It is mid-month and all should be well. The cold weather is too intense. But that doesn’t worry you. After all, there is coffee in the cabinet and you could quickly run the coffee machine for a cup of cappuccino.
Just as you are about to waltz past the door heading to work, you realise your car has no fuel. Worse, your pockets are so hollow, you can’t even jump into a matatu.
You seem gobsmacked but reality is so numbing you can’t afford to ignore it. It dawns on you that you are dead broke halfway through the month. In fact, the coffee you just sipped was bought three days ago with money borrowed from friends.
Joanne Mwangi, the CEO of a top marketing company in Kenya, recognises the difficulty in living a solvent life. Now more than ever people ought to “learn smart choices on finances,” she says.
And yes, it is time you learn how to stretch that cheque through the month and plan for your finances wisely.
1. Have a budget
According to Catherine Musakali of Women On Boards Network, without a budget, one could as well be on a journey that they are not sure of completing.
“The key to good financial management is having a plan,” she says. “You have to plan for the resources that you have.”
As one plans, Catherine offers that the budget should offer an option for a buffer to cater for unexpected and unplanned-for needs.
Once it is well written down, Musakali advises that one should keep spending within budget stipulations. “Make sure that you don’t accrue debt. And even when you take a loan, be sure, prior, that you will be able to pay for it without too much struggle.”
2. Buy house supplies in bulk
Before she could diagnose the problem, Rebecca Okumu, a staff member at a parastatal, had to live with consequences of ‘lacking strategy’. She says:
“I learnt the hard way. I had to budget well and only spend on needs. I assigned money to every need – be it weekly or monthly. But most importantly, I learnt that buying frequent house needs in bulk saved me much.”
Instead of buying 5kgs of rice to last a month, Rebecca opted for 20kgs – comparatively cheaper and lasts four months. Rebecca has sorted her needs and already knows – at the beginning of the month – precisely how much money she will need to last through the month.
3. Live modestly and within your means
Peer pressure may drive you into aping an expensive lifestyle. This ought to stop. According to Julia Kibore, Principal Consultant at Marketing Solutions Limited, “You have to live within your means.”
She went on: “Even when your income increases, say, through a promotion, live as though you don’t have the extra earning. Don’t change your lifestyle into ‘expensive’ just because you can afford it. Save the extra money.”
In Joanne’s opinion, “Never spend more than you have. Such a mistake puts you in debt and that is dangerous; it pulls your growth down.” Madam Musakali also weighed in , saying, “Cut your clothe according to your size.”
4. Understand your needs and wants
Rebecca believes that everyone should understand the outlook of their spending. This is unique with every person. It is determined by factors such as the size and needs of a family. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
“You have to know what you are buying and reasons behind buying them,” she says. “Ask yourself, ‘Am I paying for something that I need or could I do without it?’”
For every penny, in her opinion, a spender has to be accountable.
5. Invest for the future
Ultimately, you just don’t want to live through the months. The present was the future years back. Those in it now wish that they could have made the right decisions back then. It therefore wouldn’t hurt to prepare in advance.
There are several ways to do this. For instance, Julia mentions “putting together collaterals”. This would be buying appreciable assets like land.
This, she says, will improve reinforce ones suitability for credit facilities when entrepreneurship comes calling.
“It is critical that you employ discipline in saving for your future. Now, be in control and don’t let the money control you,” Joanne says.
6. Have a side venture and save
Like seasons of the year, you may experience periods of bombastic wealth and spells of lack. For this reason, Joanne admonishes that everyone ought to save – make hay while it shines. It would be important that one seeks services from financial institutions which offer favourable products.
“Never fear asking for advice from your bank, personal banker or even a financial advisor,” says Musakali.
Julia on her part believes that being comfortable with just one salary may hold many from achieving financial stability they are looking for.
“Your salary may be just enough for your needs. But that is not good enough. It exposes you to dangers. You could start your own small business on the side so that you have a fall back plan in case you are out of a salary.”
7. Avoid impulse buying– not even food
Writing a budget is good. Following its dictates is better. Avoiding impulse buying, in Rebecca’s opinion, is best.
According to her, supermarkets and storehouses are arranged in a way that “toys around with your psychology.”
She believes it is the reason many walk into the supermarket to buy one item but emerge from the counter with a thousand others.
“The temptation sometimes is too much; one can’t resist it. But if you want to last through the month you have to tie your spending. Buying when you didn’t plan for it opens a gap in your budget. The deficit will be paid for with the next month’s income. It is a fatal mistake,” she says.
Rebecca has gone ahead to implement methods that would plug the leaking ‘impulse buying’ hole.
These include not carrying money with her and opting for post pay phone services. She prepares her lunch and carries it to work so that “I don’t have to buy expensive food in town.”
Then, she only carries her ATM card for emergencies. “I don’t keep money in my mobile account either. If I have money, it has definite use – not lazing in my pocket.”