Pay yourself before you pay for anything else

Financial diligence… Simryn de Jager, business development and strategy director of The Seed SA.

IF YOU, like me, are one of those people who has resolved to spend wisely in 2016, then this blog may be for you.

It’s the time of year when we set New Year’s resolutions. Generally, we endeavour to improve ourselves after what, for most, is a festive season of excess. Topping the lists every year is to save money or improve one’s prosperity. The desire to give your family a better lifestyle is natural, hence it is part of everyone’s to-do list to have spending habits that are sustainable. I don’t want to give you a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, I’d rather leave you with one principle: Pay yourself first.

Before you rack up a list of bills for everything from unused golf club memberships to dinners that just aren’t worth it, consider this: Is your growing salary improving your lifestyle? If not, ask yourself why?

The most common culprit is a perception that you need to up your expenditure to compensate for the increased income. It sneaks up on you. You may have been waiting to upgrade your gym membership to that ultra-luxury Platinum Club for years and now you can, or you may have wanted to buy a new car for a while. This is all good and should form part of your aspirations as you grow. What shouldn’t happen though is that you find yourself in a position where you are under stress as a consequence.

Let’s examine what could put you under stress. If an unexpected expense arises, would you be able to deal with it? I recently found out that my roof structure has slowly eroded over a few years to the point that my insurance company was not willing to cover the leak into my dining room. The bill? Sixty big ones. This is the kind of surprise I’m talking about. A pleasant surprise may come from your close friends deciding they want to host their wedding in Sri Lanka, like what happened to me last year. How do you remain prepared for these and other eventualities?

A simple rule can be applied to instil financial diligence. From each salary, set aside 10 percent for the fun stuff such as giving gifts, and holidays, 10 percent for the unexpected nasty surprises and longer-term fun stuff, and 10 percent to make your retirement more comfortable. The last portion may be that nest egg that allows you to move into an entrepreneurship venture that you’ve always thought of, so don’t think of retirement as that far-away land that you cannot yet make out on the horizon.

We’re saying that the expenses you incur on a monthly basis should under no circumstances exceed 70 percent of the available disposable income. If you are above that threshold, then you are not in a comfortable position. This is where the stress and wrinkles come in … Remember this isn’t a case of luck.

Being financially diligent doesn’t mean you’re walking around in tatty old clothes looking enviously at other people living a ‘good’ life. Rather be one of those people who can live the ‘good’ life without having to pretend. Be one of those people not having sleepless nights wondering how you’re going to make ends meet while there’s a fancy car sitting in the garage.

If you pay yourself before you think of the nifty gadget you could [buy] with the money burning a hole in your pocket, then you will have the ability to buy frivolous gifts for yourself or your family and friends.


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