By Robin Trimingham
In retirement, as you may have heard my business partner, Bill Storie, remark, “cash is king”.
And while I completely agree with him that the secret to a long and prosperous retirement is to live within your means and avoid any sort of debt as far as possible, not all of us are retired.
So my question this week is: If you are an employed single female who is trying to get out of debt and save more, is cash still king?
If you are on your own and trying to keep on top of your job, run the house, manage your health and raise children it may seem like you have no choice other than to live paycheque to paycheque.
To really change your financial future is possible, but you are going to have to re-evaluate and rethink everything from where you live and what sort of vehicle you drive, to what you are prepared to spend on clothing and groceries, to whether it is ever OK to charge something on a credit card.
While I am not a certified financial planner, I do research budgeting and savings strategies constantly and the following are a few of the best tips that I have gleaned from others:
1. Expensive cars rust just as fast as cheap ones. And when you factor in the increased costs of gas, insurance and TCD, it is really not a good idea to buy a car that is any bigger or more expensive than you actually need. If you don’t have more than four people living in your house, why would you ever buy anything larger than an “A” class car?
2. Junk food, processed food and soda costs a lot more than fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Furthermore, junk food has practically no nutrition; you actually have to eat more of it to feel full, while smaller portions of real food will make you feel full for longer.
3. The cheapest form of healthcare is to actually stay healthy in the first place. Instead of simply taking more and more prescriptions to “mask” or “control” your conditions, talk to your doctor about setting up a wellness programme to improve mobility, lose weight, lower blood sugar, etc
4. Never buy what you can make yourself. So what if your first DIY home improvement project does not look ready for the pages of Elle Decor magazine, the only way your skills will improve is if you actually start doing things yourself in the first place.
5. Never assume that just because you have never done a home repair yourself, that you can’t do it yourself. Trust me, there is something out there on YouTube with step-by-step instructions for just about any little household drama you can encounter. Along the way I have changed a set of kitchen taps, installed a new toilet, fixed a flat tyre, installed a washing machine and changed more than one vacuum cleaner belt by myself.
6. Believing that you can find ways to save money and get out of debt is more than 50 per cent of what it takes to get it done — anyone who has ever wrestled with one of those vacuum belts knows what I am talking about.
7. Credit cards are not cash. You do not really own any item that you purchase on a card until you have actually paid off the card. That designer bag that followed you home is racking up interest charges even faster than it grows mold sitting in your closet, unless you pay off the card.
8. There is no point in making a budget unless you make smart decisions and actually do what it takes to stick to it. Yes, you may occasionally have to eat eggs three nights in a row at the end of the month, but being independent and debt-free is worth every penny.
Once you manage to start to free up a little cash at the end of each month, get some expert advice regarding which debts to pay down first and how to set up a savings fund so that you cannot access it easily in a “weak moment” (aka online shopping), but you can get access to it in an emergency. And remember, there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you need help, but it will be a shame if you don’t find the courage to address your situation.