The End is nigh!

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Gofaone Nina Tladi

In my last year of high school it was known among the matriculants that once you were given an examination number you could not get suspended,  or even worse expelled! In our warped teenage minds we could do anything we wanted without consequence. My biology teacher, sweet Mrs Schneider, reminded me during this time that it is not how you start but how you finish and that I should not throw away all sense.

As we rapidly approach the end of the year, I have recently come back to this saying. “‘Tis the season to lose our financial minds’” is the more apt description of festive season and  I am guilty of this. It would seem that even I am not above the allure of the shinier than usual displays and the all around cheer. I have made a lot of progress this year including getting my starter emergency fund set up and starting my debt snowball, but I am aware that all my hard work can be wiped out by what Khaya Dlanga calls the “Thursday and Friday of the months.”

It would seem my favourite store’s grand opening coincides with this time of year. As a working person, you know how joyful Friday is. People get to work early, exchanging greetings with gusto and enthusiasm even amoung colleagues who butted heads the day before. We live for Friday and I think the same is true for the festive season. Like my last year of high school, I used to see festive as a time to vent the pent up emotions of fear, anger, discontentment accumulated over the past year,  but as Mrs Schneider warned I ended up on financial life support in January. The rest of my working life was wash, rinse, repeat the cycle until something gave.

When I started my financial freedom journey, I needed what I thought at the time would be an easy win to rebuild my confidence, but I quickly realised that who I am and who I perceived myself to be was evident in how I managed, or rather mismanaged money. The most immediate and of course unsettling revelation the isolation. As soon as  I said “no more”  to living beyond my means, I suddenly got invited to fewer outings.  It was only until I sought out people with similar financial values that I became less lonely.

During this time there is a get together every other day or  a birthday party,  wedding or baby shower to attend. As a woman, I have been socialised to see my attendance and financial contributions to these as my gender duty, apparently  to ensure that when it is my turn, others will reciprocate.  Though I look forward to getting married and having children, I do hope people will contribute to celebrate my first business deal with the same enthusiasm and extravagance.

Last week I wrote about “giving myself a break” and though I have often been told I am extreme with my financial goals, I am always looking for balance. Balance is the deal I have made with myself by slightly increasing the entertainment section of my budget and the occasional low cost outings with friends to ensure I finish well. Without this “breather”, I am a prime candidate for throwing all my hard work and sacrifice out of the window in the spirit of the holidays. My financial rock bottom was January 2018, the only good thing that came from my financial mess  is my pretty, gold laptop that I write on almost everyday. One of the greatest examples of the importance of a strong finish are sprinters,  when the slightest lunge forward is the difference between qualifying or not and gold or silver.

One of my favourite sayings is by Stephen Covey; “Start with the end in mind.” He stresses that “beginning with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” I have many financial goals, the greatest and most challenging is to be totally debt free by my 30th birthday, followed by a fully funded six month emergency fund. In light of these goals, I see the importance of keeping my end in mind.

For most people, the standard agenda item on their New Year’s list is being better with money and of course to lose weight, but for the most part we let these fall by the way side. Even when we are close to a breakthrough, our biggest pitfall is self sabotage, we start strong but end badly.  I do not want to be a Debby Downer, but I do want to remind you to finish well and if you do see me at the mall buying dresses or perfumes, please smile and wave.

PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent.