New year, new money: Five financial resolutions that will change your year.
I remember in 2014 when I received my first ever paycheck. I was so excited to earn real money after years of having very little as a student. I thought about all the clothes I was going to buy and all the places I was going to go to show off these clothes. However just like any other shiny new toy, the excitement begins to wear off and you realise your toy can't do as much you thought it could so you keep hoping next month's toy will be better but it leaves you with the same disappointment.
The trouble with so many of us as young professionals is that we are not really ready to use our salary to empower ourselves. We to use it to spend it on things that don't make sense. If you have earned a few salaries already but find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, do you know what went wrong? Is it major expenses you never saved for? Is it a lifestyle you simply can't keep up with? The last thing you want in the beginning of this new year is to look back and wonder what you spent your money on. The accountant in me decided to draw a few financial resolutions (most of which have become mantras) that hopefully will spark you to think about your own financial resolutions!
1) Pay off your debt.
Yes we know this was coming so we might as well start with it. Pay off your debt and get closer to financial freedom. Credit cards and other forms of debt can come with high interest rates that result in an endless cycle of debt. However, let me be clear, I'm not against debt, in fact if you can get rewards from using your credit card during the month, why not? Plus its an excellent way to start building credit history if you wish to buy a house someday. Some credit cards let you lend for free during the month provided you pay it back on time at the end of the month. The problem comes in when you are simply spending above your means and you find yourself signing up for another credit card to pay off the first. This can quickly spiral out of control, leaving you in agonizing debt. You have to to learn to limit your debt. A good example would be to only get clothing accounts in stores you know you can afford and would be able to pay off without sacrificing food on the table. Try to research the interest rates offered by various banks before signing up for a credit card and look at whether the rewards they give suit your lifestyle, there's no point in get rewards for fuel if you don't have a car for instance. The key is to look at managing your debt and not letting your debt manage you, that means being focused and staying in your financial lane which I will expand on later.
2) Set up a savings debit order.
I did this after my fourth paycheck and I always felt that I should have done it sooner. Setting up an account that is completely separate from your regular account helps you set boundaries and forces you to save even when you don't feel like it. There will always be rainy days and you will regret for not saving for them, so set up your account to start deducting as soon as you get your salary. When I started, I decided to save 20% of my gross salary and it worked for me since I stayed at home and I didn't have to pay for my car. My situation has now changed since I started living in the United States but I still have a specific percentage that I work towards. Set a goal that will help you determine a percentage that suits you. Once you set that debit order in motion sit back, relax and think about all the other things you can spend your money on guilt free.
3) Retire your money today!
You know when you find money in your pocket and you're thanking your past self for thinking about your future self, that's what a retirement annuity is. It was the farthest thing on my mind, but I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get that retirement statement each cycle. The say "youth is wasted on the young" and I think this phrase fits perfectly here. We always put off the things that matter because we think we'll stay in our 20s forever. Don't fool yourself into thinking "I will catch up with it later" because you probably won't and just the effect of compound interest on money means that you probably will never catch up. You'll thank yourself for starting early when it comes to these things. Don't be like everyone else who thinks that they will magically have the answers to their financial needs when they retire, if you don't become Bill Gates then owe it to yourself and your children to start putting your money away today. Once again research, research, research, it's your hard earned money make sure you give it to the right people. One more added bonus to a retirement annuity is the lovely deduction you get from SARS when you file your taxes. Seems like it really pays to be responsible, so at least think about this when you're setting your goals.
4) Be savvy. Get 22 seven!
What's 22 seven? Well this is the modern day version of printing your bank statement and highlighting where your money is actually going. I genuinely don't know where my life would be without 22 seven. This mobile app ( by Old Mutual) looks at every single transaction you make and categorizes them into groups, from groceries, to airtime, to insurance and everything else in between. I know a few banks offer this service but what I love about this nifty little application is that it includes EVERYTHING that relates to your money. This means your retirement annuities, SATRIX account, banking transactions even your Clicks loyalty points are included in this app to help give you a holistic view of your real net worth. They offer great saving tips advice so you can't really go wrong. If you were planning on losing your spending weight this year, 22 seven app would be your mini personal trainer. It comes fully kitted with all the technology to track your financial progress and to help you keep going even when you feel like giving up. You're already on your phone for far too long, you might as well make it worth your while and get 22 seven.
5) Spend in your financial lane.
Ok this is where things get a little deep. You know me by now so bare with me lol. Here it goes: do not allow yourself to buy things that you cannot afford. Most times when we continue to buy things that we KNOW we cannot afford, it's to fill a void. Let me be your Oprah for two seconds and tell you something important, nothing new can come into your life until you're grateful for what you have. You can buy an entire store worth of stuff but they will never feel new nor fulfilling because none of the other stuff that you've already bought made you feel better either. You have to be grateful for what you have right now and appreciate the fact that you cannot buy yourself into acceptance or love by others. If you have friends who don't understand your financial situation even when you have explained it, cut them out. You simply cannot afford those friends so put them neatly back on the shelf and move on. I give advice on corporate wear and I try to accommodate people from different walks of life, but one thing I never want for you is to feel pressure to fit into the corporate world beyond your financial means. Be yourself, and if you can only afford Lucky Star pilchards and bread for lunch, that's ok. If you have to downscale on the shoes you buy or drinking on weekends that's even better. Your peace of mind is essential in making you live the highest expression of yourself, you cannot be bothered by overdraft and extra credit cards. Your will to work hard for yourself will prevail and you will enjoy the fruits of your labour someday.
The key to resolutions is to understand why you are choosing to commit to them. You have to keep in mind your intentions with your money, just like everything else you do with your life. My key intention behind saving money this year is that I would like to travel the world more. I live a very fast paced life and things can get very intense and so I find happiness in seeing the world, taking in the beauty and diversity of humanity. Yours may be to buy a house, or to pay off your credit cards so you can have peace in your life again. Whatever you intention is make sure its important enough to you not to give up. Money is meant to enhance what you already are and not to enslave you, what matters is your attitude towards it. Seriously take some time to think about your life and where you want to be a year from now and look at how your money can help you get you there. Here's to a new year, a new life and new you.