Keep Motivated

It’s easy to lose focus on your goals and to get stuck in the relentless routine of working to survive and surviving to work. The day-to-day rush of life can be exhausting and leave you with little time to sit back and think. There are however a few easy things that you can implement to help you stay focused on your financial goals.

checklist

Remind yourself everyday

A great way to stay focused on your goal is to remind yourself of it every day! Try one of these ideas:

  • Create an image to save as your background on computer or other device.
  • Get creative and make a hand-drawn poster stating your goal. Stick it up somewhere.
  • Type it up in a word processor and print it out nice and large to display.
  • Create a business-card cut-out that you can keep in your wallet.
  • Display your goal on a small sticker on the inside of your windscreen so that you see it as you start driving.
  • Use post-it notes around the office or house.

Track it

Visually track your progress. Either with a spreadsheet or a hand-written poster. I like to track my goals by months (years or days) left until the “due” date as well as a percentage of achievement. Financial goals are generally easy to calculate progress – if you have an amount and a number of months you can quickly work out a percentage of progress. This doesn’t work for all goals, but you definitely need to be able to track your goal else you’ll never know if you achieved it!

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Here are my pay days until retirement (sticky notes stuck to my monitor) – more on this soon…

Discuss it

It’s vitally important to discuss your goals and progress with someone you trust. If you’re married this really should be your spouse as financial goals affect you both as a unit. If you are not yet married you could discuss these with a close friend or your financial advisor.

Talking about your goals make them “more real” and helps you to stay focussed as you are now accountable to someone.

Community

Find a like-minded community of people who can encourage you and keep you motivated. Real-life relationships are best, but an online community such as Twitter or Facebook can be very useful too.

 

Have an Emergency fund

It’s always a good idea to have an Emegency Fund available where you can quickly access money. You never know when something is going to happen. Think of how you would cope with a car service which costs 3-times what you expected, or if you needed to be admitted to hospital but your medical insurance requires you to pay upfront. Perhaps your washing machine suddenly stops working, or a power failure causes everything in your freezer to go bad. You could even have your credit card blocked and be in a difficult spot for a few days.

It’s just useful knowing that you have something saved for that rainy day. And, it is a great stress relief knowing that you are sorted for emergencies.

emergency

How much do you need?

Circumstances are different for everyone so you need to make this decision yourself. Think about things that may have happened in the past where you suddenly needed extra money. Also think about things that could happen.

This is certainly not an exact science, rather just a ball-park figure which would make you feel comfortable and less stressed. Having something is better than nothing, so if you really can’t figure out how much to aim for, just set a low limit and see how it goes.

Type of account?

The three important factors about the account you use for this Emergency Fund are:

The purpose of an Emergency Fund is that you can access the money immediately. Anytime, day-or-night. Imagine needing to draw cash at at ATM at 2am – would you be able do so? Even if it involved using your online banking to transfer money between accounts; as long as it can be done quickly.

If you have a home loan from a bank, it could be very helpful to stash this extra cash in that account. Provided of course that the home loan account allows for withdrawals or transfers. Doing this would allow you to save interest on your debt, and this is often high. If you’re not sure contact your financial institution.

Have you considered keeping all your savings in one account and simply tracking the various goals in a spreadsheet? Have a look at how to use Savings Pockets to simplify your life.

How to start?

The best way to start anything is just to start! You don’t need to have enough money or know exactly what you’re doing before you start; just make the conscious decision. A few guidelines though would be:-

  1. Decide on your number. How much would you like to have saved in this fund?
  2. Decide which bank account to save it in – investigate the options but remember to keep your life (and admin) as simple as possible.
  3. Create a budget if you haven’t already.
  4. Set yourself a goal to save the necessary funds.

Once you have started you will see that circumstances may change, or you may need to use your fund sooner than expected. That is all fine, just relook at this often and be sure to be working towards this.

A new way to measure your wealth

mansionMost people measure their wealth by looking at the value of their house and cars and other things they have. They see value and wealth in their “stuff”. Of course, you can include the value of your pension fund and other investments you have. This is definitely a valid way to measure your wealth (provided of course that the assets you’re taking into account are actually paid off), but I’d like to propose a new way to measure and track your wealth.

It all comes down to one simple question. How many months could you survive without a job? Another way to look at it is to remember that you could be retrenched or fired very easily – whenever your current employer decides that they no longer need you. How long can you survive without any income?

How to calculate this?

Firstly, you need to know what you monthly living expenses are. For this you need a budget. You can manipulate your budget a little as not having a job would definitely cause you to priorities your spending and you would almost certainly immediately stop all frivolous spending. Don’t forget about your debts as you would still need to be paying these! So know how much you need each month to service debts and survive?

