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Johannesburg – January is a difficult “money month” for most people, typically due to a lack of discipline and financial planning, according to Sharman Williams, advisory partner, The Wealth Corporation.

Festive spending with borrowed money cause many consumers to begin the new year in the red. This can have ripple effects throughout the year, although this need not be the case.

“The fact is such a situation is indicative of the culture of affluence that permeates society. Easy access to credit and the images of affluence that surround us on all sides spur the kind of consumer behaviour that cannot be sustained,” warned Williams.

Williams provides a few simple principles to follow for financial well-being:

Enough

The first step is to make a resolution not to incur any bad debt — and stick to it.

Establishing a habit of living on less than you earn may not come easily at first. But as with all habits, once established, it becomes second nature.

It all starts with fostering a frugal mind set. The truth is you will never be satisfied attempting to keep up with the Joneses, so you shouldn’t try.

Budget

Examine your debit orders and other financial commitments. Once this has been done, you will have some idea of how much money you have left over for discretionary spending.

Ensure you do not exceed this. Viewing your spending in this way will help you identify unhealthy habits and areas where you can save.

There are many useful budgeting tools and applications available. Do some research into which suits you best and experiment with it. Such tools can shed great light on your consumption habits.

Debt

If you are already in debt, make sure you pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. Prioritise paying off debt over discretionary spending, you’ll thank yourself later.

Nathan W. Morris reminds us of the simple truth that “Every time you borrow money, you’re robbing your future self”.

Save

Saving should be viewed in the same light as paying one’s taxes and utilities. The reason is simple: you are effectively paying your future self.

It is important to maintain an emergency savings account which you can access for the unforeseen expenses which invariably arise.

Paying with credit for the washing machine or car tyre which unexpectedly needed to be replaced can all add up, and the interest rates you will be charged can significantly inflate the initial price of such purchases.

Review your financial plan

Annually reviewing your financial plan is the key to ensuring that as your circumstances change, your financial plan changes with it.

As part of this annual review, you must ensure that your Will reflects your current circumstances and that your insurance cover is adequate for any changes in your life. Your financial advisor will advise you on these issues as a matter of course.

FIN24