Pre-minimalism, Sporty and I used the head in the sand approach to our finances.
Which is to say, we pretended there wasn’t a problem.
This is fine in relation to, say, your coffee habit, but not so much when it comes to your hard earned bucks.
I get it though. The challenge of sorting out your finances can make even root canal seem appealing.
There are monthly payments to be made, debit orders going off your accounts, banks charges you need a degree in abacus to decipher. The list goes on.
How to Stay in Control of Your Bucks
Staying in control of your bucks means sticking to a strict budget. In other words, you need to learnt art of living below your means. There’s no other way around it, I’m afraid.
On the upside, it’ll mean you can actually retire at some point. Which is always nice.
Creating a budget can be time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort. For starters it’s a great opportunity to fine tooth comb your bank account to see what exactly is going on there.
Are there subscriptions you’re still paying for, but no longer need or use? What about your fixed payments. Are you getting the best deal or is it time to see what else is available?
Perhaps you can reduce your mortgage payment by moving your home loan to a different bank. What about your household insurance?
By shopping around you may just find that apples aren’t always apples. Apparently Lemonade Insurance offers really reasonable rates, so you may want to check them out.
Along with knowing exactly how much money is leaving your account each month, a kick-ass budget will also let you know what’s left in that all-important caffeine fund.
Taking a minimalist approach to your finances is about more than a good budget though. There are other ways to streamline the management of your finances as well.
When Internet banking first made its debut here in South Africa there were many skeptics, ourselves included. Back then, going into the bank was the only way to move money.
Now, I literally cannot remember when last we set foot inside a bank. With online banking, you have complete control of your finances at any time of the day, night or weekend.
When Sporty disappears to her laptop, I know she’s not surfing dating websites.
No more being hemmed in by their ridiculously short business hours or waiting in long queues that necessitate making small talk with old people who just want to complain about the long queues.
Security is also way better than it used to be. You still get those online phishing scams, but the banks invariably warn you about them before you have a chance to fall prey to one.
Also, did I mention no long queues?
Go Paperless (the Trees Will Thank You)
Part of the appeal with online banking and new technology is that snail mail is now a thing of the past. I mean, it’s obviously still available for the three people who prefer getting their bank statements in hard copy, but for the rest of us, it’s paperless all the way.
No more filing, no more cutting down trees for no reason and no more rooting around for documentation come tax time. Well, technically you could still lose your documents, but only within the confines of your laptop.
Smartphones are good for more than just sending Whatsapp messages and checking your Instagram feed. They’re also a great way to stay in control of those bucks of yours. Just download your bank’s app and you’re good to go.
Now you can check your bank balance, transfer money, make payments and pay bills, all on your morning commute.
Unless your morning commute involves you driving a car, then definitely don’t do that.
Helpfully, there are also apps available to keep you on track with your budgeting. Sporty and I prefer the old school method of logging our expenses in our spreadsheet, but that’s mainly because Sporty is an Excel geek and I always do what she does.
In case you’re wondering, I’m six and a half.
When you have a lot of payments to make every month, it can be a good idea to automate the process by putting a debit order in place. Especially if you have hardcore creditors who wouldn’t think twice about issuing a late fee.
Again, Sporty and I are a little old school in this regard. Sporty loves her monthly budgeting time when she gets to transfer money and act all bank-ish. Also, we don’t like the idea of other people having access to our funds.
Like I said, old school.
Downsize Your Debt
While the above tips are all useful in their own right, the best thing you can do for yourself, your sanity, and your finances, is to downsize your debt to zero as quickly as possible. And then keep it there.
For us, a minimalist approach to finances is one where there is more money coming into our accounts than there is going out. Make that your goal and your golden years will be golden.
Learn to Think Differently About Money
Not everyone is born with a natural affinity for finances and numbers. Sporty was, but she’s a unicorn, so let’s no use her as a yardstick. A better approach is to read some books on the subject.
The trick is to find the ones you can actually understand and that make sense to you. I’ve listed a few below, but what resonates with me might not appeal to you. Check them out and then look for others as well.