Everyone is looking forward to enjoying the festive season that is fast approaching. It has been a tough year and we are all ready to shut down and unwind. You know, enjoying the fruits of our hard labour. In Kenya, we have particularly hyped up the holidays since the dusk to dawn curfew has been officially lifted. We can’t wait to have goat eating sessions with friends, graduation parties, weddings, meeting family for that random party, just to mention a few. However, all these things create a dent in your pockets. Most of them, you do not budget for and you end up dipping into your savings.
Budgeting refers to creating a working plan on how to spend your money. You plan your revenue against your expenses. When you first start budgeting, it feels restricting. It feels as though you cannot use your own hard-earned money to do what you like. However, you should look at budgeting as gaining control over your finances.
As a young lady fresh out of campus and just starting on her career journey, I was pretty excited about my first pay. I had already planned with it long before receiving it. Granted, it was close to nothing but I was happy nonetheless to have a source of income and plan with it. First of all, if you are living in Africa where the rate of unemployment is crazy, having a job, even an underpaying one is a blessing.
However, with little money, comes problems. I had initially raked up a lot of mobile money debt to sustain myself in the big city and made poor financial choices. I, therefore, had to first clear my debts or bits of it while also paying my bills, trying not to starve, buying work-appropriate clothes etc. I wish I had started saving earlier. I would have been better placed to handle this thing called adulting.
Several job changes and worse financial mistakes later, I started working on my savings. It was not much because I could quickly swim through it whenever a slight inconvenience occurred. If the bus fare was increased, I used it as an excuse to drain my savings, if a loved one had a birthday, the same story. Eventually, I stopped saving all together and told myself I would start again when I got a better job!
Lessons from a broke girl
When it comes to lending money, I learnt that if I am not willing to lose the money completely, I shouldn’t give it out. I also learnt that it is not wise to lend more than 5 percent of your income especially if you are not sure of getting it back. Remember, you can not save someone who is drowning if you are also drowning. Get stable and then offer assistance.
Being broke teaches you some hard lessons. I learnt that the same way I treat a dollar is the same way I will treat a thousand dollars. I needed to work on my relationship with money. I had to control my spending and work on my savings. On the other hand, while being smart with my money, I also wanted to enjoy life. I wanted to be able to splurge on a few things once in a while. Our spending habits are also determined by what makes us happy. It could be alcohol, good food, shopping, adventure and for me, it was seeing my friends and family happy.
Spending time with friends and family especially as the festive season is fast approaching means having a cool sum of money set aside for expenses. Being able to spend time with friends and family and being free to do so is essential. Happiness means different things to different people and money plays a role in getting you there.
Here are tips for living life to the fullest but within your means
Increase your income
Having no money to spend is one of the reasons that can hold you back from doing what you please. You need to identify the skills you have developed so far and choose which ones are the most marketable and how you can put them to use to generate more funds. Additionally, based on your performance at your workplace, you can request to have your salary reviewed.
You can also get a part-time job that compliments your full-time job. This may be difficult to balance but if you need to see a difference in your finances, it is something you need to consider. You can also analyse your investment risk profile and choose something comfortable for you that can provide you with passive income.
Reduce your expenditure
You need to learn how to spend like you are poor. If it is not a dire basic need, wait for a discount, it could cost less during Black Friday. You can plan for the holidays, save for the gifts you want to buy for your loved ones and shop during the Black November Sale. This way you save a lot of money on presents.
Before you go out clubbing with your friends, you can start your ´sherehe´ (partying) at home and cut down the drinks expenses while you are out. You can even take it a step further and eat at home before going out. You will be grateful the next day when your accounts are not reading zero.
Since we are coming to the end of the year, a lot of stores and supermarkets tend to allow their customers to redeem their reward points. Take advantage of this and cut on your spending. Do not just push a huge supermarket trolley without ensuring everything fits into your budget perfectly.
Make a budget and stick to it.
Sit down and make a list of your expenses against your revenue and predict how much you are likely to spend in the future. This will help you understand how much you can put aside for emergencies, how much you can spend on your wants, how much to save and for your needs.
In your budget, ensure you have the proper allocation for everything. Otherwise, you are bound to dip into the wrong account for your splurges which will, in turn, set you back in your plans for gaining financial freedom while living your best life. When you stick to the budget, you certainly won’t feel bad for buying that pair of shoes if it was budgeted for.
Budgeting and living within your means may sound like a restricting thing. However, when you have a budget, you are free to enjoy a stress-free life since every aspect of your life is properly accounted for. Your bills are taken care of, your savings accounts are sorted and you can splurge on the things that matter to you.
Before you start living your best life, remember to first get rid of all the debts you may have accumulated over time. Ensure you are living debt-free or only with good debts i.e mortgages or investment loans. Anything that you can not afford to buy and is not a need, avoid it.
As we break for the holidays, spend responsibly so that you can come back next year, proud of the progress you have made in your finances. When you set your new year resolution goals, ensure that your financial goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Have fun while making some good decisions.