The realities of living within budget

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At the beginning of every month, which for me is the day before payday or on payday, I sit down to do my budget on my excel template. I input my income which stands alone against the many things that I have to pay for. My mind invariably drifts to the thought of doubling or even tripling my income and I immediately think of all the things I can buy.
So far, I have kept myself from shopping mostly through sheer will and determination, which isn’t entirely true. When I do go to the mall, I park as close to the store as possible to avoid being pulled aside by a smiling salesperson who needs to make a sale more than I need whatever they are selling. At the mall, it’s a quick in and out. Back to my budget, I then input all my expenses in the different categories I.e. groceries, utilities, insurance, loading my fuel card, giving, etc. Some of these I pay while I input them and the rest are automated, each debit order like a bad reminder of my terrible choices. Doing my budget has become a monthly thing. I see where my money is going and I can be intentional about my finances and not lax which in the past has led to anxiety. Budgeting truly is a blessing and I don’t count down to payday anymore. I can now I can finally afford fancy coffee the week leading up to payday.
The template that I use is very detailed and has several categories of expenses which are further broken up to include everything. There is even a row for my gel overlay. I downloaded my budget template off the internet. In the beginning I excluded getting my nails done, but it is something that I get value from, and if I budget properly it won’t break the bank. I have spent money on far more trivial things. Plus I speak with my hands and when my nails are done, I feel more confident. Budgeting shouldn’t be a restrictive and torturous thing undertaking. It should allow for fun and your life, but just don’t over allocate to “entertainment.”
Eating out, and buying data were some of the huge leaks in my budget. To counter all of the aforementioned money guzzlers, I eat out once a month and pack lunch to work which I share with colleagues. It’s like a mini-buffet everyday! Being an Instagram fiend has been the hardest part of budgeting to date. Even though my employer graciously lets me use the wi-fi to do all my phone updates, sometimes I am very impatient and switch to 4G. I realised I spent so much money on social media coveting the lives of strangers on the internet, helping them make money from their posts! We all have a vice, something we waste money on, a budget shows you what that thing is so that you can hopefully address it before it jeopardises your financial plans.
I further break up my monthly budget into weekly goals. I find that breaking up my spending categories into weeks helps me stay on track and have measurable goals which I can attain. On a weekly basis, usually on a Sunday, I cash the amount for the week when ATM queues are not long and split it up into the different categories and go about my week. In the food category for example, I purchase the large items at the beginning of the month when supermarkets have their sales. I love two for three specials and have found that I do not need to buy the big stuff every month. If people didn’t have to eat, the world would be a happier, thinner place. Dijo di a tura batho ba modimo!
On Sunday, I buy fruit and vegetables and other perishables like yoghurt, fresh milk etc. Given that I like to shop on Sundays, I am less likely to get distracted by the chocolates and other bad stuff enticing you as you wait your turn to pay. Shorter qeues mean less time spent in the store.
I have become more cognisant of my spending and realised that I am more likely to overspend when I pay with my debit card. For example, when I have P200 at the till and exceed my shopping budget, I have to prioritise purchases and put some of the stuff back. I am not embarrassed about what I can’t afford, but more concerned about not keeping the promise I have made to myself about being wise with money. Budgeting is a real blessing to me from which I derive great value, not just monetary but building self-confidence. I make plans and I see them through, for the most part.
I don’t always stick to my budget. I still go out for unplanned lunches, pick up a tab when I shouldn’t or decide to buy a latte everyday instead of twice a week. It’s a learning curve and every month I get better at it. Failing to plan is planning to fail. We do a great job of budgets for our employers, let’s now do it for our personal finances. Besides, there are a lot less zeros to deal with and much more at stake if we do not.
PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent.