A few months ago Wesley and I were chatting and I asked him what he could live without. We cannot remember what his response was but mine was that I would really like to be free of some of the debt I had accumulated. I was not referring to some necessary debt (although I would like to clear some of that, too) but to the R17500 credit card debt that needed to be paid. As shard in an Instagram post, the debt was not careless spending but the result of expenses we had not planned for, like the additional bill for the anesthesiologist when I had my C-section at the hospital, the money I owed SARS at the end of the tax year and the R5000 bill we had chosen to pay cash for because my medical savings would have taken a knock had we used it for Scout’s hearing tests when she was a few months old. Having a baby is really expensive and, sadly, there is very little conversation around additional costs one might incur should your child need additional care. I have many comments around how expensive medical aid is and how little they cover but that is a conversation to be had on another day. Admittedly, I may have bought an item or two of clothing with my credit card and, disappointingly, it was not the first time I ran up the balance without having much to show for the money. I had succumbed to consumerism on many occasions and had bought things that I have wanted without having the physical cash to purchase it; I know that I am not the only person guilty of doing this and so I am not ashamed to admit having bought things on credit.
Debt is stifling; it leaves you that few hundred or thousand rand short each time you need to make a payment. I felt that I wanted to be free of the shackles of debt and made the decision that I would make an effort to starting clearing it; I needed to be intentional about my spending to do so. Lockdown could not have happened and extended itself at a better time! We had no social gatherings to commit to and that meant we were free of spending money on lunches, dinners, petrol and activities. I decided to take stock of my finances and see where I could limit spending to allow for the quickest payment of my outstanding credit card balance.
I was able to clear the above mentioned amount in only four months and could not have done so without my husband’s support and encouragment. I am happy that I shared my plan with him as it made him aware of my goal. I sat down with my bills and reconciled my income and expenses. Initially, the goal was to pay around R3000 a month to my credit card; when the repo-rate of our bond came down, it meant that there was money left over once we had paid our bills and Wesley said to use that money towards paying off my credit card. I was appreciative of the extra help and, having shared my goal with my mom, was gifted some money towards the balance as well. We had a few unexpected expenses pop in this time up but (being intentional about my spending and better prepared) I was able to pay off the full amount in four months, which was shorter than the time frame I had anticipated.
Secondly, I put myself on a shopping ban; we were not going to be attending any social gatherings and so I did not see a need to buy new clothing. As tempting as it was to buy some cute loungewear like so many content creators on Instagram, I reminded myself that I would be able to buy as much clothing as I like once my debt had been cleared. I resisted the temptation and have not been sorry about the decision. It was necessary for me to buy a few warm items to wear at home but I looked for sales and bought budget-friendly items that were okay to scoff around in while being at home. Before returning to work I unpacked my entire wardrobe to be sure of the Winter Items I owned and split them into work clothing and items that were nice enough to leave the house in, if it was necessary. My mom and Wes had both gotten me a pair of boots for my birthday in April and my sneakers and ‘vellies” were all in really good condition. As a result, I am more picky about the clothing I buy and have realised that buying good quality, classic items of clothing is far better that following trends; I have also found my personal style in this time and am excited to shop a little when summer arrives.
I stuck to the plan! Once I realised that paying the money off in four months was possible, I made sure that I kept to the plan and cut down on certain spoil items (like expensive treats) when visiting the shops. I also made sure that my budget allowed for some spending and it felt good to buy an eye shadow palette or some takeout in that time. I felt a real sense of relief as the outstanding balance dropped from month to month and sent Wesley a screen shot of my ZERO balance the morning I paid the last bit. He proudly, and lovingly, congratulated me.
This process has taught me a few valuable things about money and spending and I’d like to share them with you.
1. You should not live beyond your financial means. (cliché, but true!)
2. Guard against being influenced into buying things you don’t need.
3. Be intentional about your spending and account for every penny.
4. Be realistic about clearing debt; if you can only afford to pay R500 towards clearing your debt, then do not over-shoot, causing you to dip into the same funds you are trying to clear.
5. Hold yourself accountable: tell a partner, a relative or a close friend about your intentions to save/ clear debt and thank them for checking in on your goals.
5. Check your home before going to the shops; it is easy to buy repeat items of clothing or replace grocery and cleaning items that you already have at home.
6. Turn down social engagements if you do not have the money to join; true friends will understand and they will invite you out the next time.
7. Do not neglect yourself or your needs in this time; buy the face wash and the good hair products (for example) but maybe give the massage a miss until you have enough money to enjoy it guilt and debt free.
8. Become savvy: read up about ways to spend wisely.
9. Don’t stop once you have cleared your debt: even if you allow for more spending afterwards, continue to practice the principles of good money habits.
10. Find another area to free up to allow for more financial freedom in the future!
I want to end off this post by elaborating got point 10 in my list of lessons learnt; I have decided that I would like to start saving for unexpected expenses and that I would like to pay an extra amount on my car every month to shorten my payment term. My gym contract will be cancelled as I do not see myself being comfortable in that space for a while, so the expense is a wasted one. I am almost excited about the various ways I will be saving money and look forward to spending it on experiences with my loved ones. I believe that every rand spent wisely will serve me in the future and, with God’s help and blessing over my finances, I hope to have more financial freedom in the months and years to come.
I hope that you have found this post useful. If you have, please share it along and make sure that you are signed up to be notified of future posts. As always, know that your readership is valued and continue to keep safe in the time we are living in.
Until my next post,