This article appeared originally in The Guardian
There’s nothing that forces you to reconsider the way you manage your money like hard times. Between inflation, foreign exchange palaver, massive job cuts…the list is endless, so we can all agree that it’s a tough economy. However, the great thing about hard times is that, even though they force you into a corner, problems often create opportunity and if you are resilient you find creative ways to cut back and earn more. More importantly in these times we have to focus on how to manage the resources that are available to us because if you don’t respect the money you currently earn it will leave you with no respect.
These are 3 building blocks.
The Spending Plan
A budget is a dirty word to most people because they tend to think of it as something that restricts spending but a budget is your passport to a healthy financial life. It is basically a tool that helps you allocate your limited resources in the most efficient way. So lets call it a spending plan. And in these difficult times if your budget is not your best friend, you are on a long thing! Your budget doesn’t have to be complicated, keep it simple! Divide any income that you get into 3 parts. (Your salary, bonuses or your uncle ‘dashed’ you money) Long- term financial goals (20%), Short- term financial goals (10%) and living expenses (70%).LFG (20%) represents the proportion of your income that is set aside for purchasing assets that will earn an income. (Land, property, stock portfolio)SFG (10%) represents the proportion of your income you set aside for those seemingly ‘frivolous’ things that make life a little sweeter. (Travel, cars, phones) whatever tickles your fancy.Living Expenses (70%) this is pretty much self- explanatory (food, water, accommodation, transportation)
One of the most common mistakes we make as Nigerians when it comes to our money is wait for financial surprises to happen before we plan for them and no one likes financial surprises, unless they are credit alerts. The reality of the world that we live in is that things come up, your car will break down or generator will need repairs or you may lose your job. These things happen, so it’s best to set a little aside every month towards covering these unexpected expenses. An emergency fund should have 6-9 months of living expenses and should not be put in any risky investments because it has to be liquid and in tact in case of emergencies. An emergency fund is not there to make you money but to act as a financial cushion that protects your long term investments from short term unexpected expenses.
Organize your money
So confession time! My name is Arese and I am an impulsive spender! But they say the best way to deal with a problem is, acknowledge that you have one right? Then find a way to deal with it. So I guess I’m on the right track.
I have found that if I ‘mistakenly’ leave my disposable income in my ‘everyday’ account. I will find ways to spend it mindlessly, from drinks with the girls to new toys for Zikora, my daughter or furniture for the house because that’s just how my brain is programmed.
To deal with this I found a system that would remove me from the equation, help me avoid temptation and force me to achieve my goals without procrastinating because a habit I’ve spent years subconsciously cultivating, is not automatically going to change on its own.
This is how it works. Create multiple accounts, one for each goal. Then ensure that what you decide to allocate from your income to each goal is automatically debited from your salary. That way you don’t have a say in the matter. Make (arrangements with your bank to debit your account on particular dates).
However, the only way this will be effective, is if you limit your access to all but one account. The account you require to pay bills for the month and you should only have an Atm card or chequebook for this account.
All other accounts should be set up so you, either have to go into a bank, write a letter to request your funds or bear some type of monetary penalty to gain access to the money in all other accounts. This way your mind is programmed to ‘think broke’. For example, if you only have N75k in your ‘bills’ account every month and you are used to living on a N100k, it’ll be hard at first but you will eventually adjust to thinking that’s all you have.
Things might be tough at the moment but if you can’t find ways to manage the limited resources you have, spend less than you earn and preparing for the long term, they’ll be even tougher in the future.