10 Jan 2013
No matter how much money I have, it is never enough for all the expenses I seemingly incur.
A small consolation is that I am not alone, but instead of doing nothing about it, I have in the past few years practised the art of discipline when it comes to spending money.
In an article on How SA women spend their money, a lot of women have pointed to spending unnecessary amounts of money on wants rather than needs.
By being ruthless at writing down what I need to spend money on, I realised what caused the big holes in my purse. I am far from being wealthy if that were the right term, but I am certainly content with my progress.
Put it this way, I am refining the art daily and I know we can all do it.
Before I give you the tips on saving money, I have to give you a bit of a background to the story.
I am a voracious reader, my bookcase has all sorts of books but I am a fan of financial literature, peppered with a lot of Warren Buffet books.
I have listened to many financial experts, many of whom I have great respect for and they have often pointed out that I should stay away from SALE – that four letter word.
Of course, clothes, books, food items and furniture is often discounted by as much as 75 percent, and who doesn’t like a good bargain?
The trick I think is to continue to use the mantra, 'buy what you need not what you want' especially when you know your budget does not actually allow for that purchase.
Three years ago, I went to a ‘SALE’ and I bought a book for R30 and it changed my life, not because some of the content was new, I had always either chosen to ignore the message or I was too naive to think I was young, fabulous and broke.
The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke by US financial advisor and author Suze Orman is a simple read yet its truths cut sharper than a razor.
What caught my eye as I was debating whether to buy this massively discounted book were some of the descriptions offered by Orman on what broke meant, for I could not understand how it is possible to be young, fabulous and broke at the same time?
This is how Orman describes broke in the book:
- wanting to buy a home but having no clue where you can come up with the down payment, which means you are stuck with renting a small place
- counting every coin in your change jar as well as scrounging under the sofa cushions in a desperate attempt to find the dough to cover your bounced check
- not having one penny saved even though you have a good job
- relying on a cash advance on your credit card to pay the rent or mortgage
After reading these and more in the introduction, I knew that even if sale should sound warning bells, this is what I needed and at 75 percent off the price it sure as hell was a good bargain.
So what did I learn from the book? Plenty, most important, these tips are easy, practical but one needs to be disciplined and focused on achievable financial goals both in the medium and long term.
Orman calls it sweating the small stuff, I call it, a conscious switch from wants to needs.
Here are the 10 tips:
1. If you are obsessed about styling, cutting your hair every fortnight, perhaps you can switch to between six and eight weeks.
This goes for manicures and pedicures, better still, you can do this yourself, buying your own kit is cheaper in the longer run.
The reality is that on top of the costs of having these treatments, you are likely to buy coffee, a sandwich and when you count the cost, it adds up.
2. Look at your laundry costs. A lot of people spend a lot of money on dry cleaning when some of the clothes can actually be washed at home.
Her advice, wash more, dry less.
3. We live in a world where toxic friends are in – they drag us to fancy bars where you are likely to spend R25 on water, never mind what the drinks costs.
Orman says instead of ordering a martini to look cool, downgrade to a wine or beer.
It’s the company that makes the evening not the decor, and where you pay more for your drink, there is a tip to be added to your bill.
4. Instead of buying lunch, make your own at home. The reality for many people is that buying lunch, whether it’s a sandwich or salad, is usually complemented by a soft drink, another cost.
5. Use public transport and lift clubs whenever you can. With the petrol price expected to increase to about R15 per litre this year, car owners will feel the pinch.
According to Orman, taking a cab should be treated as a special occasion or reserved for when it’s really the only safe alternative to public transport.
6. Be a good sport. Sports such as golf and skiing are costly, as such, one has to think strategically, she says.
Buy your gear off season or buy used stuff and you will save loads of money on the swank and still get to play the sport.
It is also a good idea to practise on public golf course rather than on a private club course.
7. I know I love movies and I am often horrified by the amount of money I spend on tickets and popcorn.
If you have to do this make it a treat, look for good deals, for example, Nu Metro has its special Woza Wednesday, and Ster Kinekor is half price on Tuesdays.
Better still, Orman says its cost effective to hire movies to watch at home, and you can also make your own popcorn at home (the joys of microwave).
8. Get a roommate if rent is your biggest fixed cost and cut on that spend.
Unfortunately this one is not to everyone’s taste, if sharing is not ideal for you, find a cheaper place to rent.
9. Get ahead of the housing trend. Her advice is that if you are Young, Fabulous and Broke that you cannot make ends meet, fight the urge to live in the hippiest, trendiest neighbourhood or block if you are dipping into your credit card to pay for your accommodation.
By understanding what different areas offer and for what price, you will be in a better position to cut drastically on your rental or get good value for money when you buy into a location.
No point in buying a ‘box’ home for a premium in a trendy area where you cannot even fit all your furniture never mind own a dog when a block down the road offers all that.
Before buying property, research and speak to various estate agents operating in that area and find out how much on average homes sell for in the area.
10. Drive your car longer, she says. Rather than trading in your car after three or four years and taking out another loan for a new car, hold onto it for between six and eight years.
The reality about cars is that they are liabilities rather than assets and they depreciate in value as soon as you drive them off the showroom floor, unlike property that gains value.
For many people, a car is not just a mode of transport - it is a symbol of power, except this kind of power leaves holes in one’s pockets.
Once you have implemented these tips into your lifestyle, you will begin to see change in your finances and that will allow you to start putting away a R100 or more into the money market -think about the power of compound interest in long term investments. – Denise Mhlanga
About the Author
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