Conversations with Myself – The Money Trap

Man drowning in debt

Do you live according to a budget? Do you live by a financial plan? Do you spend more than you earn? Do you know exactly how much you spend and on what every month?

I was blessed to have parents who taught me the value of money from an early age and this has stood me in good stead as an adult. My parents did not earn very much but both had steady incomes so we had to do the best we could with the little we had. As a child, I only received new clothes twice per year – at Easter and Christmas time.

How did this work? Well, the “outfit” I received for Easter/Christmas (dress, shoes, ribbons for my hair etc) was worn on the day and then became my “Sunday clothes” worn only for church and special occasions. When the clothes became too small, they were worn around the house as “house/play clothes”. Coming home from church, I would immediately need to change into my “house/play clothes” so my Sunday clothes remained in a good condition until I was able to get my next set of new clothes.

Pocket money – when I became a teenager, my parents decided it was time to give me some pocket money to teach me budgeting skills. I was not just given money – I had to work for this money i.e besides cleaning my own room, I had to dust and vacuum the entire house, whenever there was dishes to be washed, it was my job to wash, dry and pack away. For this, I received R10.00 per month. From this R10.00 per month, I could spend it on whatever I wanted to but I was expected to also buy other things like birthday gifts for friends or family etc. So before I could spend my entire allowance on luxuries (like sweets), I had to first consider who was having a birthday or special occasion during that month and find a gift for that person, and then, only what was left, could be spent (or wasted according to my parents) on whatever I wanted to buy. If I ran out of money before the end of the month, that was my problem. There was no advance given under any circumstances. If I forgot about a birthday or special occasion or was suddenly invited to a party unexpectedly, tough! No money for a gift.

When I started working and earning my own money, I had to hand over my entire salary to my parents who then continued buying my clothes (twice per year) and toiletries (monthly) and I was given a monthly allowance (pocket money). My dad bought me a second hand car. Same principles applied as above, the only difference here was that the allowance was increased to make allowances for the fact that I needed petrol money. My dad carefully calculated how much it would cost me to drive from home to work and back every day and added a little extra for going to friends over the weekend. Again, if I ran out of money before the end of the month, tough! You suffer the consequences of your actions – so I made absolutely sure that I never ran out of money (and never ran out of petrol because dad would not come to my rescue if I did).

When I turned twenty one (21) years of age, I was given the option of continuing with the above arrangement or taking control of my own finances and paying my parents board and lodging. I opted for my independence so I was given a figure to pay which would constitute board and lodging (worked out to approximately twenty five percent of my monthly salary). Mom still cooked food but I still had the same chores I had when I became a teenager and had to do my own washing and ironing.

I continued the habit of only buying clothes twice a year. I’ve never owned more than two pairs of shoes at a time. Sandals for Summer and a pair of shoes for Winter (and of course slippers in Winter). My wardrobe was divided into three: Work clothes, Saturday clothes (going out with friends/socialising) and Sunday/special occasion clothes (no special shoes). I was also raised on the philosophy that you have to separate your work wardrobe from your weekend wardrobe so that when people see you on weekends, you have to look different. The same goes for wearing make-up. I was taught that make-up is reserved for special occasions because when people see you on weekends or special occasions they should say “wow! you look different” (in a complimentary way, of course).

When it came to monthly budgeting, my mother taught me a system which worked for her, and since adopting the system myself, it has never failed me. The system is as follows: buy yourself a pack of envelopes (the size that you would put a letter into). On each envelope write what you need to spend money on, example: board & lodging (rent), petrol, entertainment (this could include gifts for friends or you could have a separate envelope), toiletries etc (one item per envelope). I am going to assume that, like me, you will take care of your Medical Aid, car payments and Insurance by Debit Order. Now, look at how much cash money you have available each month and decide how much you have available to spend (cash).

Let’s say your board and lodging/rent is R2500.00, your toiletries R800.00, petrol R800.00 per month. After you have put these amounts into their respective envelopes, how much of your salary do you still have left for entertainment (which includes movies, clubs, drinks with friends etc). After you have split your money into the various envelopes you should know exactly where your money is going each month.

Now the most important part of this principle is that you don’t borrow from one envelope for the other. You have to be disciplined and you have to be strict with yourself. So if you set aside R500.00 for entertainment and you get to the middle of the month and there is no more money in the envelope, it means that you have to stay at home for the rest of the month or you need to find more creative ways of entertaining yourself for the rest of the month. You are not allowed to “borrow” money from any other envelope. If you run out of petrol money in the middle of the month, you have to find other creative ways of getting around (public transport, walking, hitching a ride, lift club etc).

