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18 October 2007

PART 1: HOW TO MANAGE YOUR MONEY

(General Guidelines – For the average person on the street)




Before continuing any further, first thing first, if you need detailed help and if you have a lot of money then you will need a financial advisor.

This article is just a simple guideline for those who do not know where their money goes to by the end of every month and for those who have trouble surviving on what little income they get.

CHANGE HOW YOU THINK

To get you (and your family-if any) started, you will need to be humble enough to acknowledge that you are struggling financially and that you need to tone down your lifestyle. Yes your friend, neighbour, colleague or relative may ‘seem’ much better off than you, probably having somewhere nicer to live in, own a car or even a very expensive one, have nice things in their home, wear fancy clothes or that they can go for a holiday often and so on, BUT you must remember, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Don’t try to compete with anyone - it’s very stressful. Jealousy is not very becoming of anyone.

WANTS VS. NEEDS

Note everyone knows this but there is a difference between what we need to survive and what we want/desire to make us happy. To survive we have to have the basics like food, medicine, somewhere to live, transportation, a source of money to pay our bills and expenses (example, job, savings, allowance, scholarship, welfare money etc.).

Even then there is the differences in prices for these basic things. Some food are more expensive than others, the same goes with clothes, a place to live, medical treatment, transportation etc. If you have limited budget or money, choose the cheapest. Don’t go to a private hospital, instead go to a government hospital. Don’t buy branded clothes, buy similar but cheaper ones. Don’t eat at a restaurant/café, bring food from home. Don’t travel by taxi, go on the bus. Don’t have too many girlfriends or wives, one is enough.

‘Wants’ on the other hand is driven by desire. Often we want that nice, expensive car, we want to go for a long holiday, we want to party every weekend, we want that lovely but expensive sofa set, we want to treat our friends often, we want a nice big house with a garden, we want that diamond ring, we want the latest PDA/ hand phone, we want sports rim for our car, we want a computer for each and every one of our kids, we want that high powered motor cycle etc. Control your wants. Don’t suffer for it.

To be able to manage our monthly income, we have to know the difference between these two, especially during times when we are tempted by our friends bragging, TV/ newspaper advertisements, widow displays, the salesman etc. All telling us that we ‘need’ these things to make us look and feel good.

EXCESSIVE VICES

If you are a gambler, an alcoholic, a drug user or have other problems can lead to the use of a lot of spending money, seek professional advice to kick the habit. Some habits are very hard to get rid off without help. They eat into your finances, into your life and destroy you slowly but surely. Getting help is nothing to be ashamed off. You don’t have to announce it to the world, go alone if you have to but it is better if you have the support of a friend or family to help you on your way.

Another thing that is not as excessive, is smoking. If you calculate how much a packet of cigarettes cost and how much you use in a month, you will notice that it cuts quite a bit into your budget. It is not necessary for survival and you won’t die if you don’t smoke. The craving will drive you crazy but it can be overcome (If you really want to-develop the will power).

FRIENDS CAN BE OUR DOWNFALL

You have to manage yourself and your lifestyle as best as you can. If it is your friends who are living the high life and enjoying themselves excessively, then perhaps its time to find new friends who are more like yourself so that you don’t have to be that much different from them. Learn to turn a deaf ear on people who make fun of you, just because you don’t dress in fancy clothes, drive to work, have a high paying job, enjoy life like them etc. Good friends are reliable and steadfast. They respect you for yourself and not what you have.

If you are ambitious then you can work smart and hard for these things (the legal way of course. Again to avoid trouble in the long run) and enjoy your hard earned money once you actually have it in your bank account. Get a second part-time job if you have to. Start a home business if you have a full time job.

FAMILY LIFE VS. LUXURIOUS LIFESTYLE

If you already have a family, balance your needs and ambitions to a quality life with your family. No point having all that money when you and your family members are not close and don’t enjoy each others company. I have known some people who work too hard all their life only to retire to an empty home where their kids seldom come home or call home to ask how things are. This is because they are so used to dad or mum not being around. Set your priority – what do you want? Money or a close family life? Some people can have both but not everyone can achieve this. A person who is never there is seldom missed. Painful but true. You cannot catch up on lost time. It is better to set a balance.

‘CONTROL’ YOUR DESIRES AND WEAKNESSES. FIND CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES

The best way to manage what little you have is to ‘control’ your desires and spending habit. Find cheaper alternatives to what you would like to do or have. Decide how much you are getting every month and how much money goes into your everyday expenses. Determine which expenses are necessary for survival and which are not. Survival means you will die or end up on the streets/in jail if you don’t have it. For example, if the price of petrol is going up and up, find a cheaper alternative to go to work. Get a motorcycle perhaps or share s car/petrol with a friend who live and work in the same area. Take the train or bus. If it is not too far then use a bicycle (Good for the environment too). Not as convenient but ‘cheaper’ because that is what we are aiming for. Swallow your pride and ego. Remember, you have nothing to prove to anyone. What can you achieve by burning a hole in your pocket/wallet?

