Fighting with your piggy bank?

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Get back on track for 2010

Let’s face it. With Christmas running into Carnival, and the constant temptations of your favourite store’s sales anywhere in between or thereafter, some of you haven’t started saving properly since the year started.

For most Trinis, Carnival is the kryptonite to a committed relationship with their savings account from January 1st, and while some people found the strength to not break down and spend tonnes of money this year, others just couldn’t resist. Yes, we’ve had some time to catch our bearings, but chances are, some of us haven’t put away a decent penny since the year started.

Now I know what you’re going to say. You work hard, so you play hard, right? Nothing’s wrong with that. Come on, there’s got to be some kind of reward for the stress you go through on the daily grind. So, we only expect that you’d spend some of that on the finer things in life. However, it seems as if most 20-somethings, and even 30-somethings, haven’t yet learnt how to master their finances. Somehow fashion, gadgets, and entertainment always make it to the top of the list, ensuring that your cash flows out, rather than in. Financial management lessons for young people are not the most accessible thing in Trinidad. You live and learn, and years later, when you’re a few thousands of dollars less richer than you could have been, you realise, “way boy, I waste real money”.

Let’s avoid that scenario. Although the first quarter of 2010 is almost over, you still have time to start planning your finances in such a way that you can enjoy life, and save for the future. Set small goals, and try to achieve them. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.

1. Do not buy tablets from the Stamina Man. They’re too expensive, and side effects involve shaking trees, doing the worm dance, and running from panthers, superimposed on the screen of your imagination. Okay, we’ll stop playing. Back to the topic.

2. Budget, budget, budget. That starts with listing all of your expenses, from the minor items like toiletries to the huge responsibilities like loans and bills. When you know what you spend your money on, then you can gauge how you spend cash throughout the month.

3. Track spending. Figure out how much you spend on individual areas. If you don’t know how much you’re spending, how can you set a target for savings?

4. Set up a spending reminder. Use the calendar on your phone to remind you to log how much you’ve spent, or to make your credit card payment,

5. Decide what you absolutely need. Sometimes when we review our spending, we realise there were some things we just didn’t need, still don’t need, and won’t ever need. Then there’s the, “where did my money go?” – you know the money you spend, but can’t account for? Talk about wastage.

6. Try to save at least 25% of your salary. Sounds unrealistic, eh? Let’s go back to item 5. That accounts for 20 to 30% of the money you wasted, and can redirect to savings.

7. Pick a savings amount that you want to target within six months to a year.

8. Assess your expenses based on the value they bring. Do some of your expenses help you with extra income streams? For e.g. for some of us, having a Blackberry is essential for being accessible to clients/ contacts. In that case, you need it.

9. Pick two areas where you overspend, and cut your spending. These could be food and clothes. Make lunch some days, so you can save at least $60 a week or stop buying a new outfit every week.

10. Save without completely depriving yourself. Reduce costs by 25% to 33%; so if you spend $1,000 a month on restaurants, cut it to $700. Depending on the item, you can further reduce your spending over time.

11. Leave home without your credit card if you’re an impulse purchaser. It’s just too easy to pay with plastic. Swipe, swipe, and there goes your ability to save more next month, because you have to make an additional payment on your card.

12. Pay in cash, as much as possible, for frequent activities, and decrease daily expenditure.

If you put some of these tips into action, you’ll be that much closer to building your savings, and be able to afford the things that improve your quality of life.


Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc Intosh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Outlish Magazine. She's also the Lead Communications Trainer at Livewired Group, where she conducts workshops in business writing, social media, and other communications areas. A real online junkie, when she isn't surfing the Internet, she's thinking about surfing the Internet. Find out more about her here or tweet her @outlishmagazine.

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