Learning to budget your finances is one of those things where some people have no problem, yet others cannot do it for the life of them. Those of us who find budgeting easy and satisfying don’t really understand those people who can never manage their money properly.
1. Mr Macawber in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, propounds the concept of budgeting. “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound nought and six, result misery.” Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849 English novelist (1812 – 1870)
Spend a penny more than you get and you will always be in debt, as I found to my cost when first setting up my web development business, specialising in cms, But spend a penny less than you get and you will always feel rich which we have now achieved. This may seem very evident, but how often do we find we are spending more than we can afford? There are tempting offers within our grasp every day and it’s difficult to resist when they try to make us believe we might never get such an opportunity again.
• Hands up if you are someone who has difficulty budgeting your money?
• Hands up if you do not know how to budget your finances?
• Hands up if you find it difficult to resist tempting offers?
• Hands up if you are in arrears?
• Hands up if you don’t know how you are going to make ends meet for the year to come?
If you have all your hands in the air (and your feet!) it’s time to do something about it. (In other words take yourself in hand!!) Sorry about the pun.
2. The first thing you need to understand is that people who are trading are in business to make money and they want their businesses to grow. To do this they have to increase sales, so they have to make things irresistible to the customers like you and me.
So remember, the next time you are in debt and struggling to pay the bills, there is some big guy out there raking in the profits. They are taking your hard earned cash and leaving you penniless.
Change of Mindset
People who do not budget and find it difficult to manage their money seem to have a particular mindset. For instance, there may be an idea from childhood that being careful with money indicates to the world that a person is miserly. Being reckless then equates with generosity and big heartedness. If you are loaded then spending money freely is not a problem, but if you are on a limited income or just never seem to have enough, then living within your means looks like a good idea.
3. One of the ways to change your thinking is to ask yourself, ‘who is the best person to benefit from your hard earned money’? Is it the big companies who are making loads of profit already(Fat cats) paying their executives million pound bonuses, or you!
Anxiety about your ability to manage your money and fear of figures may cause you to bury your head in the sand. I had a friend who admitted this to me and when I said I enjoyed the online banking system and being in charge of moving my money around and how easy I found it; she immediately changed her mind set and decided she could handle the online banking system and researched the best way to invest her money to make more of what she had.
Give yourself permission to think that being in control of your money is a practical way to remove the stress you experience around cash. That will give you more energy to enjoy life more and make even more money.
Guidelines to Liquidity
The most difficult thing to do is to face the truth. When someone is on a spending spree they are out of control and out of touch with reality. The fantasy ignores the cost and the consequences of overspending (ie. How it’s going to get repaid).
So the first thing you need to do is keep an account of everything you spend your money on. At this stage do not try to change what you normally do. Have a cash note book and write down all the things you can think of that you buy. This includes household bills and food, mobile phone, TV. Put a figure in the corresponding column. If you have actual amounts put them in, if not make a stab at it. Leave space for the things you don’t remember or even consider expenses. Beer, cinema, clothes even the coins you toss to street entertainers. Categorise it as fun money or entertainment funds.
Every time you take money out of your pocket/wallet/credit card/bank, write down what you use it for. Do this over four weeks, and by then you will have a fairly comprehensive list of your expenses. Make a total at the bottom of the page and on the opposite page write down all your income. When I first did this I found that one of my largest expenses was shop bought sandwiches every day!
Compare the totals. Have you spent more or less than you receive? Is your life going towards happy or miserable? It is at this point you really need to make a shift in your mindset.
Start by being tight fisted to people who want to sell you things. Look around for the best deals and always ask to renegotiate deals. I went on a negotiating course some years ago and the following week I put into practise what we had learnt. I reduced my spending by $350, just by asking!
Carry only a minimum amount of money on you so that you are not tempted to fritter away $20 on some impulse purchase you don’t need. Those dollars add up fast and before you know a hundred dollars in your pocket is gone.
Cut up your credit card unless this is the most convenient way to pay regular items and you clear the balance at the end of each month. Use only one credit card, and find one that gives points for purchases. These mount up and you can claim vouchers to spend in your favourite shops. Also find a credit card that will take the full amount by direct debit every month so you don’t miss payments, accrue interest charges and generate a large fine.
Make a list when you go shopping and only buy what is on that list. OK, some things you may have forgotten to put down but make sure you avoid the impulse purchases. Keep a list in the kitchen and only put things on it when you have run out. Use up products in the refrigerator and freezer to reduce waste and keep spending to a minimum.
Become a thrifty shopper and consumer. Try and use up coupons, saving a few saved cents per purchase can really add up. Searching through clearance sections in stores is another way to save money. You may be pleasantly surprised to see how much you can reduce your bill on your usual grocery haul.
Budgeting is not for the fainthearted. It means fighting the urge to buy what is not needed. I run a web design company and if you are like me the temptation is strong to buy all the latest gadgets. But if you can think yourself into a new mind set you will find it much easier to change the habits of a lifetime. Be sure that all expenses are accounted for when you take stock of your situation. Once you have your finances under control, there will be enough surplus to save and allow to grow for the special events you may want to indulge in in life.
If you still have difficulty restricting your shopping habit, take a friend or relative with you on outings. Someone you can trust to steer you away from temptation. Once you conquer your shopping demons, you will be proud of yourself for doing so and feel a great sense of accomplishment. So don’t be overwhelmed, grab that pen and paper and get on track to liquidity.