Then, how much money do you have available? Think of any savings you have, or money that you could access. Only take into account money that is actually your own. By this I mean that you could possibly access a lot of money from your home-loan, or you could take a personal loan; but that is simply debt. How much money do you have that is your money and that you can access now? Some retirement and pension funds have rules about what age you can access the money at, so think about your situation right now. Don’t forget any other income you may have that would not be affected, such as rental, commission, royalties, etc (At this point we’re not looking at selling assets in order to survive, rather just look at cash and investments)

 

This excise could help you to relieve some stress if you see that you would actually survive many months without your income, but at the same time this could highlight to you if your finances are in a terrible state. Perhaps you won’t be able to survive even just one month.

When you lose your income, it doesn’t really matter what house you live in, what car you drive or how many diamond rings you have. These things can’t find you food on a day-to-day basis. Having lots of debt makes the situation worse and you could really end up in an awful situation!

The results:

Whatever stage you may be at, set yourself a goal to improve your situation.

0 months  –  This should be a HUGE WARNING sign to you to take charge of your financial situation immediately!

1 – 3 months – You are not in a great situation, but there is a little leeway should something happen regarding your income. Your situation is definitely not good.

4 – 6 months – You are probably better off than most people but don’t feel too comfortable here as things are still not great. You would most probably survive a job loss as you have some time to find a new job, but it would be a stressful situation!

6 – 12 months – If you are in this bracket then you should feel some relief that you could survive some tough financial circumstances. You are in a good position but don’t think about early retirement or that year of travel yet.

More than 12 months – well done, you are on your way to financial freedom! Don’t forget to keep checking your situation regularly and set goals towards the ultimate goal of Financial Freedom.

 

Pay yourself first

keyboardThis is one of those things that you’ve probably heard many times before and you know you should do it, but most likely you don’t. So let’s look at what is meant by paying yourself first, and how it will help you save.

To pay yourself first really means that once you have set up a monthly budget and worked out how much you can save each month, then you should transfer that amount into a savings pocket immediately after being paid. If your bank allows, you can set up a recurring payment to transfer the money each month.

We’re used to setting up payments for accounts and debt repayments, but we seldom take our savings “payment” seriously. You should think of this as another account that you have to pay.

The advantage of transferring the savings amount out to a Savings Pocket immediately is that you cannot be tempted to spend it. You can’t spend what you don’t have (well you can with a credit card but that is a discipline you need to solve for yourself)

Challenge

Work out how much you can save (either actual savings or extra payments towards debt) and set up an automatic payment now to transfer this money. If you’re not sure how to create a budget, read this blog.

Do the right thing

Sounds easy enough, and it sure is! We’re strange creatures though as we generally know what is good for us in terms of health, exercise, financial issues, etc but we often choose to ignore our own knowledge. We think and say one thing, but do the opposite.

You may think that you need to exercise, and be frustrated that you don’t. But you still don’t. Or perhaps you know that you are not saving for your retirement, but you cannot motivate yourself to start. You can tell others about the benefits of budgeting, but you don’t do it yourself.

You know that you should save money, invest for your future, create financial goals, not buy things you don’t need, etc….  You know that you should keep track of spending and live within your means. You know that debt is bad.

Challenge

Write down one thing that you don’t do even though you know you should (because it is good for you). Now write the reasons why you don’t do it, and also write down the consequences of not doing it. Spend some time thinking about this…

Cancel your store cards

By “store cards” I mean the type that allow you to buy on credit. They are certainly convenient as they allow you to buy things without needing actual money, and many stores offer interest-free credit for a few months and include great benefits such as:

  • insurance cover for in case you lose your job
  • monthly deals / vouchers
  • magazine and exclusive access to a website
  • competitions
  • etc

It all sounds great and it seems almost silly not to take them up on the offer. Some people even feel that paying for something interest-free over a few months makes far more financial sense as it allows you to earn interest on your money in the bank. That does make sense; but only if you are really disciplined about your purchases and you actually do the admin to ensure that you allocate the money in your bank account. It’s a small saving considering the admin and time involved.

So why are store cards bad?

1: Too easy to spend

It is far too easy to spend money on your card and unless you are incredibly self-disciplined you can very quickly spend more than what your budget allows for. That is great news for the store but terrible for you as you still have to pay it back! Many stores will also send personalized promotions and vouchers to ensure that you keep buying more.

2: Budgeting becomes hard

If your clothing budget is 1,000 and you spend it on a store card which offers 6 months interest-free payments you will essentially pay 166.67 each month for 6 months.

