Original Photo by: Teaira Walker
There is a lot of advice out there when it comes to personal finances that may be quite tone-deaf to the majority of us who want to better our finances but don’t know where to begin. Advice like, “rent out that spare room in the five-bedroom house that you own! ” or “turn that second property into an Air BnB!” It can be discouraging as a lot of these things may be out of our reach. But worry not! There are ways we can utilise and allocate our resources to save, budget and invest our money regardless of what we earn.
A budget is an essential part of your financial well-being. Knowing your monthly income and expenses creates mindfulness around your money. In general, try to allocate your income with 50% towards expenses, 30% towards saving and 20% towards investing.
Budgeting weekly is a big game changer to making sure you know where exactly your disposable income is going and it allows you to stay on top of it if you do it frequently. A great tool to use is Excel because you can easily update it as you go and the formulas will auto-populate.
If you are unfamiliar with using Excel, check out the Youtube video for beginner-friendly advice to get you started:
The first step when it comes to navigating a budget for yourself is to know yourself and be honest with the amounts you usually spend on. You don’t need to stop doing the things you love, have no social life, and give up your hobbies just because you are trying to reduce your expenses. If you are a foodie and love to eat at nice restaurants that’s perfectly okay. You don’t need to completely cut that out, but rather include a realistic figure in your budget so that you are not going over it every month and feeling terrible.
Here are some useful tips to tell you to get your budget started:
Track your spending
Look back at all your account statements to see where your recurring payments are going and categorise your expenses.
Separate your fixed expenses such as rent and utilities and variable expenses such as socialisation and clothing.
It is important to track every Kwacha coming in and going out even if it’s just a coffee from Mugg and Bean on your way to work. This way you can identify where there is room for change
Use your budget to increase savings
While putting together your new and improved budget, think about the benefits of budgeting, which include less money spent on frivolous expenses and more money saved for long-term financial goals.
Try putting 10% of your paycheck toward savings to start and gradually increase it to 30%. When your expenses are all laid out, consider which expenses you can stop paying for. Is that gym membership going to waste? Or is that premium TV subscription worth it when you watch everything on Netflix anyway?
Create a spending limit
Have a flexible budgeting goal. When you start, keep it simple! By keeping it simple, you’ll make the daily, weekly, and monthly habits of tracking your spending less of a nuisance. Make sure you’re factoring in your income and predict any challenges that may arise. Being prepared is the first step in executing your budgeting goals.
Check out this link to give you some inspiration on how you can start up your budget:
Discipline is Key
The first step starts from forming the habit to be consistent. The more you do the act of saving money, regardless of the amount, the less cognitive effort it takes to save and it slowly starts to become part of your routine. Today, you can open bank accounts that allow you to put in small amounts of money without large annual and monthly fees. It is better to have your savings account in a separate bank from your chequing account. Better yet, set up automated transfers a few days after your payday hits so that you don’t even count it as spending money.
It is also advised to have a goal that you are saving towards to keep you more motivated to reach your target. Apart from an emergency fund, you could have separate savings account for a holiday abroad or a new car.
Making your goal more tangible and personalised to you will make saving more real and fun even before you can afford it. Putting all your savings into one big pot when you are not even really sure where it is going can be quite demoralising and it is easier to end up using the money for purposes that they were not intended for.
Investing can feel like such a daunting topic and often many people chose to ignore this part of their finances when trying to allocate their income. Fear not, we have a simple Q & A set up to help you understand it all better.
Q. What is investing?
A Well, basically it is the act of putting away a certain amount of money to work for you, committing your money to something with the expectation that you gain some kind of return such as an increase in value or additional income. A general rule of thumb would be to allocate 20% of your disposable income to some sort of investment. Investing is not just about stocks, even investing in yourself, such as going to business school, registering a business, or doing an online course counts. You can invest in your ability to earn more by becoming more valuable and knowledgeable.
Q. What is the difference between a stock and a share?
A stock is a general term that describes the ownerships of certificates in any company whereas a share is the ownership of a particular company.
Q. What is a dividend?
This is the payment that a company makes out to its shareholders. Rather than retaining all their profits, a company may choose to return some of that back to its owners, and investors are then free to use that payout to re-invest back into the company or use it for another purpose.
Q. Crypto is getting more and more popular but what is it?
It is a digital payment system that is just like regular currency except in digital form. You will find a unique serial number on money notes that are recorded in the Reserve Bank and shared with smaller commercial banks. Anytime you deposit money into your bank account, your branch, the Reserve Bank, and the government will be able to track that the money has been moved to your account. This is how cryptocurrency works as well, each coin is like the serial number you would see on a bill, except it is in digital form. It can also be broken up into smaller pieces.
Check out this video for an easy break of what cryptocurrency is all about:
You can download apps such as Binance and Trust Wallet and use your TNM Mpamba virtual card.
Q. Where can I go to invest?
Well, you can invest from the comfort of your own home. There are many online brokerage accounts that you can choose from. They are usually self-service which saves you from hiring a financial planner. If you do want to speak to a financial advisor, most commercial banks have sectors dedicated to this.
Finally, improving your financial wellness this new year will require mindset and knowledge. Financial literacy will open you up to many possibilities so don’t be afraid to do your research. Remember, to diversify your income to balance out the risks, returns, and liquidity because stocks and crypto don’t always go up and there is no point in being paper rich when you cannot access the money when needed. Be true to your goals and commit to them, interact with them and make it your reality.
P.s. We asked you which social media accounts you have been following for all things finance and have put together a small list to help you gain more insight on all things finance:
The Financial Diet
*Disclaimer: This Blog post may not be suitable for your specific circumstances. This information may also become outdated. We Don't assume any liability with regard to financial results based on the use of information provided here.