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6 key tactics for successful budgeting

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Tactics for budgeting

Budgeting for a lot of people is not something they want to think about. When they do think about it, it creates anxiety and is filled with a lot of negative emotions. Some people though find creating a budget a positive experience. For them, budgeting is freeing.

The first word that came to my mind when I thought about creating a budget for my family was ‘restrictive’, I have since changed that to ‘liberating’.

Here are 6 tactics that turned my negative budgeting perception around.

SMART goals Illustration 25641308 © Flytosky11 - Dreamstime.com
S.M.A.R.T goals

1. Set a S.M.A.R.T goal

Goal setting is used in many areas of our life whether school, work or even life plans. Choosing the right goal is what makes the difference.

Setting a S.M.A.R.T goal is what will ensure that you succeed whether you use it for setting your budget or for setting life goals.

To explain S.M.A.R.T goals, I am using the example of a new car but SMART can be applied to any goal, including school marks.

S- Specific, your goal must be specific.

To make the goal specific you need to know what car you want. Brand, year, model, size, safety and environmental impact!

M- Measurable.

How does this apply? Choose a car that fits your earnings, so if you earn R20 000 a month your car repayments, petrol and insurance should not cost more than R3 000- R5 000.

A -Achievable.

Can you do it? Don’t dream of a luxury car when you won’t be able to afford the petrol, the tyres or the insurance based on what you currently earn. That is a goal for later. Now you want to focus on a car that you can actually afford and won’t get you into more debt than you can handle.


Will it work for you? If you are a single person, who lives in the city and vacations in cities, why buy an off-road vehicle? If you drive long distances, your need will likely be, fuel economy and comfort. If you have a family, safety is a priority as well as fuel economy when doing the daily school run.

I met a family where the husband drove a small secondhand car as he only went to work and back and the wife had a large 6 seater for her daily use. They saved a lot of money on the small car and therefore could afford the larger car.

T-Time Orientated.

Set a date to achieve your goal. How much can you put away towards your car? Do you have enough for the deposit, at least 20%? If you can save R5 000 per month, how long do you need to save for?

By choosing a cheaper car you make your goal more attainable and you are more likely to stick to your budget.

2.Use stressors as a motivation

Most people only think about budgeting when they are in crisis, while this is great because it has created awareness that you need a budget, the motivation often fades when the crisis is over.

What I mean by using stressors as motivation is that you need to look at what causes you everyday stress. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/where-did-the-money-go/

Do you worry that you can’t afford to feed your family this month? Do you have enough money saved if you want to stop working or take extra maternity leave when you have a baby? Is your current car a death trap and needs to be replaced? Does your house need maintenance? Can you afford to send your children to College/Varsity?

These are the everyday stressors to motivate you. They are specific, they are measurable, but are they achievable and relevant and will you be able to do it in the given time frame?

What if you only earn R3000 a month and you have a child in grade 11 who wants to go to University? Can you put away the R30 000 in the next two years to pay for the first year? What about 2nd and 3rd year and then honours? You would need to put away between 40 & 50% of your monthly salary for the full two years!

This is not a reason to not budget for it, it is a motivation to create a budget that allows you to save as much as possible each month and start looking into bursaries, scholarships and loans.

When you start your budget, don’t try to cut back immediately, this will just lead to you becoming miserable and angry.

Take a month or two to track your spending alongside your proposed budget. Once you know where your money is going, only then is it time to cut back.

3.The 50, 30, 20 budgeting plan

Divide your salary after taxes into 3 parts. https://twocents.lifehacker.com/10-good-financial-rules-of-thumb-1668183707

Half your salary (50%) goes to living expenses, such as housing, groceries, utilities, insurance, transport, education. These are your needs.

Then 30% goes towards wants, Pay TV channels, clothing & shopping, hobbies and entertainment

Your last 20% should be to pay back debts and to save for that goal you have set.

Most South Africans do not live this way, that last 20% is usually used only for paying back debt but not getting out of debt. Instead of saving the money is often absorbed into the 30% for wants.

By setting up your budget using the 50, 30, 20 rule you create limits and just with rules and routines for our children, budget limits give us a structure in which we can grow and become financially more secure.

Once you have your budget, stop using your credit cards! Debit cards should be used for the big expenses only and then be put away. Cash should be used whenever possible. This is because cash is tangible and handing over cash for purchases makes you more aware of your spending.

Banks today make it too easy to get credit and then we have no concept of zero. Zero is when we have no more money, but with credit cards and adjustable overdraft limits, zero keeps moving.

When you use cash only zero is zero, you have no more money to spend.


Create scarcity to help you save. What I mean by this is that using your budget to live on and not the balance in your account will allow you to save towards that goal you have set.

If your budget says you have X amount to spend then that is what you have, regardless of what is in your bank account.

All the balance in your bank account will tell is the amount in there, it doesn’t tell you that it is for those debit orders that need to go through, or that school trip you will need to pay for.

Regularly check in on your budget to help you stay on track. If you are the kind of person who likes details then create a category-specific budget.

 If you are someone who would prefer a more generalised budget then only create main categories, like Transport- this would cover petrol, maintenance or taxi fares, Household expenses- would cover groceries, toiletries, household cleaning, gardening service etc., Insurance- would cover life, car, home, medical aid policies and insurance.

A great tip for staying in budget is ‘week money’. You draw up your main budget and then pay your monthly expenses. Once that is done you then divide your budget into how many weeks in the month. One the first day of each week you draw out that cash and use it exclusively. No cards, including debit cards. Once the money is done, it’s done!

5. Get a tenant

If you have space, why not get a roommate or a tenant? Use this money towards your housing costs.

Another option is to let your children stay with you as long as you can tolerate and charge rent. You can charge 10% of whatever they earn. That means whether they are employed full time or have part-time jobs there rent is affordable to them, it also teaches them about budgeting.

If you do not need the money to help with living expenses, then put that money into a savings account for them and gift it back, when they graduate or get married or have some other life event.

6. Find a system that works for you

If you are the pen and paper kind of person then that’s what you use to draw up and track your budget.

If you like technology, there are tons of apps out there for budgeting.  I use an Xcel spreadsheet. My bank a budgeting tool on their App, yours may also have this facility. My husband uses a very intricate spreadsheet he created. My oldest daughter uses an app called?

Budgeting is a good thing and everyone should do it. You just need to find what works best for your needs.

Don’t budget just because you think you must, budget because you have a goal you want to achieve.

What is your S.M.A.R.T goal?

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