Simplify your financial life

One of the best strategies that I have followed in order to take control of my money is to make things as simple as possible.

I have a super light-weight and skinny wallet and in it is all I need. If it doesn’t fit in there then I clearly don’t need it. I do have a few more cards which I cannot get rid of, but I keep them aside and only carry them with me when I specifically need them.


Simplify your financial life with these 4 easy steps:

One Credit Card

I only have 1 credit card. This was not always the case. I think I had 3 at one point.

Think about how confusing it is to know what you can spend on which card because each has a different limit and payment cycle. And then of course, it is obviously far too easy to spend too much! Having all these cards available is just so tempting!

PS: Keep the limit low

I have set my credit limit far lower than what the bank has offered me and each year when they offer to increase it I simply decline.

This gives me peace of mind that my spending is in control. If I need a lot of money quickly I have an emergency fund available, or if it is a planned expense I simply transfer extra saved money to my card.

One Loyalty Program

Most stores, banks, credit cards, etc all offer their own loyalty program. These either come with plastic cards, apps or electronic cards to add on your phone. It’s great that they offer discounts and tailored offerings; but it does add a bit of complication to life.

I have chosen a loyalty program linked to my credit card and that is the only program I have signed up for. I may be losing out on savings at some places, but lumping all your “loyalty” into one scheme means bigger benefits on that specific program.

Whatever program or scheme you choose, just keep it simple and easy to manage. If you want to have multiple programs then at least do the challenge at the end of the article.

One Bank Account

I actually have a few bank accounts but my bank offers 1 main account and 4 linked accounts all for one very low monthly fee. On my baking app the accounts are are linked so it’s super easy to manage. I use these accounts for different savings.

It may sound as though I am ignoring my own advice, but I consider my linked accounts as “one” because they are so easy to manage and they incur no additional fees or admin.

The problem with having multiple accounts at various banks is that they generally come with an ATM card, an optional cheque book, monthly statements, monthly fees, marketing emails, etc. Having multiple accounts just means that there is more to keep track of. You may have valid reasons for multiple accounts, and that of course is fine. As long as you have a plan and know why you have the extra accounts. As mentioned throughout, just keep things simple.

One Simple Budget

It’s easy to get excited about one’s budget and to add all sorts of confusing details. It’s not bad to have a detailed budget, but you also need an easy-to-remember summarized version.

I like to keep my budget really simply with no more than 10 categories and within that I know what is paid for by electronic bank transfers or debit orders, what goes on my credit card and what is cash.

Because the budget categories are so broad it is easy to remember.

I also have a “general” category on my credit card budget for all expenses that I have not catered for specifically. These vary every month but as long as I stay within my overall spend I am happy.

Bottom line is to keep things as simple as possible. Close redundant bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, store cards, etc.


Jot down all the bank accounts, store cards, credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards, membership cards, loyalty cards, etc that you have. Also look for the electronic ones you have.

Look at what monetary value they have added to you over the past year, and decide whether you really need it. If not, you know what to do…


Give your card a break

This may sound silly, but once a week I hide my credit card away for a full 24-hours. This simply means that I cannot spend anything on my card that day.

This does not stop me buy things that I really need as I can obviously get them the following day; but “silly” things that I would sometimes buy become irrelevant when I can’t buy them.

Give it a try and just don’t spend anything on your card for a full 24 hours. It’s best if you physically hide your card somewhere. It’s actually really easy to do and the rewards may seem small but in the long run every small bit adds up. Not only the physical money but also the mental observance of what is really important and what is not.

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.


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!


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!


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. Have a look at these ideas to help you keep motivated and focussed.



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)


It’s so hard staying in control

Staying in control of you money can really be hard!  There are so many temptations all around where we can spend money and it’s difficult to decide when we need something or when something really will add value to our life.  Of course there’s lots we really do need, and then there is stuff that we think we need but probably don’t.  And sometimes it’s ok to simply spoil ourselves, but how do we decide and when do we say “yes” or “no” to spending?

I think we all know a lot of good habits that we should be implementing, and we probably have heard all the usual “common sense” things of what we should be doing.  If you’re not doing it though, do you really “know” it?  Perhaps we just need reminding….

The best place to start is to know where you are spending your money!  I am going to start tracking my daily expenses.  I’ve done this many times where I track each and everything that I spend money on, and I do it for 2-3 months.  This gives such insight into where my money disappears and it helps me decide what and how to spend my money.  I usually just create a spreadsheet with columns for Date, Description, Amount, Account and Category and I create no more than 10 categories (you can of course create what you want but there’s no use in over-complicating things).  Under “Account” I enter either “Bank”, “Cash” or “Credit Card” as this let’s me see how I spend money.  I’ve seen a few free apps that can assist with this too and you really can use whatever works best.

The Challenge:

Starting today, keep track of each and every expense you make for 30 days.  Don’t over-complicate it and don’t spend days looking for the perfect app or perfect system.  Just start!  Even a good old fashioned pen-and-paper will do the job perfectly well.

There’s no need right now to try change your habits or to purposely save money so that your list looks good.  This excise is meant to show you what you currently and normally spend money on.  You can analyze the results and make decisions after the 30 days have past.

Let me know how t goes!