We’ve all been in this position: money comes into your account, you get that SMS from the bank and you get excited. Then the money “magically” vanishes. Month end comes around and you’ve got too much month at the end of your money. Panic.
Most of us have experienced this and know what it’s like to have absolutely no idea where our money went. Who can blame us? It’s not like financial education was openly taught to us. Most of us can’t even blame our parents for not teaching us because they, too, didn’t get that same education.
After experiencing this myself when I started earning my own salary, I had to make sure it stops! I need to make sure that I have some kind of money and then some at the end of the month. After loads of research, I have finally found the top 4 things that you could do to better manage your money.
- Budget, Budget, Budget
This is such an important skill that an overwhelming amount of people don’t know about. First of all, what is budgeting? Budgeting is basically predicting how much money you will spend at the beginning of the month before you get your pay check.
How do you do this?
First you’ll need to write a list of expenses that you have to pay. Not want to pay. These are your needs. Count the important stuff like rent, transport, petrol (if you have a car), medical aid, insurance, groceries etc. Roughly estimate how much all of these bills might cost you and then deduct that from your expected salary. Make sure that 50% of your income goes towards paying for your needs. A third of your salary needs to go towards paying for your rent (if you live away from home)
Next, you take all the things you will want to spend money on. These kinds of expenses include clothing, going out, buying the occasional coffee before work, Netflix, Spotify and so on. These expenses are not crucial, but they’re definitely nice-to-haves. Once you’re done, deduct these costs from your total. At the end, this should consume about 30% of your salary.
At the end, you will be left with about 20% of your salary. Take that and save that money. I like to take this money and put it in my 32-day flexi savings account. It’s so important to save, whether you’re keeping money in case of a rainy day (like me) or you’re saving towards buying yourself something cool, it’s important to save.
This method of budgeting is called the 50/30/20 rule where 50% of your income goes towards your needs, 30% goes towards your wants and 20% goes towards your savings.
- Know EXACTLY how much you’re spending ALL THE TIME
Yes, I said what I said. Make sure that whenever you spend money, you know exactly what you’re spending your money on and how much that is. Right down to the last cent. Make sure that it fits into your budget. Do not unnecessarily spend money on things that you do not need.
Let me give you an example. If some of your friends are going out for a night out and you know you’re going to overspend on your going out budget, go and draw some cash, leave your card at home and spend the money that you allocated for this specific night (if you’ve allocated, say, R400 for the month on going out, only use R100 for this night).
Why is this helpful? You can’t spend money if you don’t have money. This is a nice way of putting a cap on reckless spending.
- Keep cash envelopes
What helps many people, including myself, is keeping cash envelopes. Label these envelopes with whatever you’re going to do with the cash. Try to draw cash at the beginning of every week and leave these envelopes in a safe place in your home.
For example, if you know you’re going to spend about R250 that week on lunch at work, put that money into an envelope and take the money when you need it. If you spend about R300 on groceries per week, draw that cash and put it in an envelope and keep it until you need to spend it. Use the same kind of method as my second point. Only take the money that you predict you will spend on that day. Do not take the whole envelope or you will overspend.
This might be helpful if you’re afraid of the money staying in your account and you use it “by accident” (obviously through more reckless spending). Keeping the money in cash will also help you to be more careful with how you’re spending because you can physically see the cash being spent (and it’s a painful sight, let me tell you!)
- Keep track of how much you spent at the end of the month
Now this is where we really get to see if you stuck with budgeting correctly. At the end of the month, pull up your bank statements and receipts and tally up everything you spent in the month. I like to do this every time a day or two before I get paid again.
Why is this good for you?
At the end of the month, you can see how much you predicted you would spend and compare that to how much you spent by the end of the month. You can reflect and adjust your budget accordingly as you go. You could cut out certain things you felt you spent too much money on and you could add things you never thought you’d buy! This last point is an awesome way of sharpening your budgeting skills!
A huge part of adulting consists of consistently always knowing how much you are spending at any given time, keeping track of it and planning. Planning is very, very important. Take about an hour once at the end of the month before you get your pay check to predict how much you’ll spend and tally up how much you have spent.
Leave a comment on how this method works for you. Share some of your methods too!