At one place I worked, my Manager actually taught me how to take this one step further and this is what she used to do. She bought herself a little A6 sized black hardcover book. She would write the month on the top of each page (one page per month) and the rule here is that you are not allowed to tear any pages out of this book. Every time she opened her purse to spend money, she would write it down in this book – so even if you are only buying a packet of sweets, you would write it down. At the end of each month you would be able to add up exactly how much money you are spending (wasting) on take away/junk food, etc and you would be able to make the necessary adjustments to your budget.

Categories of Expenditure:
Fixed Compulsory Expenditure (Amounts to pay every month which do not normally change). Examples: Home loan/Rent, Motor Vehicle Finance etc

Variable Compulsory Expenditure: (Amounts paid every month which can fluctuate). Examples: Transport/petrol, telephone costs, household/food, utilities, entertainment, clothing etc

Discretionary Expenditure: (Give yourself a “treat” expenditure). Examples: Entertainment (going to the movies, buying a CD/DVD, luxury items (jewellery) etc

How do you budget with reasonable accuracy?
• Determine your actual level of spending right now (my example of the envelope system)
• Keep a record of every expense you have for the next month (my example of the little black book)
• Start and maintain a budget for the next month of all the main expense categories (use the envelope system as a guideline). Don’t forget to provide for unforeseen expenses
• Summarise your actual expenses for that month (do a spreadsheet on the computer), by category against the budget amount for step 3
• Re-assess and review your budgeted amounts for the next month

So, for example: If you decide that R500.00 is a fair amount to spend on entertainment for the month, keep a record of every time you spend money on entertainment (in your little black book). At the end of the month, add up all the amounts you recorded and see if you stuck to your budget of R500.00 or if you spent more. Look at why you spent more. Was it really necessary?

Where to make changes:
• Savings – the most important item in budget
• Savings for emergencies – amount depends on how much you earn
• Fixed compulsory monthly expenditure – this does not change much
• Variable compulsory monthly expenditure and discretionary expenditure – large savings can be made

Your current monthly budget:
Avoid debt – don’t purchase depreciating items on credit (fridges, stoves, microwave ovens). Example: You purchase a Defy Stove (without paying a deposit) with a 36 month payment plan. Your monthly instalment (for example) is R223.32 per month x 36 months = R8040.60. The cash price for the stove is R4499.99. This means you have paid R3540.61 in interest which means you have been charged 42.5% (percent) interest which you could have saved to spend on something else. The estimated value of this stove after three years would be: R1500.00.

Don’t forget, the financial guru’s will usually tell you that you have to put away at least 5% of your monthly salary for saving for a “rainy day” (long term savings) and you also need to put away some money for an “emergency fund”. The formula the financial guru’s will usually give you as a guideline is as follows:-

Please note this is a guideline only and should be adjusted according to your take home salary. Also remember, the percentages allocated must add up to 100% at the end and the money you allocate to each category must add up to your total available salary at the end. Example: if you earn R10,000.00 per month, this is equal to 100% (percent) of your salary. If you spend 25% (percent) for housing expenses (Bond/Rent) it means you are spending R2,500.00 on housing expenses, you have 75% (percent) of your salary left for other expenses.

Here’s the Spending Guideline:
• Housing expenses (bond/rental including levies) = 25 – 30% (maximum)
• Vehicle Finance = 15 – 25% (maximum)
• Groceries = 15 – 20% (maximum)
• Transport (bus/train fare/petrol) = 8 – 10% (maximum)
• Medical expenses = 5 – 7% (maximum)
• Insurance/Pension = 7 – 9% (maximum)
• Clothing = 6 – 8% (maximum)
• Entertainment = 5 – 9% (maximum)
• General savings = 6 – 10% (maximum)

So how are you doing in terms of your financial management? Are you on track or do you need to make a few adjustments? Where does most of your money go?

Conversations with Myself – Colour my World

Rainbow Colour Splash

Sitting on my couch during my convalescence after surgery, I was thinking about colour and how South Africans have become known as the “Rainbow Nation”.

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved the various kaleidoscopes of colour around us – in our gardens, pictures in magazines and the most glorious spread of colour you can find, the rainbow in the sky on a rainy day.

The seven colours of the rainbow are violet (purple), indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red. Have you ever given any thought to these colours?

Focussing on the awesomeness of the rainbow and how it was put in place (with the seven colours in a particular order) in the sky, I decided to focus on these specific colours.

With the help of a wonderful website at http://www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com I came across the following which I found to be very interesting.

Violet (Purple) is the colour of the imagination. It can be creative and individual or immature and impractical.

