I have my fair share of regrets in this life and about half of them involve money. I find myself constantly looking back at times when I had it and then blew it on something I no longer even have, something that didn’t add value, or on something I can’t even remember. Do you have moments when you think of a time you had some money and you’re just like, where did it go? And you genuinely can’t recall what you spent it on, it’s like it just disappeared from your pocket?
My excuse for the longest time has been that I still live at home, so even if I spend money on that burger or those new shoes that I will wear only three times a year because they are so uncomfortable (but oh-so-pretty), I won’t starve to death or anything quite so dramatic. But for how long? Now I look back at the money I had right after high school (relatives are generous when you pass your exams) and I wish I had put it away somewhere because I can’t remember one thing I spent that money on. Food, probably. It’s always food.
So I figured I’d put together a list of simple things that have made me financially wiser in the past couple of years. Things I wish I did four, five years ago. Might save a young girl’s life!
Open a savings account
As soon as possible! One of those where you can’t withdraw at your convenience. It has to be like once in three months or something like that. After I finished high school and I was balling (sigh, the good old days) I spent all the money I had because I didn’t have a savings account. I kept my money in one of my drawers at home, which has got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. I refused to give it to my parents to keep because well, there is a way that parents have of always having something to spend money on. Like groceries, or paying the house help. Important things, yes, but that money might have never come back to me. So I opted to keep it myself because I didn’t have a national ID yet and couldn’t open an account. The money was gone in about three months, and it wasn’t like I had anything to actually spend it on.
Now I have a savings account from which I can only withdraw once in three months. So I just keep putting money in it in small amounts. And because I can’t check the balance through mobile banking, I can’t track how much money I put in it. I just keep putting it in, whether it’s 100 shillings or 500 shillings or more. At least now I can’t say I’m dead broke!
Take a personal finance course
We can’t all say we understand money. We like to think we do, but usually it turns out that we don’t. That’s why so many of us end up with too much month at the end of the money, or in debt. I thought I didn’t need to take such a course because it seemed unnecessary. I mean, you just need to budget and track your spending and you’re good, right? Wrong. There is so much that you can learn from a personal finance class that will help you even up to fifty years from now.
I took a course with Centonomy and truthfully, my newfound understanding and appreciation of personal finance habits has improved the quality of my life, especially because I have done it in my early twenties, when I still have a lot of time. I learnt about investment, the time value of money, entrepreneurship, and everything in between. It’s never too early to educate yourself on money matters; in fact, the earlier the better. If you can’t afford to take a class, go online! Google is your friend and there is so much you can learn from the content people put online. It will help you become more deliberate with the way you handle your money.
If there is anything that’s easier said than done, this is it. It’s up there with exercising and eating healthy. I have made a resolution to budget and track my spending maybe five or six times this year. The struggle is real. But it’s an important struggle so I keep at it. It requires discipline to decide what to do with your money and pay attention to where it goes, but it’s not impossible. You don’t even have to account for every shilling. Just try to make a list of the things you spend on most and whether they are things you can cut back on. Once that is done, have some sort of plan for what to do when the money comes.
For the stage of life where I’m at, the 50-30-20 rule works. 50% is for what I need, 30% for what I want, and 20% is for savings. If I don’t use the whole 50% on my needs, then the remainder also goes into savings. The percentages are different for different people because not everybody’s financial situation is the same. But once you figure out what works for you, it becomes a lot easier to be disciplined financially.
As much as it is hard, financial wisdom is also pretty useful. For young people such as myself, it helps to build these habits when we’ve still got a bit of time and freedom. Even though not many of us are making hefty sums of money at this stage, it prepares us for the future. He who can be trusted with a little will be trusted with a lot.
Author: Michelle Korir
Michelle Chepchumba is contributor at Wanjiru Kihusa. She loves cats and enjoys reading and writing in an attempt to discover the mysteries of the human mind. She also works in mental health and writes about life at www.thescroll.co.ke.