The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought with it great change, and some degree of anxiety as we find the need to adapt not just our ways of working and behaviours, but our money management too
The State of Emergency period, and indeed the extreme social distancing period, mean our spending and earning habits are likely changing. Now, more than ever before, prudent money management is vital.
Money is likely tighter in these times – we are not spending as much on fuel, yet most of us are home more and thus consuming more fuel, more groceries, etc. Money is tight and our resolve must be tighter. Robust savings and budgeting is paramount. Here are some tips to help get you started.
- The time has come for you to retrace your steps and think hard about you financial future
- The key to financial success is setting clear and attainable financial goals, this is the first step. On a piece of paper or your computer, write down all financial goals you would like to achieve this year. Financial goals can be in the form of:- I want to be debt free by end of year, I want multiple streams of income by end of year, I want to build an emergency fund etc. Now that you have set out your goals, it is time to budget and maintain the discipline required to achieve your goals
- Know how much you make in a month and how much you are spending within that same period. Because you now have a clear picture of your means and expenses, evaluate if you are living within your means (having enough to save) or above your means (are barely left with money before the next salary. If you are living within your means then great you are on the right track , if you are living above your means then drastic measures need to be taken to fix this situation. It either you increase your income or cut on expenses that you do not need.
- Draw up a monthly, and then even weekly budget – how much you have, how much you can afford to spend, and then even “trimming the fat” to reduce non-essentials
- Spend way less than you bring in. Be tight with your money so you are always saving a little.
- Do not try to keep up with appearances, people and trends – you do not need to live a certain lifestyle just because others do. You become the company you keep, if your friends are not aligned with where you want to go in life maybe it’s time to find new friends
- Seek support financial health buddy, a friend you trust to always steer you in the right direction with them
- It is important to hold yourself accountable at least on a fortnight basis. Lack of self-accountability results in you not sticking to your budget and might result in you failing to achieve your financial goals
- Have some level of flexibility, if your budget seems a bit unrealistic or unattainable be flexible enough to change it. The changes shouldn’t be frequent
- Use statements and SMS alerts to monitor your activity and avoid any impulse actions such as online shopping you do not need.
- Cancel or reduce any unnecessary indulgences in this time, e.g. online entertainment subscriptions
- Set clear savings goals that will guide what you are saving for, make sure you write these goals down somewhere. A savings goal can be something like I want to create an emergency fund of X or I want to save up X amount to pay for my school fees.
- Open a savings account and treat this as your emergency fund. Do not dip into it unless you absolutely have to.
- When you open a savings account, confirm any monthly fees or costs for maintaining the account. It only hurts your efforts towards saving to have unexpected costs.
- Automate your savings by setting up a stop or debit order. There is nothing as hard as having to manually or consciously transfer money to your savings account, you get tempted to use it for other things. With a stop order savings become second nature you do not have to think about it. The money is automatically transferred to your savings accounts, you do not even feel a thing over time.
- Pay yourself first; this is he first rule of savings. When you receive your monthly salary, before you spend it on anything else make sure you save a small proportion of yourself. We should build the habit of spending what is left after saving not the other way round.
- People save more successfully when they have short term saving goals in sight. Do not aim too far into the future from the get-go, look at a worst case a one-year cycle.
- Those with a saving plan are twice as likely to save successfully. Draw up a saving plan with targets, reminders, and milestones to measure your progress.
- Adjust your savings plan every few months. As your income, your expenses and the general cost of living change with time, your savings plan should adapt accordingly. Make it realistic so that you don’t default.
- Do not save solo. Like with the gym, it helps to have a saving buddy who has a similar plan. You will motivate each other to keep saving and avoid defaulting.
In these uncertain times, it is best to be extra cautious so you save for the future where you can. We may find the need to dip into our emergency funds in the future and so it is best to start building that fund up as early and as robustly as possible. Where you may be unsure, engage the services of a financial advisor to guide you. Above all, be money wise!
*Moswate is Head of Secured Lending at Stanbic Bank Botswana. These tips are part of a financial literacy series by Stanbic Bank Botswana