Kids are often the main weaknesses of parents. If you have four or more kids and you suddenly have that extra money to buy them a treat, let us say ice-cream. Buy a large container from the local supermarket instead of stopping by at the nearest fast food outlet for it. You save a lot of money this way. If you have just one child and he/she starts screaming and crying for a $200 toy at the store but you don’t have that sort of money. Don’t pull out your credit card. After trying persuasion and it doesn’t work be firm, pick him/her up gently calmly and try to distract him/her with something else. If this doesn’t work perhaps it is time to go home to avoid all the fuss. Most people will understand especially those who have had kids themselves. Children can often get distracted easily and for the more stubborn ones, the parents have to be firm. Don’t give in too easily to their wants (as oppose to needs) otherwise they will do it again and again.

Sometimes it is the parents’ fault that their kids are high maintenance. They want the best for their kids even though they themselves can’t afford it. The excuse is that they want for the kids something which they themselves couldn’t have in the past. For example; a good but very expensive school (Be flexible. Find a middle alternative), piano lessons, clubs (not just one but many), extra art lessons (apart from what they teach at school) and so on. Just because you couldn’t have it as a child doesn’t mean your child has to have it too. Even if you did have the extra luxuries as a child but your current finances do not allow you to, there is not need to give them the extras either. Use your common sense.

BE STRONG, TRY HARDER

Humans tend to have weak will power. Yes, it part of being human. But you can train yourself. All it takes is self determination. Try harder, that is. Don’t give up too easily. Decide on a monthly budget. Keep track of your spending habits. Try not to spend more than what you have. If you spend too much this month, try again next month and the next. Cut down on things that are not important to your survival.

HOW BORROWING AFFECT US

Your life is your own and when you are in trouble especially financially, there is seldom someone there to lend you a helping hand. Borrowing money to lead a better lifestyle is NOT the solution but will get you into more trouble in the long term (This includes ‘borrowing’ money from your friendly credit card, a friend, relative or even worse a loan shark). Remember credit cards and loan sharks charge high interest rates on the money you borrow. For example for every $100 you borrow, you may end up paying $116-$150 at the end of the month. Then if this hasn’t been cleared the amount will go up and up until you clear your loan. Some people get another credit card to pay for the loan they already have, and another, and another etc. This is highly dangerous and stupid. Wouldn’t it be better if that extra money went into your own pocket instead?

Of course if there is an emergency and you or your family need immediate medical attention, by all means use your credit card (because it is a matter of life and death) and use it only in this way. Some people claim that an ‘emergency’ is when they need to buy new clothes for that annual party that everyone is talking about. Please! Use your common sense when deciding what an emergency is. It is not that toy that your child wants, or a night out at an expensive restaurant just to impress your friend/s or a party that you suddenly decided to have. To avoid using your credit card for things that come up suddenly, plan what you normally need to spend on yearly basis (yes it is troublesome but worth the effort). Save a little money every month for emergencies or when you suddenly get some money from an unplanned source. Don’t use it all up in one go.

Stay away from loan sharks no matter what. For those who do not know what a loan shark is. It is someone who profess to have a money lending business but charge very high interest rates. They may not even acknowledge that you have made payments in the past. They tend to resort to illegal ways of getting their money back from you including harassment, violence or taking over your property by force and selling it even though the amount you owe them is not as high as your car, house, land etc. Yet some of them even use legal means to lend you the money (you have to sign an agreement) but the amount you loose if they take over your property is not worth the trouble not to mention the trouble they cause your family, friends and at your workplace.

On the other hand borrowing money from relatives or friends may seem better but if you can’t afford to pay them back, even in small installments, they will nag you until your ears fall off and they will loose trust in you. Then when you need money for emergencies, there will be no one there for you. For those who do not have a thick skin, this can be very stressful too. Honesty is always the best policy. If you do borrow money always try to work out if you can make payments, pay in small amounts every month if you have to but don’t let anyone loose trust in you. If you have a thick skin (no sense of shame), then I pity you. Suffer the consequence yourself. It may last far longer then you expected.

Note: Please click the image to enlarge.










CONCLUSION

We can all survive on the minimum if we try hard enough. Sometimes cutting cost is absolutely necessary for our survival or for our family’s survival. If you can’t afford that house yet, never mind, do without. If you can’t have as much fun as you want at the moment, never mind, do without. If you can’t afford to get married yet, never mind, postpone.

Things may look bleak at the moment or make you depressed, but think positive about the future. Find alternative ways of managing your money and of increasing your income (look up topic).

Problems don’t last for ever and ever. Tomorrow will not be the same as today or yesterday unless, you just sit there and do nothing about it. Remember that.

..To be continued ... PART 2: EXTRA TIPS ON HOW TO CUT COST AND EXPENSES.



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