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Most people have complicated relationships with money. After all, it serves a pivotal role in all of our lives; from housing costs and food to electricity bills, education and even entertainment - there’s no escaping it. Spending and saving habits are bound to vary from person to person, but there is always something you could be doing better when it comes to how you manage your money. This article poses 10 questions that highlight some common money beliefs and habits - some of which you can probably change for the better. 

Am I prioritising my expenses properly?

Unless you have more money than you know what to do with (in which case, you can stop reading now), you probably try to stick to a budget every month. If you don’t, now is the time to start. As part of your budget planning, you’ll have to look at your spending priorities. One of the first questions to ask yourself then is “am I prioritising my expenses properly?”. 

In other words, are you being honest about the distinction between what you need and what you want, and spending accordingly? It’s okay to buy things you want, but it’s important to satisfy your needs (accommodation, health insurance, groceries, etc.) before you delve into your wants (new clothes, a new car, TV or laptop, etc.) and to not spend on the latter recklessly.

Am I spending my money on Things That Truly Matter to Me?

Take a good, hard look at your budget and ask yourself whether your spending habits mirror your values (and whether those values are compatible with financial security). If not, then ask yourself what can you change to ensure your budget better aligns with your savings goals, your beliefs and your overall financial plan. 

What is the last thing I regret buying?

Time for a moment of truth; think hard about your last few purchases and ask yourself if there is anything that you regret buying. If there is, you’re certainly not alone. Think about why you’re unhappy about the purchase it, what made you buy it in the first place and what you could do in the future to ensure you don’t buy things you’ll regret later. Analysing unwise purchasing habits can help you to avoid repeating them down the line. 

Do I have too much debt?

Debt can spiral out of control a lot faster than you might imagine (It takes just one small credit purchase to push you beyond what you can afford). If you’re already in debt, ask yourself this: would an emergency expense paid for with credit — say R6000 to replace a geyser — put you in a situation where you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the repayments? If the answer is yes, it would be wise to pay off some of your debt as quickly as possible. 

How would my budget look without debt payments? 

How good would it feel to not have any debt repayments (and interest payments) and, instead, be able to put that extra money elsewhere—a retirement annuity, a trip away or even perhaps towards a cause you are passionate about? Get your debts paid off as quickly as possible so that you can put that money towards things that really matter. 

Is there something I can do to increase my income? 

If you're not happy with how much you are currently earning, think of ways that you can change that. Perhaps you can freelance, tutor, get a part-time job or upskill so that you can get a raise or better position at your current place of employment. It might even be time to move forward with that small business idea you have, although this should be done with caution - you definitely don’t want to get into more debt.

Where do I want to be five years from now? 

Having clear financial goals helps you to stay focused. If you don’t have any, set some time aside as soon as possible to set a few SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Then, figure out what steps you can start taking to achieve those goals while also recognising and planning for any obstacles. 

Am I being a good example to my children?  

One of the most important things you can do for your children is to teach them how to look after their money—no one wants their kids to repeat their money mistakes or suffer the same financial problems. And teaching doesn’t just mean telling them what to do with their money — it means showing them. Lead by setting a good example and give them a small allowance so that they can start putting those learned principles into practice. 

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