We’ve all tried to save money. Most of us fail quite miserably at it. Let’s strip away all rhetorical niceties from the onset. We all think it’s pretty easy. And it is, in theory – stop being so irresponsible with your earnings and stop wasting so much on nonsense. Why can’t we just do this fundamentally simple thing?
You wake up one day to find yourself hurtling at breakneck speed into your late thirties with no savings, no retirement plan and no emergency stash. The worst part of it is that, when you’re younger, you know exactly what you’re doing. You know you’re burning through all your money with reckless abandon. You vow to change.
To start saving next month – but that day never comes. So, how do we stay focused on saving money? How do we stick to our long-term goals? If you’re reading this, then the time to hit the brakes is now.
Society, as a whole, is almost obsessed with instant gratification. The age of the Quick Fix. Turn on the television and you’ve got 500 channels. Pull into the closest fast food drive-thru. Go out to bars and clubs and restaurants. Why not? It’s pay day! We don’t realise the kind of impact this indulgence has on the future. What this behaviour really says about us is that we’ve lost control. Excessive spending has been linked to boredom, loneliness and stress.
We may even be spending money to avoid emotions. It goes even deeper than you could imagine. You’ll hear the cool kids talking about FOMO – fear of missing out – which some of us fall victim to. Social media, or the media in general, controls what we should wear, what we eat, what we buy, etc. Its interwoven with the whole ‘you only live once’ mentality. It is important to live in the moment. To soak it all up and reward yourself for hard work. But, we need to balance it out with saving toward a financial future. Most people shouldn’t, and cannot afford to say yes to everything.
Before you spend money, before you click ‘buy’ – sleep on it for 48 hours. Eliminate impulse purchases. The poet, Judith Wright, once wrote; ‘As we get past our superficial material wants and instant gratification, we connect to a deeper part of ourselves.’
In sticking with famous quotes, Churchill once spoke on the importance of hobbies. ‘To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.’ Success, ultimately, is derived from doing what you love. This isn’t just true to your chosen occupation, but in lifestyle as well. Let’s take eating out, as an example. Eating at home costs less money, goes a lot further and in most cases – it’s a whole lot healthier. Cooking at home can become a satisfying hobby.
A passion. Planning your meals for the week ahead of time is an enjoyable activity. Searching for exciting recipes. Sourcing affordable, fresh ingredients. There’s a sense of accomplishment which comes with working toward something which always trumps the quick fix.For half the price of eating out, most people can cook up a gourmet meal and make a little extra for lunch at work the next day. Invite friends over and make it social. Again, it’s cheaper, healthier and more enjoyable. Instead of paying R30 a cup at the local café, get yourself some good coffee for your home and take a flask to work. Substitute buying things in stores with creating something with your own hands. Make gifts for people, instead of buying. Put your own beauty treatments together.
Blogs and Pinterest are full of great ideas. Yes, it’s convenient to just go online and order what we want. It’s also incredibly time consuming to take up carpentry or sewing or painting, etc. But again, it’s that sense of accomplishment. It’s the acquisition of knowledge, and more importantly – you’re saving money. Plus, there’s the added bonus that if you find you’re really good at making things, you can sell them for profit.
It is absolutely crucial to your success, your happiness and your sanity to pursue a career you love. If you don’t enjoy what you do, it’s time to look for something else. Of course, this is easier said than done and most people just aren’t that fortunate. However, if you find yourself with some free time, use it wisely.
If you can work more and stay busy, you’ll spend less and earn more. If you find yourself able to work toward a career you enjoy, even better. Certain things can be cut. Instead of signing a bunch of contracts for certain activities, such as yoga, gym and boxing, join an exercise pass programme which encompasses all of them. Such as FitKey.Instead of DStv, paying almost a grand a month for Reality TV reruns, look into Netflix, Hulu or Showmax. These cost a fraction of the price and you can watch whatever you want. Find ways to save water and electricity.
Not only are you doing the country a favour, but your pocket, too. If you look after your vehicle and drive it properly, it’ll serve you for a lot longer. If you’re already doing these things, or you’ve cut almost everything altogether and still not making ends meet… That’s an incredibly tough situation. There are ways to cultivate a saving mentality, though, in ways that you might not feel it.
Let’s get concrete.
Any article you’ll read on how to save money will tell you to draw up a monthly budget. This is all fair and well. Put a budget together. Keep track of your expenditures. But, halfway through the month something unexpected happens and your budget collapses in on itself like a dying star, taking all your hopes and dreams with it.
Maybe your car gets stolen. Maybe an old friend comes to visit. Perhaps you get the flu and have to fork out a ton of cash for medication. These things happen. For this reason, it’s important to spend time with your finances.
Review your budget at least once a week. Track your progress and set goals for yourself. Some people are irresponsible and others just aren’t in the financial situation to save anything at all. For this reason, you need to make it automatic. Banks can help you with this, but the internet is also awash with a bunch of tricks. Some people hoard all their coins. Others only save coins that are dated ten years or older. Some make it a firm habit to stash every single R10 note that comes their way.
One of the oldest ways of saving involves putting money away according to behaviour.
We all know about ‘swear jars’ and the like. It doesn’t really matter – as long as you’ve implemented a system to get the savings ball rolling – and stick to it. And, we don’t mean ‘saving half your income’ because that’s practically impossible. Instead, try something practical like saving half your extra income. This could include money gifted to you, money won, tax refunds, etc. Put half away, treat yourself to the rest. Why? Because it’s important to feel like you’re not working just to survive. That’ll drive you crazy.