Indigo is the colour of intuition. In the meaning of colours it can mean idealism and structure as well as ritualistic and addictive.

Blue is the colour of trust and peace. It can suggest loyalty and integrity as well as conservatism and frigidity.

Green is the colour of balance and growth. It can mean both self-reliance as a positive and possessiveness as a negative, among many other meanings.

In the meanings of colour in colour psychology, the color yellow is the colour of the mind and the intellect. It is optimistic and cheerful. However it can also suggest impatience, criticism and cowardice.

The color orange is the colour of social communication and optimism. From a negative colour meaning it is also a sign of pessimism and superficiality.

The color red is a warm and positive colour associated with our most physical needs and our will to survive. It exudes a strong and powerful masculine energy. Red is energizing. It excites the emotions and motivates us to take action.

It signifies a pioneering spirit and leadership qualities, promoting ambition and determination. It is also strong-willed and can give confidence to those who are shy or lacking in will power.

So what was God’s plan when he created the rainbow? Is there a specific reason why the rainbow is made up of these specific colours in this specific order? What was/is God trying to say to us through these specific colours? Are we meant to interpret these colours in a specific way or did God just wake up one day and say “oh, I think those colours would go well together”? According to the Bible, the rainbow is a reminder of God’s love for us and God’s way of reminding us of His promise that He will never destroy the earth by water again. Of all the colours in the world, why did God choose these seven specific colours?

What about South Africans known as the “Rainbow Nation”? What does this phrase really mean? Is it the diversity of the colours (race groups) all thrown together in one country? Do we all live together and complement each other like the colours in the rainbow? Do we shine and reflect the same promise to the world like the rainbow in the sky after the rain?

I was just wondering . . .

In conclusion – Without knowing about the Psychology of Colour, my favourite colours have always been yellow, blue and green – what are yours?

Don’t forget – you can also follow me at http://www.womendemanddignity.wordpress.com

Conversations with Myself: I have spoken . . .

St Marks Womens Day2013 Workbook Cover_St Marks Church Ladies Tea 09.08.2013

As part of my training as a Facilitator, I offered my services to speak at an event via our local community newspaper. This talk was to form part of my Portfolio of Evidence (PoE) for evaluation by my trainer.

A local church saw my advert in the Community Newspaper and invited me to speak at their Women’s Day Ladies Afternoon Tea and the topic was Gender Violence and how we can make a difference. Their theme for the day was “Thanksgiving”.

What made this task daunting was the fact that the Rector who introduced these Women’s Day teas and was very passionate about it taking place every year, had died in April this year after being part of this particular parish for many years. Gender Violence is a very serious topic, not to be taken lightly, and yet, I needed to somehow tie this in with being “thankful”. Wow, quite a tall order from where I stood.

Nevertheless, armed with four pages of notes, I made my way to the stage as confidently as I could pretend to be. Prior to the event starting, with the help of my Mentor, I made sure that everyone received a specially prepared workbook containing important useful information which the audience could take home with them for further reference just in case I did not manage to get through all my material. The workbook also contained my contact details so there was no need for anybody to scurry around for my business card (which I made sure I had just in case anybody asked).

As I took the microphone and greeted everyone, I could hear the tremble in my voice but, brave soldier that I am, I continued pretending that I had done this a million times before. I was given 15 – 20 minutes to speak, and so I began . . .

I was taught the best place to start was with a definition of the topic/subject at hand and because I was determined to get the audience involved, I came prepared with an activity I created called the Gender Violence Bingo game (on the first page of the workbook). I also came prepared with a “spot prize” for the first person to shout “Bingo”. This went down well with the audience.

From here I went directly into the content i.e. what can we do when we experience Gender Violence, the cycle of violence and where we can go for help (detailed on page 2 and 3 of the workbook they were given).

I urged those present who are thinking of leaving their partners, not to do so without a Personal Safety Plan which would help them think through the process of leaving and ensure that they are fully prepared for every eventuality. This Personal Safety Plan is available at http://www.womendemanddignity.wordpress.com (under the Resources tab). Alternatively, you could send an e-mail to nataliejohnson041@gmail.com and request a copy.

I ended my talk with how we can be thankful in spite of our circumstances. Examples of what we could be thankful for was listed on page four of the workbook to help the audience along in their thinking process. They were encouraged to continue this thinking process once they reached home. For example:

• Thank you for having the knowledge and ability to get out of this bad situation and seek a better life for myself
• Thank you for the people who can help and support me to get out of this bad situation
• The good years/good times – I will miss it but I’m glad I had it
• Thank you for the children born during the good years/good times
• Thank you that there is a way out of this bad situation

I managed to do all of this in exactly 15 minutes without looking at my watch while I was speaking and without anybody having to stop me which I thought was quite impressive [back pat to me – Yay!].

