“And others I’m still working on.”
As a young (creative) professional it pains me to admit that my approach to my finances has been a fairly stick-my-head-in-the-sand one. I know I should be saving more and spending less. But I like my craft gin, gellish express mani’s and the odd wardrobe spoil from Zara…
But the first lesson I learnt in 2019 was that income isn’t always regular. I’m a freelancer and one of my regular clients went into business rescue. Long story short, they owe me three months’ pay and it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting any of that cash any time soon. I know January is a little tighter for all of us, but it was a month when I really had to curb my spends thanks to holiday-wallet-recovery and a sudden dip in funds.
Here are a few healthier spending habits I picked up (read: was forced to adapt)…
1. Start small
Okay, change can be daunting. I know. So don’t scare yourself off the money-saving path by setting unrealistic goals. I found that I didn’t have to make major lifestyle changes to cut down on excessive spending. First, I made a pact with myself to bring lunch to work at least three times a week. Sure, my daily walk to our local salad bar wasn’t totally breaking the bank, but it definitely adds up. As does making coffee at home in the morning, or switching out my second almond flat white for a cup of free rooibos tea at work. I also discovered an early-morning coffee special from a barrister next to my apartment.
2. Remove all temptation
Sitting at my desk I found I was hounded by online shopping email specials all. day. long. It’s practically secondly nature to click and shop as soon as the teasing subject line entered my inbox. I wasn’t dumb enough to actually buy anything and max out my credit card, but I was often left feeling deflated about not being able to take advantage of the tantalising sales.
Until, one day I had a serious moment of empowerment: I clicked unsubscribe. It honestly felt better than deleting an ex off social media. No more inbox anxiety, temptation or a reminder of what could be (but won’t be) in my wardrobe.
Meeting up with friends for drinks and dinner is harmful to two precious things in my life: yes, my bank account, but also my waistline. Why sit in the office all day denying yourself yummy treats (free brownies!) when you’re going to meet friends for dinner that night and wash down a creamy bowl of pasta with too many glasses of red wine, anyway?
Instead, I realised I wanted to stick to my cleaner eating and #MoveMore goals, so I started suggesting my bestie and I go for a walk or attend an evening yoga class to spend time together and catch up. After all, I’m already paying my monthly gym subscription – I might as well start using it.
4. Home grooming
Okay, this was a real tough one for me. I was running on a full 16 months of gellish nails. I’d “cut back” by opting for the soak-off and paint only, “no need for an expensive hand exfoliation and massage for me, thanks!”. But that still averaged out to R320 every two weeks… R640 a month… R7 680 a year!
So 2019 has seen me go back to painting my own nails. And TBH, I hate it. Nail polish lasts a grand total of two days even when I’m careful and I simply loathe having bare nails. Admittedly, as soon as I’m feeling flush(er), I’ll be booking myself a manicure.
Facials and peels
Guys, these are so NB. And I have seriously active skin. I used to make sure I treated my skin with either a chemical peel or a session of micro-needling once a month. Naturally, this had to go.
But I’ve found a whole lot of at-home peels and face masks already existing under my sink. I won’t for a minute pretend they’re as effective as professional in-salon treatments, but I’ve so enjoyed testing them all out. And actually, my skin has enjoyed the DIY TLC and behaved much better than I would have predicted.
Then there’s laser hair removal. I started this about 15 months ago, for both bikini and underarm. After a few sessions I moved cities and never really found a new salon to continue the process. But the +/- R2 000 I knew I’d need to fork out per session still hung over my head. “…with next month’s paycheck,” I’d vow. It caused a lot of money anxiety and guilt when the next deposit would come and I’d put it off again. This year, I’ve decided to put it on hold, indefinitely…
Instead, I’ll be waxing at home. I know, I know most people think I’m crazy, but I have discovered a close to pain-free wax pot for home-use. You just heat it up on your stove and you’re good to go. I can’t tell if it’s the wax’s formula or if it’s the deep concentration that it takes to wax yourself offering a distraction, but seriously, it’s very very close to being painless. Ideally, I’d like to re-visit the idea of laser hair removal as a more permanent solution, but I’ve decided that right now it’s not part of my budget. Simple as.
5. Credit Card vs Debit Card
I am the newly cautious owner of one debit card and two credit cards. I know all three cards offer me rewards and points of some sort. I also know that my credit card comes with rollover interest fees. I don’t know how much I pay in banking fees for each card and I don’t know whether I pay more for my credit card interest or on my debit card overdraft. I do know that I need to investigate these matters and so that’s next on my to-do list.
As general rules, financial gurus advise using credit and debit cards for the following:
For budgetary control: When it comes to sticking to a strict budget, there’s no question the debit card is the winner. After all, you can literally only spend whatever is in your account, which eliminates the danger of wracking up debt.
For usability: When it comes to usability, credit cards can be slightly easier or more convenient to use than debit cards. This is because debit cards can sometimes be problematic when used for travel-related expenses like hotels and rental cars. Often these merchants put a ‘hold’ on your card for a certain amount, which you only get back when you return the car or check out of the hotel. These amounts can be large and therefore leave you with little to no spends if you were relying on a debit card.
Using a credit card for the larger expenses can be beneficial as well, with more and more offering cash-back deals or rewards based on the amount you spend. But beware of the interest you will have to pay back in order to pay off your credit card.
6. The 50/20/30 rule
In a perfect world my finances would be dictated by the 50/20/30 rule: 50% of your earnings goes towards essential expenses (think rent and utilities), while 20% goes into savings and the remaining 30% can be used for personal expenses like hashtag: treating yourself.
By committing to depositing a solid 20% into a savings account, the temptation to spend it on other expenses is automatically taken away from you. NB: You need to be putting this into a separate account than the one you use every day. Plus, savings accounts offer interest, which means your money will slowly grow over time.
The best thing about the 50/30/20 rule is that anyone can do it… Because it’s a percentage-based system, you don’t need to be earning millions for it to be achievable. It’s a really good way to make sure you’re living (and saving) within your own means. Because, #FalseLifestyle is so 2008, right?