Remember also that goals can change as your situation and priorities change. The important thing is to start somewhere.
- Draw up a budget and stick to it. People who spend according to a budget often have more money left over at the end of the month than people who spend without a plan.
- Keep track of all your expenses. Use that information to adapt your budget and identify more and more opportunities to save.
- Learn and use the tricks that grow your money:
- Pay yourself first. In other words, put money in your savings account (or stokvel, or kitchen jar) first, before you start paying for other things. Start with a small amount if you have to. Seeing your savings grow is a wonderful money motivator.
- Pay off your debt as soon as possible so that you can stop paying interest and can use the money for other things, including savings.
- Get the benefits of compound interest. Compound interest means that the interest earned on your money is added to the saved amount and then interest is calculated on the higher amount. In this way, your money grows while your monthly savings amount stays the same. You should, therefore, start saving as early as possible so that compound interest has a long time to work hard for you.