After my talk, during tea break a few people came up to me to thank me for the talk and said how much they appreciated me talking on the subject.

As I left the venue at the end, one woman grabbed my hand, said “thank you for being here and talking about this subject. I need to talk to you after this because my mom needs help”.

We can change the world – one person at a time!

Feedback received:

From: Vivien Shah
11 August 2013 at 3:49pm

Yes it’s fine. The talk was measured. You waited until the attention was present. I like the way you linked the solemn topic with the theme of thanksgiving. A challenge indeed.

People were silent as you showed your desire to help others. This was poignant as you yourself must deal with issues affecting disabled people on a daily basis, women to seek their rights.

You encouraged women to seek their rights.

It was the right length.

Afterwards people appreciated your message and said the booklet was something to keep and hand on.

I thought the leaflet was a stroke of genius.

Well done!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Feedback from various members of the church present at the event:

Yes the topic was most appropriate and relevant – women have used the safe place to talk about the sensitive topic; for many

So very useful and informative – the booklet is most valuable – as the lady and her mother I invited called me the next day to share how they could use the info.
I relearnt the value of sharing what you know with those in your circle and the powerful effect it has as a life changing opportunity. Thank you!

You could have talked louder – you did well!

The talk is close to my hear (the issue) and I didn’t realise you were going to be there talking about it – so it was welcoming to my intellect and appreciated that we women can be talking about anything over a cup of tea with clear guidelines of what to do and where to go when we get up from the tea and the talk. God bless you!

I’m well Natalie and pray your work will continue. God bless you. Susan Hoorn de Vos.

MJ – Talk was very inspiring bringing awareness to people of situation they not aware of. The Bingo lesson was also very helpful to identify one’s situation.

A suggestion is to leave the gift presentation for after your talk, because more time was needed for the last page of the leaflet.

The information was very useful and one could take the leaflet as well as the message to family and friend who did not attend the function.

Conversations with myself: I am Woman . . .

Flowers feed the soul

In South Africa we celebrate National Women’s Day on August 9th each year. Our Government has declared the entire month of August National Women’s month.

In spite of all the new laws and legislation, we still grapple with gender equality in our country. Women who stay home to take care of the home and/or children are classified as “not working” when, in fact, they end up working harder than those who go out to work in the formal employment sector.

Most of the work women do is unpaid labour – what do I mean by this? When the woman is employed in the formal labour sector and gets paid for the work done, she still has work waiting at home for which she does not get paid a salary, for example: washing and ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the home, taking care of the children. All this is left to the woman to do and she does not receive any additional payment for these duties. Community work – the woman may choose to serve her community in some way by volunteering her time and skills, again, she does not get paid for this work.

Men come home from the office, sit in the armchair in front of the television with their newspaper and wait for supper to be served (by the woman). More and more men are choosing to stay home as “stay-at-home-dads” these days but mostly because they cannot find work – very few do this out of choice.
So where does this leave us? When will the status quo change when a woman will receive acknowledgement for the work she does at home? Let’s take a look at the story below and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

MR MOYO GOES TO THE DOCTOR

“What is your job?” asked the doctor.
“I am a farmer” replied Mr Moyo

“Have you any children?” the doctor asked.
“God has not been good to me. Of 15 born, only 9 alive,” Mr Moyo answered.

“Does your wife work?” (doctor)
“No, she stays at home”.

“I see. How does she spend her day?” (doctor)
“Well, she gets up at four in the morning, fetches water and wood, makes the fire, cooks breakfast and cleans the homestead. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. Once a week she walks to the grinding mill. After that she goes to the township with the two smallest children where she sells tomatoes by the roadside while she knits. She buys what she wants from the shops. Then she cooks the midday meal.”

“You come home at midday?” (doctor)
“No, no, she brings the meal to me about 3km away.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“She stays in the field to do the weeding, and then goes to the vegetable garden to water.”

“What do you do?” (doctor)
“I must go and discuss business and drink with the men in the village.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“I go home for supper which my wife has prepared.”

“Does she go to bed after supper?” (doctor)
“No. I do. She has things to do around the house until 9 or 10.”

“but I thought you said your wife does not work.” (doctor)
“Of course she does not work. I told you that she stays at home.”

(Source: Presented by the Women and Development Sub-committee Ministry of Community Development and Community Affairs, Zimbabwe to Women’s Regional Ecumenical Workshop, 26 June – 6 July 1989, Harare, Zimbabwe).
The Oxfam Gender Training Manual © Oxfam UK and Ireland 1994: 183