I was in Malawi this week and moving up and about, I didn’t need anybody to tell me that times are hard. I mean economic times of course. A family friend showed me three letters which he got within one week: One announcing house rental increase, then another on increase of his children’s school fees, followed by another one from his house-maid asking for a salary increase.
Now, given the limited resources amid escalating cost of living, how do you make the most use of your diminishing income?
You see, everyone puts their money into three basic groups: Necessities, luxuries, and savings. Obviously, the pile that will get you in the best shape over the long term is the “saving for the future”, but that’s only the first piece of the problem.
The reason so many of us are in poor financial shape is that we put more than we should into one of these areas to the detriment of the others. Let me show you what I mean.
Some put money in the “luxuries” pile more than in the “saving for the future” pile. These are often the same people who argue that you only live once and that you are wasting your time saving for the future when you could be enjoying the high life now. Quite often, these people realise what they’re doing—they know that they’re spending money on luxuries. The catch is that they just don’t care.
Others put money that should be in the “luxuries” pile into the “necessities” pile. They identify things like top of the range cars and smart phones as necessities in their life when the truth is that most of these things are luxuries. I have several friends in this group—they are barely squeezing by and they are putting a little money away, but they continually tell me that they are doing everything they can and are living “bare bones” as they surf the web on their Samsung Galaxy S6 or i-Phone 5.
The recipe for success that I have found in life with these three piles is this:
First, go through everything in the necessities pile and determine if it’s really a necessity. In other words, go through every bit of your spending for a while and figure out whether you really need this item. I’m not suggesting going without the item, but merely determining whether you truly need the item for day to day life. Is that cell phone a necessity? For some people it may be, but are the unlimited text messages a necessity? Is that giant television a necessity? In these hard times, is a case of beer or a cask of wine a necessity (they both are often included as “food” for some people)? When you start asking hard questions like this, it often becomes clear that many things in life are luxuries. Also, you begin to find that frugality is pretty cool—it shrinks the cost of many things in your necessities pile.
Then, try to keep a balance between luxuries and saving for the future. Financial discipline is not about denying yourself everything enjoyable in life. It’s about finding a balance between the things you enjoy now and the things you’ll need later, and it’s also about finding value in all of the luxuries in your life rather than just treating them as things you do naturally.
Have a blessed week-end as you strike a balance between luxuries, necessities and saving for the future.