  • It becomes tempting to spend more money the following month as your budget is 1,000 but you only physically spent 166.67 (your first payment). You can easily get confused.
  • If you over-spend on your store card, it doesn’t help under-spending on another category of your budget (e.g. Groceries) as this will not balance your monthly spending. Your store card spending affects the next 6 months worth of budget and it is very hard to keep track.
  • If you are feeling cash-strapped and you decide to purchase no clothing on your card, you will still need to pay for previous months shopping. It will take a while before the outstanding amount is all paid off.

It is very hard to manage a budget when previous months shopping affects the current months payment. In fact, many people give up on budgeting as it’s just too confusing.

3. You get stuck in cycle of debt

If your monthly repayment on your card is quite high, you will probably not have any money left to buy the things you need (or want). So, instead of saving up for the items, we generally just purchase more on the card which makes our monthly payment higher and causes us to have less money each month and inevitably forces us to spend more on the card. It’s a never-ending cycle; until you end it!

Challenge:

If you are tired of being trapped by debt then cancel your cards. Follow the 5 steps below.

Cancel your store cards

Step 1: Choose one store-card

It’s hard to make too much change at once, and you may not have the money now to do drastic things. So choose the card with the least amount of debt.

Step 2: Convert to cash

Do not make any more purchases on your card. Take a photo of the card for reference purposes and then throw the card away. (Or if that sounds drastic, hide it in a safe place). From now on only spend cash instead of the card.

Step 3: Pay a little more each month

When you recieve your statement each month, round the payment figure up and pay a little more. If you payment is automatically debited from your bank, then find out if you can pay cash in the store and make just a small additional payment.

Step 4: Close the account

As soon as you have paid the card off; close the account! Stop the cycle of debt!

Step 5: Repeat with next card

Just slowly pay off all your cards and feel the burden of debt lifting.  You really can pay off all your store debt by making a slow and concerted effort. It may take a few months (or even years), but it is 100% worth it!

Joy

Set a short-term goal

Many people avoid setting financial goals as they feel inadequate or they feel that they cannot achieve things and thus shouldn’t set themselves up for disappointment. What nonsense! Setting financial goals is so easy, and achieving them should be easy too. Here is a 5 step guide to setting a stress-free short-term goal.

1. Understand the difference between short and long term goals

Firstly, let’s understand what we mean by a short-term goal. This is something that you want to achieve in less than 12 months. If you need longer than that to achieve your goal you’re hitting the medium-term which I define as more than 1 year but less than 5 years. More than 5 years is what it takes for long-term goals. That’s all rather simple isn’t it?

2. Decide on a short-term idea

Now is the time to think of something you would like to save for within the next 12 months. Jot down a few thoughts such as a weekend away, a spa-treatment (or two), an expensive handbag, or perhaps a road trip. Whatever you’re thinking of should be something special and not something you would ordinarily do.

Car services or new clothes are probably things you have to do anyway over the next 12 months so try think of something that will really make you excited.

Now choose the one item from your list that stands out most to you.

3. Calculate all the costs involved

At this point you need to be realistic about all costs involved in your chosen idea. We’re focusing now on financial costs, but you should also think of time and energy. You may not know exact costs but try to think of an estimate.

If you thought of an overseas trip, be realistic about the costs and be sure that it is something you can achieve within the next 12 months. It may be tough and it may require sacrifices, but it needs to be possible.

4. Look at how you can achieve this idea

Now decide how you are going to achieve this idea. Up to now it’s not yet a goal. In deciding how to achieve this look at how much money you must save each month and decide what you can do to save this money. Think about what bank account you will use for this, or you may decide to save cash. Ask yourself the following:

  • How will I feel if I achieve this?
  • How will I feel if I don’t achieve this?
  • What am I happy to give up in order to make this happen?
  • How long do I need in order to achieve this?
  • What can I do right now to start towards this saving?

5. Re-define the idea into a goal

Now that we have thought of an idea and looked at how we can achieve it, let’s write it down as a goal. When creating a goal be sure to write down achievable goals. To say “I want to save enough money for ….” is a bit vague as we could never have “enough”. Put down values and dates and real things that must be done.

An example would be:

“I want to save R4,000 cash within the next 8 months for my weekend trip to the Cederberg. I need to save at least R500 per month and I will do this by doing ……  “

Be sure to make this goal something that is achievable; even if it takes hard work. It is completely pointless to set unrealistic and impossible goals. And if you have never really set goals before, start off small and see how rewarding this can be.

plan

Challenge:

Set yourself one short-term goal today. Spend sufficient time deciding what it will be and how you will achieve it.

Write it down and stick it up somewhere that you will see it every day (e.g. fridge or mirror)