Back to basics

Gofaone Nina Tladi

There is a look people give you when you tell them you are on a debt free journey: shock, horror and even pity. Pity, that you will never progress in life, get married, buy a house, start a business and tick off the list of “things” that will get you societal clout. I understand, debt has become the single story of advancement and the journey I have embarked on is uncommon and foreign.
When you are perpendicular to the culture or contrarian, people often fear for you. On one of his rants, Dave Ramsey said, “if you want to be good with money, figure out what most people are doing with money and run in the opposite direction, RUN! Most people are broke. They spend more than they have coming in, they don’t have money set aside for emergencies, they don’t act their wage and don’t have a plan for their money.” The thing about the opposite direction is that it is very lonely and it is never crowded, so you can make mistakes and learn from them as you go. Henry Ford said, “ those who never make mistakes, work for those of us who do.” When I started my debt free journey, I started with, “Why?”. My why is that if I don’t have any payments, I will have money to save, invest, enjoy and give. Then I took a good hard look at my budget or lack thereof, you have to budget. Author of the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said that, “ a budget is telling your money where to go, and not wondering where it went.” We’ve all experienced having five P200 notes and being shocked at the sole note staring back at us when we reach for our wallet again. We have to learn to be intentional about accounting for those missing notes. These missing notes are what we use to save more, pay off debt and build legacies but due to a lack of budgeting and planning, they fall through the cracks.
One of the worst mistakes we make is not budgeting. It is the foundation of any financial decision yet we continue to skip this step with terrible consequences. Budgeting is of utmost importance and I liken it to working out. It’s hard, it requires consistency and adjustments where necessary and if you are anything like me and working out, your gym membership remains unused after the first four or five minutes of vigilant attendance. Just like working out, budgeting shows us the true state of our finances and man those first few weeks are excruciating. Budgeting reveals the crutches we have, the six to eight week appointments we keep religiously, the Monday night dinner specials and the happy hour that turns into a happy night that has us avoiding the bank notification texts the next day. I like to refer to them as texts of shame.
Every year, we run pillar to post preparing budgets for our employers. We do a great job of it and find ways to increase income and reduce costs but how many of us do this for our personal finances. It should be easier, we have a lot less zeros to deal with. There is a reason for budgets, they give a sense of direction and a goal to work towards, and when accomplished a sense of achievement. You need to have a written budget, there is a direct correlation between writing goals down and achieving them. Study after study shows that our brains are more likely to retain things when we have a visual aid, hence my very elaborate vision boards and on my financial journey. I colour in sections of the chart every time I make a loan repayment. It may seem silly to do these things but there is a reason we have our vision, missions and values all over the place in bright, eye-catching graphics. It is time we do for ourselves what we do for our employers with such focus. How about you employ some of that work for you own benefit? We don’t really dread our jobs or our bosses. We just hate that we can’t get pay increases at the same rate we are racking up debt. We are irresponsible and believe that without a plan for our money we will still get somewhere. If we got our personal finances in check, I think we would have better work, life and relational satisfaction. On the other side of budgeting is peace and less anxiety in anticipation of payday.
There are many ways to budget. I use an excel budgeting tool that I downloaded off the net. This is for my monthly budget but I also do a weekly budget which I jot down. I realised from my weekly budget how much money I waste on impromptu lunch dates and other things that were not part of the plan. It also allows me to check in with myself weekly and give myself a pat on the back for sticking to or being under budget that particular week. If I stick to my budget, I can actually treat myself to a gel overlay and fancy coffees. Budgeting also exposes the areas of weakness, the things you keep buying in the hope purchases will make you feel better. One of the hardest part of budgeting is the slow down of outings with friends, go tla re re ithute go nna mo malapeng. We have a hard time saying no to ourselves and to others. Some are one “no, I can’t make it out tonight” or “ I can’t afford that” away from losing friendships.We spend so much money on the weekend, sometimes even more than during the week. It is these leaks we have to address. If you overspend in a particular week, you give yourself the opportunity to change things the next week.
Most of us have already been paid, some have already squandered it during the long weekend, but even with the little that is left, you can become accountable to yourself for the remainder of the month. For the month of October, we will discuss budgeting and different ways to budget.
It is the last quarter of the year, I don’t know about you but I don’t want to wait until 2019 to write yet another resolution about getting my financial act together.At some point there is no excuse. You either want to do everything it takes or you don’t!
PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent.