A budget shows you where your money goes

Drawing up a budget.
Drawing up a budget.
Image: 123RF/ginasanders

Many of us are still reeling from the January hangover, are sobering up to our past financial realities and looking with trepidation at the financial realities to come over the next 11 months.

We have heard it before, perhaps ad nauseam, that the key to solving this is coming up with a budget and sticking to it. But we have never gotten round to doing it, right?

Frank Magwegwe, the once-homeless man who qualified as an actuary, holds Certified Financial Planner accreditation and is now the managing director of Thrive Financial Wellness, says there are five myths that make many people not want to budget.

Myth number one, which Magwegwe says is the strongest and most commonly held myth, is that budgeting is for the rich.

Old Mutual's advice manager Priya Naicker shares Magwegwe's view that this is a widely held misconception.

A budget can help regardless of your income level.

The other myths, according to Magwegwe, are:

To debunk these myths, Magwegwe suggests that you recognise that a budget is no more than a spending plan; just listing what you spend your money on.

All you need to draw up a budget is a pen and some paper where you can write down the things you spend money on daily, weekly or monthly.

"Whether you are rich or not it is good to know where your money is going. And if you want to know where your money is going, you must write it down," Magwegwe said. "If you don't know where your money is going then you can never be in control of your financial situation.

"Once you know where your money is going, you can direct or redirect where it should go instead.

"So if you are paying too much on entertainment you can redirect that to savings or towards clearing debt."

If you prefer pen and paper, you need to draw up a column that records all the income you get each month, usually your salary or wages.

Include any other income you might earn.

It is advisable to list these sources of income and number them as income 1, 2 or 3 and so on, so that you track each source of income. Then total up your income.

In a separate column, list all your monthly expenses and record the amounts you spend next to the item. You will have fixed or recurring expenses - ones that stay the same each month - such as your rent or home loan repayment and insurance.

A typical expenses column will include rent, groceries, transport, cellphone, medical expenses, shisa nyama, and so on.

Take a look at the template budget 22Seven has provided for more possible expenses.

After listing all your expenses, you then subtract your total expenses from the total income amount in your income column. If you're not overspending there should be a positive balance.

"It's never too late to get into the habit of budgeting," Naicker said.

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