The first rule of personal financial management is to spend less than you earn! It sounds really easy and makes sense.
So, if it is that simple, how are so many of us in debt? Well, the technology has allowed us to remove the pain of buying from the pleasure of receiving.
To begin to understand why this happens, have a chat with your grandparents or someone else from that generation who love to talk about the “good old days” before computers and the internet. I think you’ll learn something quite fundamental about financial management.
Lynda is blessed to have a Grandmother who was born in the late 1920’s and who is still with us. Her Grandmother has seen a lot of change during her lifetime and so she was the perfect person to ask how her family managed their money.
To cut a very long story short (talking a lot runs in the family) this is what she told us.
“On pay day, my father would come home from work and sit down with my mother and us kids at the wooden kitchen table. He would pull out the brown envelope from his jacket pocket, take what he wanted and then hand the rest to my mother. It was then up to my mother to pay all the bills from what she had left.”
“She would carefully divide the cash up and put each amount into the various jars labelled rent, food, power and other bills. My sister and I would wait anxiously to see if there were a coin or two left for us. Sometimes we were lucky but most times there wasn’t.”
“It wasn’t an easy life. We didn’t have much but my mother always managed to put food on the table and shoes on our feet.”
“When I got married and had a family and came to New Zealand, your Grandad and I followed the same system but this time instead of putting cash in jars, we used bank accounts. Then we drew money from one of our savings accounts when we needed to.”
So, what can we learn from this little history lesson?
- The system was simple, cash came into the household and cash went out.
- The family had a ‘banker’ who was in charge of the finances.
- Grandmother (and her mother) knew exactly how much money they had at any one time and where it was being spent. In other words, they had a plan (a budget) and they stuck to it.
How can we apply this in our age of electronic banking and credit cards?
First of all, you need to understand why it is so easy to spend more than we earn. Yes, credit cards, interest free deals and the like do get most of the blame.
Our primitive brain isn’t much help either. Your brain loves pleasure and let’s face it, buying nice things like food, gadgets, clothes and cars is very exciting and enjoyable (well for most of us anyway). Our brain can’t help itself, “yes, yes, yes, buy it!” Instant gratification is his best friend. And credit lets us do this even though we don’t have the money right now to pay for it.
So, the pain of paying is separated from the pleasure of buying.
Secondly, in our wonderful world of technology, we generally don’t see our hard earned cash. It goes straight into a bank account and we use various cards and electronic means to pay for what we want.
We no longer have the same awareness of money (spending or earning) that they did in your Grandmother’s day (this is called abstraction of money, by the way). Transactions have become easier, but the awareness has faded.
To prevent being fooled by our pleasure driven brain, we need to bring the awareness of our money back to the front of our mind. You can do that by tracking our income and expenses, which is the second rule of personal financial management.
Then you will begin to understand that, it’s easy to get ahead financially, just spend less than you earn!
If you want to have a chat about any of your money concerns, we are happy to listen and help. Drop us an email or click on this link to find a day and time that suits you to have a chat with us, we’re really very friendly. Best of all, it’s absolutely free!